The Four Horsemen of Bad UX®

Ptype vanquishes The Four Horsemen of Bad UX®

An easy way to explain bad UX in a product is what we like to call, “The Four Horsemen of Bad UX.” These are the things that announce the possible downfall of your site, page, or mobile app. It’s not enough to say, “Users aren’t happy.” Categorizing the unhappiness helps guide the solutions.

four horsemen


Frustration is about users assuming how the ideal process will go, and then having their reasonable expectations sadly broken.

    “I was trying to do this, but I couldn’t.”

    “I wanted to contact the company, but they wanted me to fill out a huge form with 15 questions.”

    “I wanted to check out, but they kept rejecting my password for not fitting into their password rules.”

    “I wanted to change my settings, but I can only change my settings from my cell phone on a Wednesday.”


Confusion is another broken expectation. Your visitor expects that there is something she can get done, and then learns she can’t… at all or not easily.

    “I wanted to do this, but couldn’t figure out how to get it done.”

    “I wanted to check on the status of my claim, but couldn’t find my claims after logging in.”

    “I wanted to do a search for what I wanted, but couldn’t find the search box.”

    “I thought this link was going to take me where I wanted, but instead, they tried to sell me some other product.”

    “I did a search, but the search results seemed disorganized… it was hard to find what I really wanted.”

    “The name at the top of the page on the home page was not the same name on the top of the page when I got to their products… am I still on the same company site?”


Disappointment is another broken expectation. Your potential customer is trying to do something and hits a wall or dead end.

    “I thought I was going to be able to do something, and I couldn’t.”

    “I thought I was going to be able to change my address online, but it turns out I have to call the company.”

    “I filtered my search results by my size, but the item detail page said it wasn’t available in my size.”

    “It told me I could buy tickets by where I wanted to sit, but that feature looked disabled.”

    “I took their little quiz, but it said they didn’t have enough information to estimate how much I’d need to retire. What a waste of my time!”


Distraction is where the most eye-catching thing on the page and what someone is trying to accomplish on the page are not in harmony. Making things eye catchy or cool should support your goals for users or their goals for themselves rather than working against them. Dropping things into side columns is no excuse. Those may still be distractions.

Many elements could be distracting to the user. Your colors. An animated element. A carousel.

Distractions can also be more subtle. If someone is on an eCommerce site and they’ve finally landed on the page showing the item they wanted, the #1 thing you want them to do is to buy this. The more buttons, doo-dads, and other things you put between the user and the “Add To Cart” button, the more you are possibly distracting them. Where should “Write a Review of This Product” go? Do you want people to think about doing that before they’ve bought it? Should that be dominant on the page?

If it’s not enhancing the experience and helping people get where they wanted to go, it’s possibly a distraction.

Look For The Four Horsemen

We look for The Four Horsemen in your web, mobile, and other projects. Better that we find them now than release them to the public. User testing can help. Being objective and honest can help.

We can start with a UX Optimization report, which will determine where users might be running into the Four Horsemen now.

Frustration, confusion, distraction, and disappointment can kill a user experience. They are cousins of each other, and many users will feel more than one of those in reaction to something you’ve presented.

Defeat these horsemen by being open to suggestions, getting one or more strong and talented UX people on your side, and not being afraid to test and make changes.

The Four Horsemen of Bad UX and the associated art are our registered trademarks. Please do not use them without our written permission.