Better UX or Fully Automated?

I posted a survey on Twitter a few weeks ago;

Once I came to this realization that User Experience(UX) is literally more important then getting all the details from an end user, it literally took me three days to sort it internally.

But like a good survey, a good form should only ask the very bare minimum to get the request going. If 80% of the requests for a complicated item are in favor of one type of response, I’d argue, you should either assume every request is for that option, or make a separate item for the other option.

Why?

That makes so many more thing to maintain ( I hear my self asking ). Well, if you keep it, the item is more complex. Therefor it’s less likely to get filled out, or users will more likely dislike the process of putting that data in. Lets look at a real-world example.

Consider the item, “ServiceNow Access or Group Membership”. Now, lets think about the title, it doesn’t indicate an action to add or remove. We’ve used this item for all group changes. This might seem like a simple item, but lets consider the kinds of questions on this form;

  • Are you adding or removing a user?
  • What group
  • What user
  • Why is access needed

Now of the 7K items that I can see in our system 80% are to add a user. If we had only made this item to add users, 8 out of 10 requests we could have avoided that question. Additionally, asking “Why is access needed” is only filled out 12 the time and normally doesn’t make any difference on the request.

What does this form look like when it’s simplified?

  • What group needs this new member?
  • Who is this new member?

Now about the removing of a user, I’d say it would make more sense to separate that into a separate item. Once items are simplified you can have other systems potentially digest them. Imagine searching for “how to add a user to a group” and being asked by Clippy if you’d like to add a user to a group, without leaving search, and having it render this simple item.

To me that sounds delightful. It just bothers me so much that I’ve been all about full end-to-end automation until now. I’m not saying that those details are not needed. Sometimes those details will require someone to actually talk to the person who asked for this item. That is not so bad.

What about more complex items?

So sure, lets talk about two other more complex items.

  1. Let’s say one is for a company provided phone and phones available per country are different and varying depending on availability. So maybe you made a few tables to allow the telephony folks to control this item without having to actually change the item.
    This right now seems too complex for me to breakdown in the same way. This form however allows for different things based on “why” the request is being made. E.g. Lost, New Hire, Up for renewal. Again I’d argue we probably don’t need the why, and should leave that up to the telephony group to ask the requester.
  2. Requesting a certificate, you know like SSL certificates
    Here things that are needed are the domain, the type of certificate (e.g. Standard, SAN, Wildcard), a password, an responsible group. I’d argue this should be an item per type as most the requests are likely standard certificate.

My whole point of this post, is you should consider user experience before automation.

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Jace Benson
ServiceNow Developer

ServiceNow is my day job, JAMStack is my passion.