Most people think that user experience design is all about creating the best and most intuitive experience for users. Website and Apps that are well structured and manage to simplify the most complicated processes are praised for their good user experience design and serve as role model for other companies and startups. Nevertheless, there are situations in which an intuitive interface can have the opposite effect. Yes, there even is a startup that was crowned a unicorn and made it to IPO, due to its intentionally confusing UX design.

Here we go, three reasons why, in some rare cases, UX design should be counterintuitive:

 

1. Wake up! – Awaken users with your design

A constant and smooth workflow simplifies the use of software. Therefore, common design patterns are used. The ‘forward’ button stays at the same position on every screen, the ‘play’ button looks almost the same in every audio player. Users get used to those continuously returning patterns. At one point users are so familiar with the software, that they could use it blindfolded. In most cases this is helpful.

However, the more familiar a process, the more inattentive or careless the user becomes. So it could happen that users click on buttons without understanding their function and perhaps they do something which they didn’t intended to. In order, to protect users from this trap a counterintuitive design can help to get back the users attention.

Google Chrome for instance does that with this warning. The users goal is to get to a specific website, which Google identified as an insecure connection. Instead of placing the option ‘Continue  to the website’ as a blue button on the right, Google decided to force the user to double check. The user has to click twice on a grey hyperlink in order to get to the website he wanted. With this little trick Google prevents users from taking a risk out of habit.

 

2. Manipulation? Who would ever do that?

To awaken users with an counterintuitive action isn’t pleasant for the workflow but its serves the overall interest of the user. Mostly. Because the UX world has a dark site as well, which is filled with evil tricks. UX designers do not only have to take into account the interests of the users. They always have to balance them with the goals of their clients. And sometimes they use certain design patterns against the users, but serve the company instead. Like this for example :

If you wish to uninstall the anti virus software Avast, a window opens that questions the user: ‘Are you leaving us for good?’ In order to confirm, most users would intuitively click on the green button. However, in this case the green button does not confirm the uninstallation but cancels the procedure. Meanwhile one could hear a silent but evil laugh at the Avast headquarters, since again a user kept himself from uninstalling their software.

Such a design manipulates the user to do an action, which isn’t in the users but rather the clients interest. This is called a ‘dark pattern’ but more about those dirty tricks in another article.

 

3. Not you! – Narrow down your audience

Most of the smartphone users above 25 years old, have never used snapchat and there is a good reason for that. The target group of snapchat has been teens right from the start. Young, playful and preferably with a strong desire for self-expression. Selfies with an infinite amount of filters that allow you to have dog ears and googly eyes seem to be indispensable now. For these reasons Snapchat is still incredibly successful throughout its young target group.

However, anyone who is using Snapchat for the first time will realize how confusing this app is, in comparison to similar apps like Instagram. For many, it is a mystery how a counterintuitive app can be so successful, that it even starts its IPO with the highest revenue since Facebook. But when you take a closer look at the Snapchat audience, you start to understand. No, it’s not just the charming filters that have become an indispensable part of digital self-portraits. There are three reasons why teens are not put off by the confusing UX design. First of all, as digital natives, youngsters can quickly understand and find their way through complex software. Additionally, the peer pressure among teenagers is so strong that they have no option to switch to a competitor with better UX.

The last and most important reason is that, snapchats ‘bad’ UX has a very important advantage. It prevents parents and grandparents from using the app, possibly spying on their kids or the worst, leaving embarrassing comments. There is almost nothing that teenagers find more terrifying than having their own parents move around on the same platforms. While Facebook, with its intuitive handling, is almost considered a network for the elderly, apps like Snapchat or Musical.ly remain a mystery to adults.

 

Good user experience can’t always be identified by an intuitive and easy interface. In some fairly rare cases, such an interface is even counterproductive. Anyways, whether good or bad UX design, the important thing is that you know your target group and you can identify what it is that turns their user journey into a truly good experience. And remember, the desires of the users aren’t the only criterias to consider for your UX design. The company goals need to be part of that design process as well. However, whenever the design manipulated users to act against their interests it could mean losing them in the long run.