Monstrous UX

Monster (Annabella, 2009)

I am back to medium. Hopefully, I will post more notes and reflections on visual communication, interfaces, and UX. My original plan was to modify the blog I started during my doctoral studies: Bits of HCI. But later, I thought it was better if I start anew to signify a big change I made this year in the midst of the pandemic: moving to San Francisco.

GoDaddy powers my domains and hosting. I have been a customer of this company for years and never felt that the service is bad. I even considered the visual changes to the UI's front parts as a good attempt to facilitate the users’ tasks. However, it does make me unhappy to see the inconsistency in the interface design. Moreover, there is so much information, and all of it seems to be yelling at me: buy! buy! buy! Beautiful colors and a spacious layout. They seem to work in the beginning. However, much of what I see is out of my interest. No wonder Fessenden considers surface delight as insufficient for a delightful UX.

I know that dealing with multiple systems is extremely difficult as decisions and labor involve many people in the company. However, I just want to do my thing! This idea of a monstrous UX became more present as GoDaddy kept sending me to blank and bad request pages. Why! Why did it become so difficult to access the control panel and install a WordPress site? I swear that knowing whether it worked or not used to be fast. Today, I could not see anything else but the progress arc spinning and spinning. On several occasions, I deleted my cookies and history and even switched browsers to make it work for GoDaddy. But it was insufficient for GoDaddy. I gave up. The UX has become cumbersome!

So, what is this monstrous UX about? It is this term to come to my mind to label experiences like the one I just got from using GoDaddy. The digital product, which started with a clear scope concerning purpose, service, and functionality, eventually becomes bigger and bigger. If there is no clear design and administrative direction, the product ends up becoming a Frankenstein monster. The user of this product starts noticing that the product comprises several systems, each of them challenging its unity. It seems like the product’s functionality explodes, the information architecture everything but helpful, and the interface is irrelevant to supporting the user’s mental model of what the product is and how to operate it.

Dealing with a product comprising several systems and people maintaining them is a wicked problem! It is a design problem. Perhaps it is in such a situation when one can see the value of strategic design and systems design and how they relate to UX design, service design, and corporate identity design. Dealing with monstrous UX is a significant endeavor because these Frankenstein monsters are usually systems of systems that impact the improvement and well-being of a person’s life: they exist in the bank industry, government, transportation industry, and the health industry. Monstrous UX is the user experience conceptualization of the bureaucratic scene in which we need to fill out forms that we do not completely understand, collect evidence and receipts that we do not know we will end up using, and moving from window to window with the hope that the teller will treat us nicely and help us complete our task.



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Omar Sosa-Tzec

Assistant Professor of Design Foundations at San Francisco State University