Bad UX examples from the past and what we’ve learned from them


Before we start exploring what we have learned from bad UX design in the past it is helpful to have a look into what exactly UX is and how it came to be.
UX, or User experience, is how the user interacts with your product. This could be a physical or digital product. User experience design is the process where products are created that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to the user.


This monstrosity is a very clear example of a bad, very bad UX design,

Taking a little trip with our time machine we go back all the way to the early 1970’s and 80’s. This is around the same time personal computers became more and more mainstream. UX design was known then as “human computer interaction”. That the rise of HCI and the more commonly available personal computers are intertwined is not a coincidence. Before the 1970’s computers were really just large machines that operated by typing text commands in the terminal. Not easy to use at all but pretty straightforward. In the 1970’s the first personal computers were introduced to the public and while not only being much smaller (relatively speaking of course, those early PC’s still were not very ‘pocketable’) they also were operated through a “graphical user interface”. Instead of typing your commands, you could now use icons and a mouse. This was an enormous development and led to questions like: “How should people interact with computers?” and “ How can we make these interactions more ‘intuitive’?”.

Forwarding to today, UX is much broader than it was back then. UX design is about designing products that are not only easy to use, but also other experiences related to the product such as a marketing campaign, customer service and after-sales support.
Nowadays we have most of our interactions with products and other humans via digital means like computers, phones, websites and social media. Therefore UX design is also shifting more towards accommodating digital strategies such as search engine optimisation, social media marketing and content marketing.


2 Examples of bad UX

Netflix hover auto-play

Ever since it rolled out in 2015, the Netflix autoplay on hover feature has been a source of frustration for its users.

The feature on hand is as follows: whenever a user hovers over a thumbnail to start reading on more information about a certain show or film, Netflix automatically starts playing the content with whatever volume the user has set. Therefore the user is unable to concentrate on the details and information on the series or film.

Why is this bad?
This is a very bad feature, as the designers are making the big assumption that the user always wants to hear the sound of the content when they are looking for more info on the content.

Automatic features like this are in general a bad design choice, and is comparable to the feature MySpace had back in the days where when you visit the profile of a user it would start blasting the music that profile had set.

What did we learn from this?
We can learn from this that we need to give the user more control in their decision making, and do not make such bold assumptions as these when designing.

As a rule of thumb we should not hinder the users from seeing key information or get in the way of a site’s usability.


Apple's storage management system

Apple’s storage management system

Imagine you are having a great time with your friends and want to capture this beautiful time-sensitive moment to keep as a memory for later. You take out your phone in a hurry, open the camera and you are welcomed by a message saying you are not able to take a picture because you do not have sufficient available storage on your phone. You can manage (read buy) more storage in your settings or have to go through your camera roll and delete picture(s) to make space for the new one.

This is of course a really annoying ‘feature’ and hinders the users experience with your product.

What did we learn from this?
We can learn many things from this, for example how we should give the user a clear indication of just how many pictures there should be deleted to make space for the new one.

Also we should not give very confusing information like a simple ‘Done’ button for we give no information on what happens when we click it. On the other hand, we also do not know what to do in the settings once we get there.

We need to make it clear for users what actions they need to take while not being obtrusive about it.
This is a difficult recurring problem, because when do we let them know they need to take actions and what consequences there are when they decide not to take action.


Dark Patterns

“If Once You Start Down The Dark Path, Forever Will It Dominate Your Destiny.”
~ Yoda on his deathbed in Return of the Jedi.

This ominous quote from Star Wars foreshadows that the dark side is not something one should strive for in life. The same idea applies to UX and design in general, except here we call them ‘Dark Patterns’. First used by UX designer Harry Brignull (PhD Cognitive Science) in August 2010. He defined it as,

“A user interface that has been carefully crafted to trick users into doing things, such as buying insurance with their purchase or signing up for recurring bills.”

Dark Patterns can be seen as the dark side of UX design and are made for deceiving users and should be avoided as we try to make good design, we strive to enhance the users experience by actively avoiding these manipulative and unethical dark design patterns. Persuasion is a result of good design and can be effective in attracting customers, but things can turn southward pretty soon when the persuasion starts pushing customers to make decisions that violate their intentions or best interests.
Mr. Brignull identified 12 Dark Patterns which can all be found here. We will briefly go over a few.

Roach motel

This is the design practice where you get into a situation very easily, but then you find it is hard to get out of it (e.g. a premium subscription).


Privacy Zuckering

You are tricked into publicly sharing more information about yourself than you really intended to. Named after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. With recent scandals such as Cambridge Analytics and other data brokerage practices companies are gathering and selling our personal information more than ever.



The act of guilting the user into opting into something. The option to decline is worded in such a way as to shame the user into compliance.


How we approach UX workshops

We at Instance Studio are passionate about good UX design and with the right budget and time available we want to share our knowledge to help others design better products by avoiding the dark patterns and bad UX. We can help you In a maximum of 5 stages. These stages can be seen as separate workshops, or in a single workshop. This all depends on your needs as a client.


With the Discovery stage we are focusing on the current state of a project and we want to create a consensus for project milestones and plans. The Discovery stage is really useful for UX designers as it helps them understand the business requirements at early stages in the design process and to get everybody in the project on the same page about what the goal is.


The goal of the Empathy stage is to help a broad team or stakeholders understand and prioritise user needs before designing a solution. The Empathy stage is used to understand who the relevant customers are; what are their needs and wishes (this is an important countermeasure against Dark Patterns!). Spending the time here helps you design products better suited for their needs; Function over Form.


The Design stage is when it is finally time to start designing. Here we rapidly generate and discuss a wide set of ideas with a diverse group of attendees. Activities such as sketching help to encourage discussions about the possibilities and gather different perspectives on the design problems at hand. By doing so you also create a sense of shared ownership and are attendees more actively invested in the success of the project. A true Win-Win.


Now it is time for the Prioritisation stage where we build consensus on which features customers (or other stakeholders) value most and prioritise them.
During the design stage we have gathered a lot of possible features and solutions, but to keep the focus on the main goal and core functionality of the product we want to achieve it is important to prioritise the options. Some are more impactful and important than others. Something to keep in mind here is the 80-20 rule, or the Pareto principle. This is a statistical principle that states that 80% of the outcomes result from 20% of causes.


To ensure we achieve our initially set goal we need to provide a space in our design process to reflect back. During the Critique stage we ensure that design decisions align to user needs and we can improve the design so that it meets the objectives we set out to achieve.



UX design is not an easy feat and of the utmost importance when creating and designing products as the product is meant to be used by your customers.

Through the stages we offer we try to guide you through the design process to help you and your team create better products. As designers we know that every use case is different and every client has different needs, therefore we can scale, combine and adapt these stages in a workshop tailored to your specific needs and wishes.

The length of each workshop can also vary based on project needs, scope and stakeholder availability. For example Agile and SCRUM teams might benefit more by short recurring sessions during sprints, whereas another project might need a more intensive Empathy workshop or stage to gather a deeper insight in the customers needs and wishes.

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