Real Life UX – The Power of Good Feedback

If you’ve read some of my posts, you probably know I have two sons. Unfortunately they are both inclined to Asthma. This means that since they have been tiny little babies, we’ve been required to treat them by inhalation.

Infant with inhalation mask

This can be a very negative experience to all sides involved. Imagine you are a young child, a baby even, and your parent suddenly holds up a mask over your mouth and nose. You try to wiggle out, and your parent in response tightens his grip. What is going on? You can’t breath! why is your beloved parent doing this? Imagine you are the parent. You are distressed to begin with since your child is coughing all the time and is finding it hard to breath. You hold up the mask to his face and he tries to remove it. You hold it tighter and your child is now becoming hysterical, crying and violently pushing away. A nightmare. Twice a day.

Clearly we had to find a better way. We tried the obvious. TV as a distraction. Maybe watching “Dora the Explorer” will help him forget he has a mask over his face. It worked! for about two seconds. The solution is just not good enough because the situation is still not making sense to the child. It is hard to ignore a mask on the face.

Then we discovered feedback.A proper informative indication about the progress of the process. We hold up the mask to his face and start counting slowly to 10 in a soothing voice. After once or twice our kid catches on. He realizes that he is now able to identify a beginning of a process. He is able to follow its progress and predict when it will be finished. He counts with us and gains some control over the situation. He is not helpless anymore. If he moves the mask away, the counting stops. If he allows us to put it back – counting continues. We are not ignoring that something out of the ordinary is happening, we are providing better tools to deal with it. That and more, the feedback provides the distraction needed. Our child focuses on the counting, which is rhythmic and soothing. And yes, it works. It has been working for years and with both my kids.

So what constitues good feedback?

- Good feedback on progress has a beginning, a duration and an end.

- Good feedback  is consistent.

- Good feedback is relevant.

- Good feedback is reliable.

Feedback may also provide an appropriate distraction if needed. For example, provide relevant or interesting information for the user while he is waiting. Of course it is best to decrease or eliminate waiting, but if you can’t, at least make it a positive experience. Both our sons have learned to count to 10 pretty early, and to provide variety, once in a while we have to count in other languages. You see, Fun.

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4 thoughts on “Real Life UX – The Power of Good Feedback

  1. Really interesting post. I like how you’ve applied user experience techniques to real life – I guess your ‘task time’ measurements are much improved!

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