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Is Gary Barlow a secret UX guru?

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I was driving home after picking up my daughter from her Saturday morning drama club, and - as per her demands - I switched the radio on. Rattling out of my Ford Focus’ inadequate sound system came Take That’s mid-90s chart topper Never Forget.

We've come a long way, but we're not too sure where we've been ... Never forget where you've come here from.

Then it came to me. Gary Barlow and the gang were delivering an important lesson in user experience design.

We’ve all had a work request relating to a single page. Whether you’re working on design or copy, the worst thing you can do is consider solutions in isolation of the rest of the user journey.

The problem is that unless you know what happened to the user immediately before and what’s going to happen after, you’re working with a metaphorical blindfold.

It’s essential we know how a user arrived at the point in the journey being tackled, in turn making it possible to understand what information they have or need to share. Likewise, what is it they need to do (or learn) here to set them up for what follows?

It’s not rocket science. If a user confirms something on page one, don’t make them confirm it again on page two or three. If a button will process the details entered and take payment, make sure the button makes this clear - no one wants to click next to find out they’ve been charged. If the user is being asked to make a complex decision, be sure they’ve already been given sufficient information, or else offer it to them at this point.

Take a person and strip away their past and future ambitions. What’s left isn’t going to tell you much about who they are. And the same is true of a page isolated from its complete journey.

So, no matter how trivial or complex a piece of work seems, always find out where it fits within the bigger picture.

Whether you believe Gary Barlow intentionally hid the user experience message in the lyrics or they just happen to relate, we can all agree:

“Never forget where you've come here from.”

— Image credit marcen27 —