Go ahead, pick the low hanging fruit

02 Oct By Molly Hammar | October 2, 2014

Often clients ask me to identify “low hanging fruit” — improvements to their websites or apps that can be made fairly quickly and easily. Early on in my career, I thought, “Why bother with the low hanging fruit if the tree is missing limbs, planted in the wrong spot, or not even the type of tree that users want?”

In other words, why fix things like alignment, spacing, and terminology if the overall offering doesn’t support users’ goals?

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I don’t know whether I just wanted to be the UX hero instead of a UX janitor, or I was just naïve and idealistic. Either way, I’ve changed my mind.

Obviously, if an app doesn’t support users in meeting any of their goals, then there isn’t much point in tidying it up. But if the app is useful, and has potential to evolve into something that better supports its users, then I vote for picking the low hanging fruit. Here’s why.

Reduce anxiety

Think about a messy web page. As a parent of a school-age child, there is no shortage of messy webpages that I get to navigate on a regular basis.

Payments Plus Screen Capture

  • Alignment? Awful.
  • The fonts remind me of a ransom letter.
  • Calls to action? They’re scattered across the page.
  • The note above the account payments table introduces mild doubt that my child will be able to eat lunch even if I pay.

While no single problem is sufficiently bothersome, together these problems create anxiety, annoyance, and lack of trust. When I’m adding money to the boy’s school lunch account 5 minutes before rushing him out the door in the morning, the task suddenly seems overwhelming.

Crowded displays, messy alignment, inconsistent terminology, and difficult forms increase anxiety for users. Anxiety taxes users’ working memories, thereby reducing their task performance with the user interface. You can ask my son: my mornings would be better if that single page were cleaned up.

Rack up a UX success

Another benefit to looking for low hanging fruit is that it quickly racks up a UX success for your product teams. For new clients, we often make inroads by cleaning up just a few pages or tasks. With clients’ agile development processes, small improvements can be released incrementally. While this does introduce inconsistencies across the app, the cleaner layouts within a section or page are worth it. (And, thanks to Agile, the inconsistencies can be ironed out over time.)

Some UX is better than no UX

It’s kind of like dieting. It can be daunting to start a diet knowing that you need to lose 50 or 100 pounds. But if you get started, each pound lost adds up. You start to look and feel better after only 5 or 10 pounds. So, I say grab  that low-hanging fruit. It’s a great start to a process of continual UX improvement.

 

Need help with the low hanging fruit? Drop me a line.

 

If this post was helpful,  you  might also want to check out my  Top 11 UX Design Principles series.