The problem with “normal” is that everyone thinks that the way they want your product or service is “normal.” And, what you see from inside your business is what you consider “normal.”
Planning software and websites for the normal case is only the first part of the job. Then you need to think of all the other cases that users might have. But, it is not possible to think of all the cases. And, at some point, return on investment to cover every possible scenario kicks in.
In the book Don’t Make Me Think, the author discusses the fact that when you have people test software or a website, they will come up with all kinds of “problems” that you should fix. The point is to fix the ones that give you an “aha” moment.
A Case Study: Public Transportation in Portland (2018)
In Portland, you can use public transportation all day for $5.00 under the “normal” case. “Normal” in my experience is that you stop at a Max station and buy an all day pass. I consider that normal because I land at the airport and take a shuttle to my hotel, which is selected to be conveniently close to a Max station. But, is that “normal” for the teens who will provide me with interesting people watching opportunities as I get closer to the center of town?
I found that my normal wasn’t the only normal when my hotel was not close to a Max light rail station. If you start on a bus, you pay $2.50 + $5.00 if you need transportation all day. You put $2.50 into the bus equipment, which gives you a transfer from the bus, but it has a shorter life span, so if you plan many stops, you will need to pay for a full day after paying for the bus fare. How many scenarios did the planners run through in their decision making?
Two Use Cases: Short People at the Store
Space in retail stores has been studied for years. One good source of these studies is the book Why We Buy: the Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill. Stores try to use cart size to maximize sales. Recently, Costco added carts that are so tall, they are almost neck high to a shopper who is 5′ tall, making these shoppers feel like they are using motorcycle ape hangers. Every time I go to Costco, now, my experience starts with discomfort.
Another source of discomfort for short people is the checkout at many grocery stores. I watched a 6′ man stand behind his cart and reach down into it, over the child seat, to remove his items from the cart. Short people can’t do that. They need to be beside the cart where they can reach both into the cart and onto the conveyor. But many stores use the end of the conveyor to sell things. What they don’t realize is that they are also adding a barrier. One store even had a wheelchair friendly sign on a checkout that was blocked.