Imagine your local grocery store stocked with the same stale, sour UX experiences found online

As denizens of the web, the scourge of bad UX is something we fight every day. It's annoying and frustrating. It's distracting and confusing. And unsurprisingly, it causes would-be customers to take their money and run to the nearest exit.

While rage-click-inducing experiences are irritating enough online, what if they reared their ugly head offline, too?

What if the bad UX of the web infiltrated the real world, say, turning an innocuous grocery store into a house of shopping horrors? What might bad user experiences online look like in real life?


- A FULLSTORY THOUGHT EXPERIMENT -

Lettuce run to the store ...

Ah, the produce section: Your first grocery shopping stop. For the grocery store, it's the offline equivalent of the "homepage"—their chance to make a strong first impression and show off their freshest and healthiest wares.

As you assess the quality of the cantaloupes, out of nowhere, banners drop from the ceiling and surround you on all sides. Confetti coupons rain down and a voice booms over some hidden intercom: 50% OFF BANANA PUDDING!

Alarmed and disoriented, you frantically look for a way to stop the bombardment. Finally, you notice a small button to the bottom right of the fruit stand. After a few pokes, you successfully turn off the cacophony. But the damage is done. Your nerves are jarred, and you're afraid it'll start again at any moment.

You throw a mango in the cart—that's what you needed, right?—and hurry over to the bakery.

Next, next, next, NEXT!

Approaching the bakery, the first thing you notice is a sign announcing "The Top 20 Delicious Sweet Treats You Can't Resist." Tantalizing aromas confirm that yes, sugary sweets are nearby, and your mouth waters in anticipation.

What's on the menu for dessert tonight?

Only ... where are they? You see the glass baked goods display, but it appears practically empty. There's a lone cupcake in the display case. Where's the rest?

That's when you notice a slot-machine-style lever sitting to the right of the display. "This is crazy," you think. But your curiosity is too great. You pull the lever, and sure enough, the cupcake rotates out of sight, replaced by a single slice of cherry pie.

Is that how it's going to be? Cursing under your breath, you pull the lever 18 more times, eyeing each whoopie pie, cookie cake, and cheesecake bar as they parade by. After seeing all 20, you go back and pick dessert #4—a salted caramel brownie.

Your arm aches a little, but it does look delicious. Now, what's next on the list? Ah, yes. Cereal! That'll be easy.

Aisle be damned!

Where is the cereal aisle? As you walk the outside of the store, you see signs hanging at the end of each aisle.

Problematically, they forgo descriptive words, such as "cereal," "chips," or "bread," in favor of icons—and what's the icon for a box of cereal, anyway?

After a few misses, including a detour down the cracker aisle, you finally find the correct aisle—it was represented by a bowl. Of course.

Now where are those Lucky Charms?


Out of stock, out of patience

That's when you make eye contact with that mischievous leprechaun. It looks like there's one left, so maybe this is your lucky day after all. Except when you pick up the box, something is amiss. What's this? A note that says "Out of Stock."

Maybe the kids will be okay with Fruity Pebbles instead. Just kidding. They're out of stock, too.

You grow more incredulous with each cereal you pick up. Fruit Loops? Nope. Apple Jacks? Uh-uh. Frosted Flakes? They'rrrrre gone.

They're all empty. You can see what each one looks like, but none are available for purchase.

You don't have time for this. It's been 30 minutes, yet you don't have a single thing you came for. Angrily, you slam a box of Grape Nuts into your cart and move on.


A surprise nobody wants

You're on a mission now. Ketchup is a must for your family's burger night tonight. Miraculously, you find the Heinz 57 without incident. Then, in the instant before your hand grasps the bottle, the entire shelf lowers and a different one takes its place!

It happens too fast for you to stop and you pick up the bottle, shocked to discover you're holding...tartar sauce?

Noooooo!

Checked out

Should you look for the manager to complain or just get the heck out of there? Against your better judgment, you decide to buy what you have in your cart—everything else can wait until you find a store that's not designed to drive you nuts.

You enter the 10 items or less checkout lane and put your items on the conveyor belt. Only it's jammed: There's some kind of error. The cashier assures you it's no big deal and hands you a form and a pen saying, "I'll fix the belt while you get started. Please fill out all fields." You flip through the pages, dumbfounded at the number of questions. You laugh in disbelief.

What is this madness?

That's it. Your patience spent, you abandon your cart in the middle of the checkout lane and run to the exit, vowing never to return again.

- END SCENE -


Bad UX is frustratingly real to your users

Absurd, hypothetical hurdles like these would be intolerable if they happened in real life. Yet too often our websites and apps seem designed solely to test their users' patience. Worse, unlike a physical store where an employee might notice a frustrated customer abandoning a cart mid-checkout and wonder what went wrong, when bad customer experiences happen online, no one notices.

The abandoned cart, bounce rate, or exit page? Just faceless metrics—not real, frustrated, would-be customers.

What are we to do? To start, reducing frustrating online experiences begins with awareness of the major causes of bad ux but that's not where it ends. You need a way to monitor real user experiences online so you can understand them and improve them.

Your customers have great expectations. They crave frustration-free experiences. Put them on the express lane to satisfaction.

(FullStory can help.)