Lessons in UX: Impatience is the new normal

This week a new app, Next Issue, debuted for the iPad. Called “Netflix for magazines,” the app allows users to read as many electronic magazines as they would like for only $10 a month. It was an instant success, with hundreds of thousands of copies of the app downloaded the first day of release… and that became a problem.

Why? Because the makers of the app, the publishers of magazines such as Southern Loving, Car and Driver, and Wired… they were not ready for such instant (and high) demand. When users had an “all you can eat” menu, many of them went nuts… clicking and (attempting) to download more than a dozen magazines simultaneously. They were “binge downloading.”

To quote Scotty from Star Trek, the makers of Next Issue “canna change the laws of physics.” There was only so much bandwidth individual users had, and many of the magazines users were trying to download were filled with multimedia features that bloated the download size. For many, the app was a massive FAIL and they posted negative reviews in iTunes almost instantly. “I can’t download a single issue!” “The app deleted all my downloads before I can read them!” And so on.

The key takeaway here is two-fold. First, when it comes to infrastructure and planning… have as much capacity as you can afford. If Next Issue had launched a week later but that delay meant they would have had more servers and bandwidth to provide users, they should have done it. The second takeaway (the one that is of most interest to me as a user experience professional) is that users had very little tolerance for failure and delay.

Because the devices we use every day are so responsive and are “instant on” users have learned to expect things work quickly and well, and have no patience when things stop working or are slow. Basically, we have (or are becoming) a society where instant gratification is expected, and impatience is the new normal when that doesn’t happen.

If you disagree, ask the makers of Next Issue… or read the reviews in iTunes.

Joseph Dickerson is a user experience professional and UX Lead for Microsoft based out of Atlanta, GA. He has implemented processes in user testing, design and ethnographic research and provided design and consulting services for many different projects and organizations.

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