UX Entropy

User experience for a non-trivial web UI tends to degrade over time as more functionality is added and more engineers add to it.

This is analogous to entropy where poor UX is correlated with the number of macro states possible within the system (user interface). The number of states increases as more functionality is added and engineers tend to add more lines of code than they delete (heat).

If you define the ideal UX as a screen with a single button that solves the user’s problem then increasing entropy is adding more complexity (states). Complexity makes it less clear what the user should do and makes it harder for the engineers to focus on a specific use case.

See also:

  • Conway’s Law shows people and organizations are a meta-agent acting on systems to increase or decrease entropy.
  • Static Analysis of UX

    It seems possible to generate all states of a purely functional UI so that it can be analyzed and audited.

  • Neglected UX

    Neglected UX is when parts of the user experience are not quite broken, but subtly incongruous. For example, there might be elements using slightly different styles or UI patterns that are out of sync with the product.

  • It Is Easier to Confirm Something Is True Than to Recall past Events

    When asking questions about things that happened in the past, it is significantly easier for someone to confirm whether something is true or not rather than retracing a series of past events.

  • Measuring UX

    User experience is subjective which makes improvements in UX difficult to calibrate since we need to rely more our collective taste and/or talking to users.

  • Workflows Are More Useful Than Solutions

    In our day-to-day lives we use a collection of products and homegrown tools to do our work. One approach to solving a problem is to attempt to be a complete solution that fully solves the problem, but there is a tradeoff–the more complete the solution the less useful it becomes in more situations.