Hell froze over, last week, and my husband asked me to run an errand at Lowe’s.

(I’ll try to keep this explanation quick, but my husband had a virus and couldn’t leave the house. He still wanted to install our new induction cooktop. I can’t explain my marriage. Don’t make me try. All I can say is that if you’ve got time to lean in the Ruettimann house, you’ve got time to clean. A stomach virus is no excuse to take the day off.)

Faced with the inevitable trip to Lowe’s, I downloaded the mobile app and considered navigating the store on my own. But have you seen the font on that app? Jesus, it was useless. And who am I kidding? I can’t read a map.

So I started to get a little wound up for no reason. “That store kills me. Why are latex gloves near the window blinds? Why are lightbulbs by the lawn mowers? Are you sure that this key kiosk is legit because God help the poor soul who sells me a made-in-China-cut-by-a-robot key and it doesn’t work!”

Thankfully, I’m married to a man who isn’t new at this.

  1. He snapped a picture and told me 100 times — “Remember, it’s the gel. Did you hear me? It’s the gel. Look at this photo. See where it says gel? Get that one, Laur. Do you hear me? Don’t buy the wrong kind.”
  2. Then he drew me a map to show me exactly where I need to enter the store, how to find the gel-that-is-caulk, and where it would fall in my line of sight.
  3. Then he insisted I text him if I had a breakdown. He told me, “It’s no big deal. What the eff, Laur? You got this. But buy the gel, okay?”

Here is what it looked like.

Pretty good, right? No panic attack!

While I could do a better job of managing my anxiety, Lowe’s could do better than the Ruettimann paper/mobile app. They could create an interactive system that takes the concept of Google Maps and overlays it with a real-time inventory database. Users could type in a product, know if it’s in stock, and then see a relatively recent photo of where it might be located in the aisle.

(Or users could just call my husband. That store is mapped out like his brain.)

I don’t mean to pick on Lowe’s because almost all stores could do a better job of enhancing the user experience, which would guarantee higher rates of user adoption, but that shit is hard. Although they employ the most amazing psychologists and data scientists — and they design and test cutting edge software — it’s clear to me that designing software for the lowest common denominator is cheap. Optimal user experience doesn’t scale very easily.

Anyway, “designing software with the user in mind” is not a new concept. But I recently learned that user experience and user adoption are top priorities for HR executives. That’s pretty interesting, and you can talk to my friend William Tincup about it if you’re interested.

If your software gives HR generalists a panic attack, what chance do you have for future contracts and recurring revenue stream?

Not much, man.

Just like there’s not much chance that I’m going back to Lowe’s anytime soon!


  1. I totally know what you mean about those stores. I went to Home Depot to find a particular kind of lightbulb. I figured, it couldn’t be too tough – I know where lightbulbs are in the store. It took over 20 minutes and two store associates to help me before we finally located the lightbulb I needed! Glad you found the gel and hope your husband is feeling better!

  2. I’d rather skip all that map/travel/store navigation jazz and have the drone bring it home. That’s the ultimate experience!

    In the HR (really software) world, it’s not a one-size-fits all experience. Software needs to learn how people like to work and tailor itself to that person. We’re a far cry from that ideal.

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