Mind the Edge

A couple of weeks ago my husband asked me if I knew how to load a mobile webpage but on a desktop. He had been sent the URL by his father to print out the page as he does not have a smart phone and he needed evidence of his hotel booking.

In the end the best we could do was to print a screenshot of the page on mobile.

My father-in-law is an edge case. Someone for whom the designed journey does not work. For pretty much every design there will be edge cases - people who do not have a mobile phone or cannot use your site due to a disability, or do not have a date of birth (this is a real issue that the gov.uk team had to deal with when designing forms for their services).

When designing we have to work to some constraints, for instance I know at Wiggle we do not support IE8 so we try and make it work as well as we can, but we do not go out of our way to fix issues. It would take too long and cost too much for the small number of people still using that browser.

In this case it is not great, but these people probably do have access to another browser, although they might not know it or how to access it.

For other things we need to think more carefully. If, for instance, people can not use our menu using only keyboard commands then we will find that we are blocking those who can not use a mouse at the moment from using our site, whether that is due to some sort of disability, personal preference or because they have a broken wrist right now.

After all 100% of users will have a disability at some point in their lives.

Edge cases might be on the edges, maybe only 1% of your total users, but it can still mean you are affecting a lot of people if your total number of users is big enough.

Would it have been so hard for that hotel booking site to have allowed my father-in-law to view his booking on a web browser? That is how he booked it after all.

For instance we have just got Amazon lockers where I work. This was perfect timing for Christmas.

What I love about them is the fact that I have two options for getting my parcel.

  1. I can scan the barcode they send me or
  2. I can type in a code

This means that if I cannot access the internet when I go to get my parcel, if I have my code written down, I can still get it. So whatever my situation between the two options I should still be able to collect my parcel.

What was even better is when I had two parcels to pick up with two different codes, by entering the first code it knew I had a second parcel and let me pick that up without having to enter the second code.

There might still be edge cases for Amazons design but they have tried to make them as small as possible.

So next time someone makes a point about your designs which will cause some of your users an issue, rather than just dismissing it you really should look at the problem and see if there is any way you can include them.