Beware of Hidden Rules



Just a quick post to rant about an usability issue I experienced today.

In software development, there are always tons of hidden rules and logics that we made internally for better usability (or may be worse?) and minimizing potential information overload for the user, but if it’s something involved with certain level of user expectation (e.g. user reasonably expecting things should work a certain way), it is always a good idea to ensure that the hidden rules of ours are sufficiently communicated to the user through feedforward or feedback, depending on the situation.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind (and Out of Reach)

Case in point – the funny (may be not so funny) logic in Dashlane that no user can understand (or realize).

So I have been using Dashlane for a while, and I have always been protecting my passwords with PIN code. When I got my Nexus 6P, I have been impatiently waiting for an update to make full use of the fingerprint scanner for it, and of course, yesterday Dashlane updated the app with the promise that fingerprint scanner is now usable in the app.

I happily went ahead and update the app, and the first thing I do after it gets updated is to go to the Settings to set up the fingerprint scanner, and this is basically what I see:

Unknown.pngYes, I am not kidding, this is what I see in the Settings. There isn’t any option related to fingerprint scanner in the Setting. I looked around in the app like a mad man, trying to figure out if I missed anything, and I still didn’t manage to find anything about it. I was pretty sure the app is updated to the latest version, so I went ahead and rant in the Play Store review and someone from the support team asked me to send a ticket for this issue.

And it turns out that because I have the PIN code lock turned on, I am not able to see the Fingerprint option. This is bad, really bad. 

First of all, I just cannot brain the logic behind the hidden fingerprint option when PIN code lock is turned on. Even if they might cause some conflicts, but why totally hides the fingerprint option? How does the user with PIN code lock turned on know that to access the Fingerprint option, they have to turn off the PIN code lock first? I can imagine that most of their users will have PIN code lock turned on, so if the users with the new Nexus devices doesn’t explore further, they probably wouldn’t know that they can actually use the fingerprint scanner in the app.

Secondly, I just don’t see how they can cause conflicts. In iOS version, both PIN code and Fingerprint unlock can be used together, and it make so much sense (at least for me)! E.g. when it’s impossible for me to use the fingerprint scanner, I still can use PIN code to enter the app. May be there is some business logic behind, but if it’s about usability, I don’t think this is the right way to do it.



Users know nothing about your hidden rules

There is just one thing you have to remember – your users have no idea what you have done and hence they wouldn’t have know your hidden rules. Have you been trying to enter a new password during the registration for some services, and turn out the registration failed because your password doesn’t fulfil their password requirement, which is not communicated earlier to you when you first filling up the registration form? It is one classic example that the users will not have any idea about your imposed rule(s) that is invisible to them.

If any of your hidden rules involved with the core (or even secondary) experience of the software, please give it a second thought if it is required to be communicated to the user in some way, because again, the user will never know them if it’s not communicated to them in the first place. Design is always about communication between people and objects, and sufficient communication can help in providing great user experience and managing unmanageable user expectations manageably (huh?).

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