Put your user up a tree. Then give them a ladder.

Image by Fabrice Villard on Unsplash

Start with the Tree

How do users end up in the tree in the first place? Maybe they misunderstood a button and clicked something that took them somewhere completely different than they were expecting. Maybe they forgot their password and don’t see an option to easily recover it. Maybe they just got lost in the app.

Give them a Ladder

I like to find the fastest, easiest way to give them a ladder with the least number of rungs. How can they get back to the ground without taking so many steps that they get frustrated with the process of doing so?

Image from Cesar Cid on Unsplash

Check Their Battle Scars

Did your user just go through a long sign-up process full of pages with high cognitive loads only to see that they must do something else now, too? Your user can’t take more bruises yet, so keep the rocks at bay. Get them out of the tree and firmly onto the ground before they tackle anything else that could leave a bump.

That Wasn’t So Bad, Right?

I’ve discovered that I often think the user can handle more than they’re willing to. This is a new product they’re trying out, so they should have tons of skepticism and uncertainty when starting out. I know I do whenever I crack into a new product.

Don’t Freak Your User Out When They’re Up a Tree — They Might Be Scared of Heights

Another thing I’ve learned is that, once your user realizes exactly how high they are up that tree (or, how bad the issue is that they’ve tangled themselves up in) it’s your job to not freak them out. Red, scary error messages are necessary in some instances but are no fun — so make sure your user can see how to find their way back down without wobbling along the way.

Image by Samuel Ferrara on Unsplash

How Big Is Your Forest?

Once your user is down and safely back on the ground, maneuvering through the product with ease, how likely are they to end up at the top of another tree? What’s lurking around the next corner? Is there an open meadow for them to meander through, or are they just going to get stuck up another tree and feel sad about it?

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