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We have a mobile App and the main screen is a card layout. Users asked for customisation features in order to change the order of the cards or even hide certain cards. The cards show different, fixed types of information.

HOWEVER the CEO does not really want users to change the layout, because he intends to show the information in a certain order that he considers "best" and wants to keep it that way.

Now, the conclusion to this is, that we implemented the customisation feature but placed it in a location where it is unlikely to be discovered.

Seems odd to me, what do you think?

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    I think that the users won't find the customization feature, they will be frustrated because they won't see they information that they want to see but only what your CEO wants them to see, and they will leave you application and use the another app that pays more attention to the users :) Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 12:41
  • Facebook and Quora do this. I hate both of them
    – Ooker
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 10:37
  • This seems a dark pattern for me and also not really honest and ethical. Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 11:37

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Don't be ambiguous

Either you offer the option to customize a view, either you don't. The whole "oh, yes, if you search everywhere and touch everything and pray to all gods and deities you'll eventually found a way to customize the app. A way we DELIBERATELY HID FROM YOU" approach makes absolutely no sense. There are no benefits at all, and you can infuriate users by doing this. On the other hand, user won't care much for a feature they never asked for.

Also, you mention that you're making money from that, which, unless you're in the charity business, is a paramount variable to consider.

So, we have this:

  • customization options users don't know
  • financial reasons
  • your boss insists on this approach

I really see this as a no brainer: just get rid of the customization option and be a happy camper.

Additionally

Like Joel Tebbet mentioned in his very good answer, there is quite some documentation on this subject. Not only About Face, but lots more. And this is true by all means. So, when I read this comment from you, it makes a lot of sense under those premises:

I mean why would users NOT want customisation

However, here's where I think your problem is. You consider this a need, when in fact it's just a feature. If you do user testing and ask: "Would you prefer the option to customize the app or not?", it's obvious the answers will tell you they want that option. But this is a rigged question, and therefore, not a valid test. If I ask you "would you like me to add some free beverage to your meal or not?" the answer will be: "yes, give me the free stuff". It's so obvious it doesn't even deserve any testing.

But the thing is that you should base your testing on KPI. And unknown features is not a good KPI at all. Instead, try measuring app usage, income, engagement, abandonment and so on.

In short

Based on the very limited data you provided and the most likely scenarios, I think your CEO is correct. However, you should test this assumptions in order to validate them

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There's a chapter in About Face regarding customisability, which explains that in sovereign applications (which tend to have many features and are used for long periods of time by a user) customisability is important in making the space more likeable and familiar.

However, mobile apps are almost always transient in posture, and the movement of objects will generally make the interface less usable because the user isn't using it for long enough to benefit from customisation.

If even the CEO wants to do away with it, and it's not benefitting the user experience, it seems a no brainer to remove it entirely.

But first you'd better ensure that the order the CEO wants to put the data in is indeed the order the users expect to see it in.

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  • The customisation feature would definitely benefit the UX! Most users just want to delete certain cards from the main page that show information irrelevant to THEM. The CEO considers all the cards to be relevant and thus wants them all to be displayed all the time, because to him, thats the purpose of the app - to provide all these information, even if they are irrelevant to some users. So as of now, there is a customization option but it is placed and named rather poorly, so it is not obvious to see. IMO the feature should either be implemented properly or not at all.
    – SneakyPhil
    Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 13:21
  • the problem that you are facing @SneakyPhil is to convince your CEO for the importance of user testing. If your users say the same thing as you, then your CEO will be hopefully convinced Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 13:35
  • @DimitraMiha I don't know if user testing would help. I mean why would users NOT want customisation, after all they would not be forced to use it. However I don't think the CEO is wrong per se. The different cards on the main screen link to other screens within the app so at the end of the day we make money that way. If users were able to disable certain cards, they could not be attracted by their contents anymore.
    – SneakyPhil
    Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 14:11
  • My point is, the current solution is neither fish nor fowl. There are good arguments for either providing or not providing the customisation feature but this just seems like bad design to me.
    – SneakyPhil
    Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 14:12
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    I completely disagree with your point about mobile use being transient. That may be true on average because of the sheer quantity of mobile apps, but a good mobile enterprise product will be used far more than a desktop counterpart in the right context. And because of the focused use of many mobile products, customization can be a game-changing feature. Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 18:37
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Configure in context

Allow configuration right where users are going to want it.

I wish I could see a rolling 30 day average ...
Oh, there it is! I'll just change the weekly range to 30 days.

This is the hardest aspect of configuration / customization to do well. You need to place controls where they fit the mental modal, are self-evident, and unobtrusive. If you're not careful, the controls can become distracting.

Here's a dashboard module that allows the user to switch between a set of commonly identified needs.

Configurable dashboard module

This date selector could be positioned with any information and designed to cover the most common reporting range needs.

Date range selector

But positioning is only a small part of the solution ...

Start with good defaults

The key is to have all the configuration a user needs and nothing more.
First, you have to get the basics spot on.

IME, the number one cause for customization requests is bad defaults.

  • Too many things to please too many roles.
  • Focusing on the wrong user leads to displaying the wrong data.
  • Providing too little information so the app looks "simple".
  • Not understanding your users well enough to know what they need.

Before you train users to customize anything, make sure you understand the common denominators in your market.

Offer scalable configuration

Work from those good defaults and find little configuration options that will vastly broaden the reach and value of the view.

  • Sorting order
  • Date range
  • KPI (within a known set of options)
  • Etc ...

This provides a set of simple, learnable config settings that can cover a broad range of contexts. With a few controls, you'll give many users a sense of personalized control without creating an overwhelming and unmaintainable experience.

Remember everything

The Golden Rule of configuration:
Don't make the user repeat themself.

One little change to the right control and now they have a personalized view every time they return.

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