In 1982, James Wilson and George Kelling wrote about an idea that later became known as the Broken Window Theory. This theory suggests that visible signs of disorder, such as broken windows in a neighborhood, can contribute to an increase in crime and a decline in community well-being.
The theory says that if a broken window isn't fixed in a building, it shows that nobody cares about that place. This can make people think the area is neglected and lacks control, which makes it easier for serious crimes and bad behavior to happen.
And, that if communities take care of small signs of disorder and fix broken windows, graffiti, or other signs of neglect quickly, they can make things more orderly and in control. This can stop bad behavior and make people feel safer and better.
Just like disorder in a neighborhood is bad, ignoring small problems in a digital product can convey a sense of neglect, contribute to a negative perception of the product, and make the user experience worse.
In UX, we can think of these as small usability issues—elements that make the user experience less smooth or confusing. Things like unclear buttons, broken links, or inconsistent design elements.
The Power of Fixing Broken Windows
Fixing these broken windows has remarkable potential in product development:
- User Satisfaction. Even small inefficiencies can compound frustration for users who perform repetitive actions daily. Fixing these seemingly insignificant issues is powerful, often more so than creating new features. By addressing user feedback and making quick wins to improve the user interface or usability, we can significantly enhance customer satisfaction.
- Improved Usability. Fixing broken windows leads to an improved user experience by enhancing the usability of a product. When we address minor issues, such as confusing buttons or unclear instructions, we make the product easier and more intuitive to use. This, in turn, reduces user frustration and increases their confidence in navigating the product.
- Increased Engagement. When users encounter fewer obstacles and frustrations in using a product, they are more likely to engage with it. By optimizing the user experience, we can encourage users to spend more time interacting with the product, exploring its features, and achieving their goals. Increased engagement can lead to higher user retention and improved business outcomes.
- Enhanced Trust and Loyalty. By promptly fixing broken windows, we demonstrate our commitment to delivering a high-quality product and show that we value our users' experience. This builds trust and fosters loyalty among users, as they see that their feedback is acknowledged and acted upon. Satisfied users are more likely to recommend the product to others, further strengthening brand reputation and attracting new customers.
- Business Growth. Fixing broken windows can have a positive impact on the overall success of a business. When users have a seamless and enjoyable experience, they are more likely to become repeat customers, leading to increased sales and revenue. Additionally, satisfied customers often serve as brand ambassadors, promoting the product through word-of-mouth and social media, contributing to organic growth and expanding the customer base.
Fixing Broken Windows at Kumu
Last year, Kumu's Product Design team focused on fixing broken windows. Below are some we fixed:
Incremental improvements is a key to success in product development. By recognizing that addressing broken windows with these quick wins can yield significant results, we can enhance user satisfaction, improve usability, boost engagement, and enhance trust and loyalty.
Getting into the habit of constantly fixing broken windows can improve your brand, set you apart from competitors, and show users that you listen to them and that they can trust you. Most importantly, it helps improve your product and the lives of your users.