10 swearing phrases to drive your way into a better User Experience

High school: a distant memory, a forgotten phase, ‘glory years’ or a current living hell. A place where we are shoved together with a bunch of other teenagers to learn from teachers. Each teacher with a different topic and different way of imparting knowledge to hormone-busting kids.

I must have seen more than 50+ courses taught by dozens of different teachers. Still, there is only one who’s classes I could vividly recall:

The teacher who used bad words.

There is something about the anger, the in-your-face attitude, and out of character behavior; that let any kind of information sync into our juvenile brains by simply sprinkling a small number of obscenities over a topic.

In the paragraphs below, we will use this to our advantage when analyzing the User Experience of a product 😈

Taking the 10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design of NN/g as a reference and adding some F*%# sprinkles on top, we end off with 10 phrases your users will scream out loud if your product lacks good UX:

#1: What the F*%# is going on?

Users need to know what is happening AT ALL TIMES and while they’re doing each task. If a file is uploading, a post is being published or a document has been successfully deleted: these are the type of information the user needs IMMEDIATE feedback to be able to continue or be alerted of an issue in the system.

#2: What the F*%# does this mean?

日本でビッグ
Only Japanese readers will be able to understand the text above, maybe a few of you will be interested and Google the phrase, the rest will simply skip it. Same happens if your user reads something like:
Uncaught TypeError: Cannot read property.
Javascript developers will understand that there is an issue in the code, the rest: well, they’ll flinch their faces and curse your system. This is a luxury you cannot take; since most systems rely on text to communicate with users.

PS: It also happens when you start creating your own product-terminology or use complex language un-related to the user’s background — avoid any F*%# up use simple wording.

#3: F*%#! What are you forcing me to do now?

Freedom! we fight for it! it is an essential part of our human nature. Don’t force your users into doing unnecessary or unrelated activities; taking them away from their goal.

Also, leave room for mistakes ( another part of our human nature) so let your users cancel, undo, reset and if it is not possible: make them fully aware of their actions.

#4: What the F*%# is this new thing?

People enjoy the familiar and coherent; designs that are not only consistent with other products out there but also consistent within itself. If you make people reinterpret or learn something new; trust that your f-word count will go up in the process.

#5: Thanks for helping me F*%# up :D

Errors, users make them; make sure to prevent them from happening by designing products that avoid them.

#6: I don’t F*%#-ing remember this now

or “S#*t I forgot that”
Yeah, we know as a designer you want ‘minimal uncluttered designs’ but you’ll need to find the sweet spot for this. If everything is hidden in tabs, collapsible sections, info-popups, and dropdowns; your users will need to find > read > remember this information and scream F*%# every now and then.

#7: Noob: “What the F*%# is this?” Vs Pro: “Why the F*%# do I need to do this again?”

Consider that each one of your users will have different goals and different levels of experience. The very basic functionalities shouldn’t block the expert, yet the complex shouldn’t overwhelm the novice.

#8: So much F*%#ing bla-bla-bla

Keep it simple, leave the bells and whistles to the marketing area of your product, for the rest: get to the point.

#9: What the F*%# just happened?

Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”.
For those times; make sure that the user can easily understand that something went wrong, what caused it, and how to recover from it.

#10: Who do you F*%#ing think I am?

Users won’t know your product top-to-bottom before they use it. Please make sure to provide additional information or tutorials to educate them on your product.

That initial shyness/etiquette you receive from participants in user testing is non-existent in the real world: your users will say F*%# a lot. Therefore they’ll be your best teachers, start by screaming the 10 phrases above to your designs and see if they are right. After that, show it to your users; see their faces; a confused face now could mean a F*%# later.

This article is dedicated to the memory of Luis Felipe Ledezma — my 8th-grade Biology teacher. Keeping his classes forever suspenseful with some light-swearing and providing my first lesson on User Experience:

When displaying data, no graph is complete unless it is titled properly; this is the only way readers can make sense of the information shown. Titles shall always start with: Gráfico que representa… ( Graph that represents… )

PS: “F*%#” stands for “Fudge” 😉

👋 Hola! Let’s meet! Connect with me on LinkedIn. Follow me here on Medium as well for more User Experience related content.

User Experience Engineer > ricardogerstl.com