As things are used they will accumulate damage due to wear. This accumulated damage will in many cases affect their behavior and the user experience.

Should UX design attempt to anticipate changes in user experience due to damage and design for them?

NOTE: I am talking about damage due to wear and tear that does not fatally affect usability and would not practicably be repaired (e.g., labels worn off of commonly used buttons)

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    I am not sure what the best tags for this question would be, so please feel free to add tags that may be appropriate.
    – DQdlM
    Commented Nov 26, 2012 at 20:15
  • Most of your users aren't using a brand-new device most of the time, right? I mean, if you're designing kleenex maybe you don't care, but for anything durable, this seems obvious to me. Should this question be recast from a yes/no query to one asking how to do that? Commented Nov 26, 2012 at 21:13
  • @MonicaCellio I wasn't really trying to create a yes/no question - I guess I felt like implicit in my question was the idea that you cannot anticipate all changes in user experience so how does one accomplish this. However now that I re-read what I wrote it could be read as read as yes/no.
    – DQdlM
    Commented Nov 26, 2012 at 21:33
  • Is your question, then, about the relative priority of this consideration among all the other UX concerns ("how important is...?")? I'm not trying to criticize, just refine -- I think it's an interesting area, and not just because I recently replaced an otherwise-perfectly-good keyboard because the paint and "locator bumps" wore off... Commented Nov 26, 2012 at 22:03
  • Yes! Build things 'like they used to'.
    – msanford
    Commented Nov 26, 2012 at 22:04

2 Answers 2


User Experience and the design there of should consider all possible situations that the user may run into. This includes changes in the behavior of things, digital or not.

As an example I would like to mention the design of cars. A car changes behavior according to external factors, such as weather and of course aging. If the designer of the car didn’t acknowledge the fact of snow for example, it would have severe consequences of the users (drivers) ability to control the car in cold weather. The same goes for aging of a car. If a car didn’t have two separate systems for slowing down speed using breaks, it would be very dangerous to ride older cars, especially those with older, and possibly worn out breaking pipes.

Car breaking system

That's why User Experience Design is so hard, interesting and rewarding when one succeeds.


Even in purely digital software, user experience HAS to cover error correction and handling -- from allowing software to fail gracefully, to providing useful error messages, to making things as easy for people to pick up where they left off and eventually when the software gets replaced the user's artifacts aren't irreplaceable.

This same approach also goes for physical products, although we have to adjust the metaphor. Just like software can break and crash, products (and people!) can be broken / injured, and the user experience should allow ways to work around these flaws.

  • If I have a laptop and the screen goes out / gets broken (a common enough occurance!), I want a way to either attach a new monitor (so I can continue using the headless device), or at least a way to hook up my device to another machine for final transfer of data.
  • If the screen on a phone has a crack that is ugly but not enough to encourage me to replace/repair the device yet, I would hope the design accounts for a minor flaw like this to some degree (assuming the crack isn't so deep that the digitizer is ruined).
  • If I break the charge port on my laptop, the rest of the laptop may be perfect, but I'm now unable to use the device beyond the next few hours at most. Apple's magnetic cables solve the problem -- not by making the connection strong, but by making it harmless for a cable to be yanked out thanks to a magnetic locking mechanism that detaches without damaging the rest of the machine.

In short, if we know (thanks to user research, of course!) That most devices bite the dust because of [X], it's a damned good idea to account for [X] and either reinforce or route around the damage accordingly.

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