How does a designer decide what kind of status is important to communicate to the user?
Updated: Mar 29, 2022
Nielsen Norman’s Group’s first usability heuristic, visibility of system status, reminds designers to be mindful of how well they convey a system’s state to users. How might you determine which kinds of status are important to convey to users? To begin answering this question, I think that we would need to start with the UX designer having a clear understanding of the user and their needs, as well as the goals for the system.
One way to determine the goals of the system a priori is to use the other usability heuristics as informers. For instance, #3 of Jakob Nielsen's ten heuristics for User Interface Design is "user control and freedom," which suggests that users often make "mistakes" when moving through a system. Therefore, it is vital to have marked ways for a user to return to a familiar page without navigating an extended process. If "corrections" are needed for the user, this would suggest that there is a preferred flow or series of actions that the user intends to follow. Furthermore, one might consider the achievement of the various user flows as an objective for the system. The successful achievement of various user flows might inform the UX designer on how well the overall system goal is being met.
So the UX designer should themselves what are the individual objectives and goals for the system and how can the system visible help the user proceed down the desired user flow?
But what if your user flows or the a priori goals for the system are incorrect, complicated, or do not fit with user goals? The answer to these questions would depend on a new set of values and perspectives that might have unique weights within the design process. For a UX designer, all the weight or value of the design would be on enhancing user satisfaction with a product. The UX designers rely on empathy, ethics, and usability testing to enhance user satisfaction. As a UX designer, this means that your user defines the system's goals and ultimately the user flows (objectives).
If the user is defining the goals, making "errors," and then informing through testing to identify the "correct" system pathway (user flows, a.k.a. objectives), this approach would create a closed-loop of design interaction that moves the user to an optimized experience. The communication through status updates would help communicate the degree of optimization within the system.