User States

14.03.2016 |

Episode #7 of the course “The Fundamentals of User Experience” by Cassius Kiani


In UX, states refer to the passive mindset of users when they’re interacting with a product.

Since states are completely contextual, they’re always subject to change. As a rule of thumb, the following states can be seen in almost any context (online or offline).

Since we’ve spent a lot of time talking about online products, let’s examine an offline product instead —we’ll use your local gym as an example.

Ideal State
This is where your user spends most of their time, and it’s where your product adds the most value to your users. In an ideal state, the user makes several interactions, with most of these being beneficial in one way or another to your business.

In a gym environment, the ideal state for a user is being inside the gym and working out. If a user is working out, then they’re receiving maximum value from the product and, all things being equal, should continue using the product moving forward.

Empty State
On the first interaction with a product, users will be in an empty state. The empty state is where you prompt users to take an action to populate empty spaces. Since an empty state can be quite daunting and demotivating, keep the message as friendly and uplifting as possible.

When users first go to a gym, they’ll be unsure of the location of equipment, as well as the procedures or protocols of that gym. Inductions (onboarding) can help relieve the user of any gaps in knowledge or reluctance to act. Alternatively, users may also need to use a locker for their gear and be unaware they need locker tokens. In this instance, direct users to where they can find a locker token.

Error State
When something goes wrong, your users will be in an error state. In an error state, your job is to reassure the user and let them know why the error has occurred and how to rectify it.

What if a weight machine is broken at the gym? Since there’s nothing immediate a user can do to fix the machine, let the user know what’s being done to solve this error. Also, provide users with an alternative option in the meantime, until the machine is no longer in error.

Partial State
This is the instance between the empty state and the ideal state. The user is free from error and has made progress toward the ideal state, but they’re not quite there yet. In partial states, users need encouragement and motivation.

If a gym user has used the gym but only a small portion of the equipment (or infrequent visits), then they’re in a partial state. Encouragement or incentives will rectify this; emails and phone calls are often targeted at gym users in a partial state (and sometimes even free gifts too).

Loading State
The loading state is the waiting state, and since no one enjoys waiting, aim to make this process as exciting as possible while managing expectations.

Users waiting for equipment in a gym are in a loading state. Although there’s not too much you can do for users in this scenario, consider offering distractions such as a television or visual assets—keep them excited for what they’re waiting for.

Sometimes the loading state is unavoidable, so manage expectations.

Even though we could go deeper here, this is 90% of everything you’ll ever need to know on user states.

Recommended book

“Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience” by Jeff Gothelf


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