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User Experience

The UX of Getting “Storrowed”

by Bill Kalpakoglou posted on September 4, 2019

Storrowed truck

Every year around this time, I’m reminded of some of the most important tenets of UX. Unfortunately, this happens due to some poor incoming college student getting “Storrowed.” If you’re not from Boston or familiar with the local lingo, it means their rented moving truck failed to clear our infamous Storrow Drive bridge, often peeling the top of the truck like a tuna can, adding to the already abysmal traffic, and putting a damper on some freshman’s first weekend away from mom and dad.

In the aftermath, social media latches onto the story and many of my fellow locals tend to point and laugh at the latest bridge victim, while repeating, “You can’t take moving trucks on Storrow!”

So what does this have to do with UX? If we view the above scenario as a metaphor for users (the hard luck students) of a web application (the bridge), there are some major UX mistakes happening. My top three:

1. Blaming the user. Arguably UXers’ most important trait is empathizing and advocating for the user. If one or two students hit the bridge, you might dismiss the situation as an outlier. But even then, it’s better to understand why it happened. If it happens often, as is the case with our predatory bridge, you can be sure it’s not the user’s fault. Something is wrong with the system.

2. Not educating your users or helping them discover the “right” path. Boston news outlets and websites jump to remind everyone about the bridge as do many locals. The problem is they’re preaching to the choir. An incoming student driving in from outside of Boston probably doesn’t subscribe to those Boston outlets yet and definitely not long enough to be versed in the nuances of our punishing roads. We know where the trouble is, so is there anything else we could do to educate those who don’t know before they hit the problem area?

3. Allowing it to continue after you know it’s broken. Your users have proven to you that there’s an issue. Like a good UXer, you accept that it’s your problem, not theirs. Instead of fixing it, you wait until it happens again, costing money and headaches for everyone. I’m no bridge expert, but in the web application world, this is a recipe for (expensive) disaster.

In closing, I just want to say to any incoming students reading this to drive safely, and obviously make sure to double-check your truck height and driving route. Boston and Bostonians are awesome so be prepared for an incredible experience living here. And whether you’re a student or a UX Designer, don’t get Storrowed!

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