Two kinds of NUX

To me there are two different ways to read the term “NUX”.

* (NU)X is the experience provided to new users. (New User)’s Experience
* N(UX) is when any user experiences something unfamiliar. Novel (User Experience)

“NUX” commonly means (NU)X. We use “new users” to refer to people who are signing up and starting to use the service. “NUX” therefore refers to the signup flow and maybe some early interactions.

I prefer to think in terms of N(UX) because it’s user-centric and personalized. (NU)X is an onboarding process with an end whereas N(UX) treats novelty from the viewpoint of the user throughout their lifetime. You can apply N(UX) thinking to (NU)X but that’s not where it ends. And not every (NU)X is a N(UX).

Examples

we should try to offer the right variation for individual users

New users all look pretty much the same on arrival: just a bunch of unauthenticated HTTP requests for a signup page. When you know nothing about the individual users you can’t differentiate between them to sort them into signup variations. The more you know about them, the better you can tailor their experience. Do they need a guide? A map? A hint? A challenge? No help at all?

It looks like you are trying to start a blog. Can I help?

Clippy was a good idea that became an ironic cliché because it was too eager to help. It kept repeating its distracting wiggle onto the screen long after the user stopped needing its simplistic instruction. Good help can come from an automated agent if it doesn’t take the form of an attention-starved acrobat.

Please listen carefully as our menu options have changed.

This ubiquitous admonition is annoyingly disingenuous. They don’t actually keep track of whether you have called and listened to the menu since the latest update. Good help remembers what you already know.

 Yellow! Yellow! Yellow! Yellow!

Have you ever noticed a newly installed traffic signal on your daily commute? Commuters are terrible at noticing because they are conditioned by familiarity to be less alert. This is why new traffic lights are magnets for accidents. Where I live, road crews typically give commuters a few days of flashing yellow to alert them. Blogging about a change isn’t enough; respecting the habits of seasoned users saves lives.

Pleas

With N(UX) you can see that every user slips in and out of familiarity. Even tenured users and the developers themselves go through N(UX) now and then. My WordPress.com account is ten years old and I’m constantly getting N(UX)ed.

Knowing whether a given user is in unfamiliar territory depends on knowing where the user has been and whether the territory has changed. Depending on how comfortable they are with novelty, they’ll either need a guided tour or be happy with a hint.

N(UX) is not a yes-or-no question, a one-way ramp or a single fact for each user. It is a record of a relationship between a person and software, a profile that maps familiarities and predilections. The software has a “mental model” of the person and adjusts itself to suit them, or offers instruction when needed.

For a start, ask the beginning user if they want help. Just not too acrobatically.

Published by

Andy Skelton

Code Wrangler @ Automattic youtube.com/AndySkelton