In the usage of any system, it is inevitable that the user encounters an error in the process of executing a task. Where this error is not intrinsic to the system but founded on the behavior of the user, we term this as user error. User error include examples such as inputting the wrong information as a result of typing too fast or miscalculating your housing loan application due to mistakes in calculating what goes into gross income for the purposes of this calculation.
Generally speaking user error can be divided into 2 categories, namely slips and mistakes. These are discussed in much greater detail in Don Norman’s book The Design Of Everyday Things.
Slips occur when a user performs the right action badly. They intend to perform one action but instead do another often similar action resulting in an error. These usually happen when the user is on autopilot mode and not paying full attention to the task at hand. Examples include typos, confusing start dates with end dates for tasks etc. The types of slips include:
• Memory Slips. In a sequence of actions, the user skipped a step. It was have been their intention, but they simply forgot.
• Action Slips. The wrong action is performed - the user accidentally pulled the wrong lever, or their hand slid off of the right one such that it was not pulled properly
Mistakes occur when the user fails to perform the right action. This means the user has goals that are inappropriate for the current problem or task at hand. This means that even when they perform the right action, they are unable to address the problem or complete the task. An example is where an accountant wishes to issue a credit to a customer but mistakenly uses the debit note function instead. The Types of Mistakes include:
• Memory Based. A memory-based mistake is similar to a memory slip - but instead of failing to do the right thing, the person takes a wrong action believing it to be right.
• Knowledge Based. This form of mistake happens when the person simply doesn't know what is the right thing to do, but does something else because of erroneous knowledge.
• Rules Based. A person has decided on an inappropriate course of action, believing it is what must be done to accomplish the goal.
Slips vs Mistakes
In general slips occur while the user is already in the process of taking action. Slips usually happen when the user is already familiar with both the goal and the task they are seeking to achieve but encounter an error. Slips are often made by experienced users who may feel that they are already familiar and thus devote less resources to the actual completion of tasks. Mistakes by contrast occur in the planning phase. Amateur users are more likely to encounter mistakes due to incomplete information on how to execute actions or select the right task.
Tips for Slips
Slips benefit more from good UXUI that is designed to help users minimize slips. Examples include the inclusion of negative space, suggestions and helpful constraints.
Negative Space Example: When filling in credit card information there are spaces included every few characters. These help serve as visual breakers that enable readability when reviewing.
Suggestions Example: Search fields offer recommendations for auto-fill text that is based off past search history/usage and helps prevent mistakes in input.
Helpful Constraints: When booking a trip, return flights cannot happen before departure flights. The input for such flights should restrict users to picking a date range where the departure flight is before the return flight.
Tips For Mistakes
Mistakes on the other hand are more likely to benefit from user education that arms users with the right information. Examples include: User guides and in-application tutorials
A well written user guide with both instructions and screenshots helps users understand the goals and process of carrying out a task. When well written and for the right audience they can be highly effective.
In-application walkthroughs are product tours that introduce your product and its usage. They can onboard users as they go through your SaaS through modular tours that trigger automatically.
Reducing Friction From User Error
User error is never the fault of the user, instead it is the responsibility of the product design and customer success team to reduce and eliminate as far as possible. Friction arising from user error can undermine a user’s trust in your product and is entirely avoidable. Reducing this friction can be simple in many ways and have long term effects on key SaaS metrics like churn, activation rates and time to value. Definitely a change worth pursuing.
If you are interested in deploying in-application walkthroughs in seconds check us out at Usertip or follow us on Linkedin for more tips to drive user adoption. Usertip is the first Southeast Asia digital adoption platform designed to help scale your onboarding, training and support for digital solutions. Operating from Singapore, Indonesia and Australia our no-code platform delivers in-application walkthroughs directly on your digital solutions. Seamless user experience and on-demand learning are all delivered to your user’s fingertips within seconds. Click here to find out more.