What if every question you asked your customers was multiple choice? And every question had an “I’m confused” option. How often would your customers choose that option?
If your whole business was laid out flat – every product, every promise, every price, every rule, every condition all on one surface – and you superimposed a heat map layer over it, where would the confusion hot spots be?
Everything you do as a business includes multiple choices for your customers. It doesn’t matter if you give them the choices – they have the choices. Features, benefits, prices, promises, support, etc. They can love it, hate it, be indifferent, etc. But they can also be confused. And “I’m confused” is the worst option of all. If your customers are confused, you’re in deep trouble. “I give up, unhappily” is next.
This is what clarity is all about. It’s about eliminating “I’m confused” answers. Lots of people think simplicity is the opposite of confusion (“It’s confusing, let’s make this simpler”). It’s not. The opposite of confusion is clarity.
javieron 22 Mar 12
I’m confused, why is there not anymore a free account for basecamp?
Rickon 22 Mar 12
Drazen Mokicon 22 Mar 12
Please add back Textile or even better, Markup to the new Basecamp. Our old “writeboards” look horrible now that all the formatations are gone and having to use the mouse constantly to format text everywhere is really annoying.
I understand the problem, so i am not confused but i hate it :)
Drazen Mokicon 22 Mar 12
I meant “Markdown”, not “Markup”
Kathy Sierraon 22 Mar 12
Yes. I once suggested (not entirely joking) that apps and websites have a WTF button to give users a chance to say “I’m confused”. It was meant to reflect not just the user’s state (confusion) but also the most significant attribute: how they FEEL about that state.
We keep creating content, copy, FAQs etc. as if users and potential customers are always intellectually curious about our options/UI and completely ignoring the emotional states our UX provokes. A user should be able to “tell” us not just what they are thinking (e.g. “I have no idea what to do NEXT”), but also tell us how they FEEL about that. Because what we do (or rather what our software does) in response should more closely resemble what a real human would do under those circumstances. For example, if a customer said, “HELP! I’m LOST!”, a face-to-face person might respond differently than, say, giving them a link to an FAQ. Software could at least provide more context-sensitive responses or, you know, actually ask them another clarifying question.
But then, the real goal is to keep reducing the places where users feel the need to press the WTF button :). (but not everyone has the luxury of fixing their product or site, but upgrading our support docs/site is usually do-able)
Thanks for the post.
Bill Wagneron 22 Mar 12
Great post! My favorite case study involving clarity is the way Toyota re-imagined the way customers pick options for new cars. Instead of presenting customers with an ala carte list of 100+ options for their new car and a corresponding 2-week lead time to find and deliver the desired combination of options, they began offering standardized options packages that simplified the product selection process while streamlining manufacturing and inventory management. See any similarities to the way Jason and crew have simplified project management software? And in the Toyota example, clarity was delivered when John and Jane Q. Public no longer needed a mechanical engineering degree to pick out a new car. More isn’t always better, sometimes it’s just… more.
fafkulecon 22 Mar 12
I’m often confused about pricing plans. Why do they force me to make a decision upfront? Why do they force me even to do any math? Some time ago I had to choose git repo hosting. Just look at those pricing plans and see confusion vs clarity defined. https://github.com/plans http://repositoryhosting.com/ The same thing is with mobile providers, ISPs, gym subscription etc.
internetfavs.comon 22 Mar 12
Wadeon 22 Mar 12
Giving customers a choice is a bad decision I have always thought. Just give them an option to buy one thing!
David Andersenon 23 Mar 12
Kathy Sierra for president.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve thought “this software is sofa king crap.”
matt kocajon 23 Mar 12
Boom! Love it.
Mark Dodwellon 23 Mar 12
If confusion is the worst intellectual response to UI, I think frustration is the worst emotional response.
YOHAMIon 23 Mar 12
Jon Agust Arasonon 23 Mar 12
This all makes the way “I’m confused/Tilt/WTF” option/feature, does it not?
Our purpose as information workers (for those here in question) is to add value to the information – and that value is for the user. Key ingredients in that value would be clarity and brevity. Just like curry really.
But, the information-design as such should be focused on the user interactions. Where the user interactions would be in a funnel where there would be no room for “mistakes or confusion”.
Apple products are a great example of this. Variations. No real choices.
Guidance with clarity for the sake of sanity. Necessary and useful – Then let it be beautiful.
Peter Urbanon 23 Mar 12
Spot on. While everyone focuses on simplicity not all things / products / processes can be simple in nature but usually there is no excuse why clarity is lacking – except laziness, lack of budget / focus and a million other things that have nothing to do with the problem at hand.
CRisingon 24 Mar 12
Fabrice Duboison 25 Mar 12
I agree, simplicity is not clarity. You can have a very simple choice (A or B) but with an unclear meaning: “Please select (A) Extended room or (B) Mini-suite”.
Ruby on Railson 26 Mar 12
I agree from the product aspect of clarity. However, at times, customers are not clear themselves as to what they are trying to solve and what are they evaluating the situation against. You have to educate them about “success factor” of the evaluation and how your product or services can help. Of course you must pursue educating effort only if you strongly believe your services or products can help :-)
Mike Ellisonon 26 Mar 12
Cool, I always try eliminate “I’m confused” options and didn’t know that it’s called clarity
Arik Joneson 27 Mar 12
I think this is the first time I’ve seen spam on this blog. They didn’t even try to be slick about it.
GeeIWonderon 27 Mar 12
Yup. They nailed the clarity!
Julianne Kibbleon 28 Mar 12
Hell yeah ! the worst answer you receive from someone “I am confused ”. Many a times I have notice people doing it on purpose not just in business but in personal relationships also.
Melisa Clubbon 28 Mar 12
People should have clarity about things which they are determined to do. ” I AM CONFUSED ” is loser’s attitude. Clarity is winners’ attitude
Fredrik falkmanon 28 Mar 12
As much as I love you guys (read the book, etc.), I’m a bit confused about the overlapping but not integrated functionality of sme of you’re products. I’m sure that you have good reasons and I’m just starting to explore base camp and contemplating using Highrise. Have been wanting to for some time but haven’t had suitable teams to do it with. I would need to se a good example of how to use your products together or, as I perceive it ( maybe wrongly) allong side each other. A bit confused.
JFon 28 Mar 12
Fredrik: We agree. It’s confusing. We want to remove that confusion. There are a variety of strategies we’re considering.
Paul Mederoson 29 Mar 12
@Fredrik I’ve wondered the same thing. Can’t wait to see what they roll out in the future to address this!
People seem to think there is black/white. It’s either Simple or Complex. It’s either Orderly or Chaotic. In truth, it can be Complex but also Orderly. I think that’s what we should strive for in clarity.
This discussion is closed.