When designing an interface as designers, we’re often making a lot of assumptions about our user. We shouldn’t be, but we often do it anyway.

Without certainty, we can only design for the ideal user. This inevitably leaves holes in the experience for the people that don’t fit our typical user.

So why should we build customizable interfaces? Because you should care about your users.

If you were a restaurant owner, you wouldn’t force a customer to eat onions if they didn’t like onions — so why should users be required to have videos autoplay in their feed if they don’t want them to?

I’d urge product teams and designers to address this usability issue by rescinding their control over the experience. We, as designers, shouldn’t be making crucial decisions about the experience for the user; instead, we should allow them to customize how they interact with our interface to their liking.

Nobody knows how to perfect the experience better than the user. By returning control to the user and allowing them to decide how an experience can be better suited to meet their needs, we can build more inclusive products.

Create a baseline experience that meets the needs of the majority, then create preference settings to meet the needs of your edge-case users.

About 10% of the population is left-handed. They make up a minority of users, so designing solely for them would be silly.

But they still exist.

If there is an important action in your application that is done repeatedly — liking a post, for instance, then why not give the user the ability to decide where that action is placed that’s most comfortable for them?

Some gestures and actions can cause unnecessary stretching for users whose dominant hand is left.

Instagram App

This may be a personal preference, but I prefer it when videos don’t autoplay. Especially on Instagram since it’s currently not possible to rewind to the part I missed.

This could be a simple on/off toggle in settings but would make a big difference.

Medium App

Allowing users to customize the font size outside of accessibility tools gives a more comfortable reading preference to users.

For reading apps, especially, I would consider this a must. I am surprised more news apps don’t offer this option. I would love to see an option in more reading apps to adjust the background color, font sizes, weight, color, line-height, font-family, etc.

On my Kindle, I prefer reading at a larger font size than the default because it feels easier on my eyes. I can read much faster if I don’t need squint.

In some apps that require less reading, some users may prefer a smaller font than the default or maybe bolder.

This is a simple tweak that could make reading in your app more comfortable for users.

Calm App

I love how the Calm app lets me customize the relaxing scene and music in the background of the app. Sometimes rainfall is just right, other times soft waves rolling into shore gets me into my zen.

If there are sounds of any kind in your app’s experience, then consider allowing users to adjust them to suit their tastes better.

Apollo App

If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m a dark mode user. But beyond having a light and dark mode, giving users the ability to select from a list of color palettes makes your app more personalized.

Apollo App

I wish more apps allowed me to change the app icon.

Having the ability to choose the icon that shows up on my home screen is immensely useful. I often get certain apps mixed up if I use them less frequently, and they have a similar color.

Most apps in the same industry use similar color schemes, making it harder to differentiate between them.

If your app has haptic feedback, that being a vibrating sensation when something is clicked, then consider allowing users to turn it on and off.

If your app doesn’t have haptic feedback, then maybe you should evaluate ways that you could integrate it to improve the experience in your app.

Slack App

It’s no secret that there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to accessibility.

Designing a product is similar to building a public place like a library or a school — it needs to be inclusive to all. That includes blind, color blind, and visually impaired users.

Just because your app meets ADA compliance, however, doesn’t mean it will meet the needs of all impaired users.

For this reason, providing an option to adjust font sizes, text color, zoom, etc. can have a huge impact on improving the experience for your edge-case users.

Medium App

Making notifications as custom as possible, as Medium does it, is 100% the way to go.

Having a generic option for notifications on/off is not specific enough to meet the needs of most users. I prefer a robust set of notification options that I can turn on or off — the more granular the list, the better.

Medium does this well, as do many other apps for the most part.

This can be the difference between annoying your users enough that they delete your app or keeping them engaged by only showing them the notifications that interest them.

Apollo App

If your app is introducing new gestures and user actions, then why not let the users control how they do it?

Growing up, I would play Skate on Xbox, and I always wished I could customize the controls for different tricks. I didn’t like the default options. I felt that I could combine tricks better if I could switch the controls to fit my preferences.

Apps are much the same for me — some gestures feel too cumbersome. Others aren’t intuitive enough. Why can’t I choose to double-tap instead of long-press?

? Let’s be friends! Follow me on Dribbble and connect with me on LinkedIn. Follow me here on Medium as well for more design-related content.


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Cedric Kelly Senior Javascript Developer Edinburgh 22 2012/03/29

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