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Gulf of execution and evaluation

Gulf of execution and evaluation is a term coined by Donald Norman. He explained this concept in his book 'User centered system design : New perspectives on human - computer interaction. In human computer interaction, the gulf of execution is the gap between a user's goal for action and the means to execute that goal.

Expected user experience

For example, let us take the case of my digital TV rentals. Actually, it is supposed to be a very simple process, which involve;

  • Going to the service providers site
  • Enter my mobile phone number
  • Choose the account
  • Choose the scheme
  • Make the payment and continue watching the TV shows.

Actual user experience

It is as simple as that. Now, let us get into the actual steps I have to undergo which makes my user experience one of the worst.

  • Going to the service providers site or app (easy)
  • Enter my mobile phone number (easy)
  • Choose the account - Here the difficulty starts and repeats every month. Technically, as per their records, I have two DTH connections. One was used by me before the floods devastated my house. Post floods, I got a new connection. As per their records, both are active. There is no facility given to deactivate an account. Unethical customer retention strategy. Many times I recharged the wrong account which I am not using anymore. I requested them to delete the non active account, and it fell on deaf ears. It is a kind of gamble for me every month and I almost stopped watching television.
  • Choose the scheme - Once I cross the hurdle of choosing the right account, the next challenge is in selecting the right scheme from the list of innumerable schemes they have. Instead, they could have displayed by current scheme and given me a repeat option. So, I travel back to my payment history to find out the existing scheme.

Another example of Gulf of execution

Here is another example of gulf of execution;

Like every other television set, my television set also has a provision to record the television shows. According to my perception, it is supposed to be as simple as pressing the RECORD button, where as in reality, it involves;

  • Press the record button.
  • Specify time of recording, usually involving several steps to change the hour and minute settings.
  • Select channel to record on - either by entering the channel's number or selecting it with up/down buttons.
  • Save the recording settings, perhaps by pressing an "OK" or "menu" or "enter" button.

The actual process to record a TV program is much more complicated than the expectation. The gulf of execution is high. In the process i have almost given up on this feature.

Gulf of execution is the gap between the expected user experience and the actual user experience. Lesser the gulf of execution, better will be the user experience. Because of higher gulf of execution, I have returned many products to Amazon.

Gulf of evaluation

Gulf of evaluation is the difficulty of assessing the state of the system and how well the artifact supports the discovery and interpretation of that state. For example my motor cycle did not have a fuel gauge. This makes it difficult to know the fuel status which leads to anxiety. The new model of the bike has a fuel gauge. That means somebody worked on reducing the gulf of evaluation.

Lower the gulf of execution and the gulf of evaluation, better will the user experience. Great user centric designs happen with a conscious effort by the designer to reduce the gulf of execution and evaluation.