Don’t use paracetamol to fix bad UX

My dad was a pharmacist.

Whenever I was ill, he’d tell me to take paracetamol.

So I did.

And it made me feel better.

But paracetamol doesn’t actually make you better. It only makes you feel better.

It treats the symptoms, not the cause.

For example, let’s say you have a headache because you’re dehydrated. But you don’t know you’re dehydrated so you take paracetamol. And the headache goes away.

But you’re still dehydrated so your headache comes back later.

In this case, what you needed was a glass of water.

You needed to treat the cause, not the symptom.

But the problem is that not all ailments go away instantly with a glass of water. Some ailments take longer to heal. So people take a pill, feel better and go about their life.

But over time this can lead to more problems.

I see the same thing happen all the time in UX.

Here’s a common problem:

  • You have a page with a lot of content
  • Users have to wait a long time for the page to load
  • When it does load, it’s hard for users to find what they’re looking for

So you think about all the ways you could simplify the long, slow, unwieldy page of content.

You decide to split the content into tabs.

Job done: the page is much cleaner.

But the underlying problem is still there, you’ve just relieved the symptoms.

And because you’ve just relieved the symptoms, you’ve made the UX even worse.

  • Some users will fail to notice the tabs
  • Some users won’t understand how the tabs work
  • The page is slower than it was because there’s extra code for the tabs

You’ve used paracetamol instead of a glass of water.

The actual problem is:

There’s too much content, it’s badly organised and the server is slow.

Here’s what you do instead:

  • Reduce the amount of content
  • Make it clear and concise
  • Make the server fast

No tabs needed.

But here’s the cool thing.

Once you stop treating the symptoms, you start solving real problems and avoid unnecessary complexity.

And you end up giving users great UX.

If you’d like to know how to treat the cause of badly designed forms, you might like my course, Form Design Mastery.

It’s the only place on the internet where you’ll learn how to treat forms with a glass of water, not paracetamol.