There are no black socks; Don’t require reading comprehension from your users


I love watching our customers use our products. The mobile group has a strong UX team (lead by the awesome James Keller) and one of my favorite activities is stopping in on usability testing.

Users always surprise me. Every time. Without fail. I always leave a session wondering how we missed something so obvious, as well as thinking “wow, that person REALLY thought like that?”

There were some gems in the mWeb usability tests this week, and some of the learnings fell in the camp of:

Don’t force your users to slowly read and comprehend text

A customer was looking for “black socks”, so after typing that into the search box, our search suggestions system kicked in and alerted the user that no search suggestions were found.

Now, a lot of us know the difference between search suggestions vs. search results. Engineers on the project itself know the difference in detail (how the search suggestion cache is built etc). Our customers though are thinking in terms of:

Input: what I am searching for

Output: products that match the search

I think that many see in the UI:

No xxxxxxxxx xxx “black socks”

Thus, they conclude that we don’t have any products that match. We shouldn’t ask them to slowly read the entire sentence and comprehend the details.

We shouldn’t show that messaging at all, and we can be much smarter by offering actual products as well as smart linking into categories.

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