User Experience is one of those things that is often overlooked or over-engineered. Believe it or not, your users want as simple an experience as possible, and this means finding familiarity between unrelated systems. Look for patterns that work elsewhere and copy them. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
Standard patterns are a valuable concept within the world of User Experience. A standard pattern is a simple layout or interaction that a user has come to expect of and looks for in any system. A good example of the standard pattern in web design is the navigation bar at the top of the window.
Standard patterns give users the ability to quickly identify where they are, what they’re looking at, and what they’re meant to do next.
Look at the work of hotel bookings. Every single website asks you the same three questions:
Where are you going?;
When are you going?; and
When are you leaving?
These three questions are all you need to ask in order to provide users with a list of hotels available in that location on those dates. Simple. What is interesting about this example is that there are so many other questions you could ask the users to return more accurate results, but these are always in the “advanced search” section. Why is this?
There are two principles at play here. First of all, the less opportunity you give a user to get frustrated, the more likely they will be to stick around. By removing any non-mandatory questions you’re getting them to your listings sooner and reducing the likelihood of your user encountering any frustration. The sooner they’re browsing your listings, the sooner they will have the opportunity to book a hotel.
Second is the idea that users are lazy and they have become accustomed to only being asked those three questions. If you ask 5 questions and your competitors only ask 3 questions, it is only logical that the user will opt for the easier experience. The user might not even take the chance to see whether your hotel listings are better than your competition because the barrier is simply too high. If your booking site relies on asking two more questions than every other booking site, make explicit mention of this and help the user understand why they should take the leap of faith.
So, don’t reinvent the wheel for the sake of it. Spend the time to discover how other companies are already solving the problem. If you have an opportunity to make a dull experience more engaging, go for it. Just don’t do it for the sake of it.