Learning UX from your clients

One of our web apps is based around many lists of different domain specific things like special pdf documents with metadata, affiliations and users. In most places you need pagination and different filter options to effiecently work with the data. Since the whole development process is highly incremental these features are only added when needed. That way we learned something about user experience from our clients:

One day we did a large import of users and with around 2K user accounts our user management looked ugly because we had around 160 pages with default settings. Our client rightfully told us he will not use the pagination featureall-users-pagination. Our brains immediately thought about technical solutions to the problem when the client came up with a super-simple dramatic improvement: Instead of preselecting the "all" filter just preselect the "a" filter to only show the users starting with the letter 'a'.  This solution fixed 95% of the clients problems and was implemented in like 10 minutes.

In another place we were dealing with similar amounts of affiliations which consist of several lines of address information and the like. Again we immediately thought about pagination, better layouting to save space and various performance improvements to help the usability. The dead-simple solution here was using the context information available and pre-filling a filter text box to reduce the number of entries in the list to a handful of relevant items. No other changes were needed because an important thing was implemented already: The controls for the list were either at the top of the list or integrated with each item making selection and scrolling down unnecessary.


It often helps to listen to your client/users to learn about the workflows and the information/options really needed to accomplish the most relevant tasks. They might come up with really simple solutions to problems where it is easy to put days of thought into. Using available context information and sensible preselections may help immensly because you display the informations the users most likely needs first and above while still allowing him to navigate to less important or more seldom needed things.

Another take-away is that pagination does not scale well. In most applications with large amounts of user visible items you will need more modern features like filters, type-ahead search and tags to narrow down the results and let the users focus at the currently needed items.