12 Ways to Identify User Frictions & Improve UX

Instant gratification has become an ever-increasing phenomenon. Users today desire quick solutions. They love products that understand what they want, when they want it and of course how they want it. 

What happens if the product fails to meet the users’ demands? User friction happens.

What is user friction?

User friction is the stage or a step in the user journey that hinders them from finding value in the product, buying it, or finding success with it. In simple terms, anything that restricts the user from further interacting with the product can be termed user friction. 

Imagine a user saying this “I wish to create an invoice on their website, but the website doesn’t load properly when it goes to the cart.” 

Or saying this to their friends “Don’t visit their website, there are too many annoying pop-ups”

Sounds nightmarish, right? That’s what happens behind the scenes if you fail to locate user friction.

As a brand, if you sense some sort of user friction, like a high bounce rate, then you need to work on it before it’s too late.

Here’s the drill: In order to learn about what the user expects and identify friction, you need to be acquainted with the user journey map. 

In an ever-evolving world, you as a brand need to be on your toes to keep up with users’ expectations. 

Think of a meditation application. What is the one thing a user seeks when they install the app? They desire peace of mind. So they expect to find a guide or a video that directly helps them meditate, that too without registering or logging in.

In an ideal scenario, the app should ask the user to register after they have meditated. It only increases the likelihood of them registering as they are now in a better state of mind. 

Successful products are successful because they identify user friction beforehand, and remove them before they lose out on customers.

In this article, we walk through ways to identify user friction and how you can improve UX to minimize, and remove those user frictions.  

Create a user journey map before you proceed

Identifying user friction, and improving UX calls for a thorough understanding of the user’s journey. 

Without it, you might find yourself in a rut, and so will your team. 

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Read a guide to user journey maps, create your own user journey maps with your peers, have brainstorming sessions around it and then proceed to identify the reasons behind user friction. That way you will know exactly who the user is, what they desire, and what they expect to accomplish. 

Identify user friction

User friction is never intentional, it is probably because we don’t know what users expect. Let’s take a look at some instances of user friction.

  1. Unnecessary steps.  

Imagine you have too many steps in the product, so many that even the valuable steps are lost in the sea of steps. So, when a user needs to accomplish a task urgently, they will have a sour experience with your product because of the unending steps they have to navigate. In our example of the meditation app, the user wants to meditate ASAP, they don’t want a “here are 7 foods that improve thinking” pop-up. If anything, that will annoy the user and make them search for better apps. Here the unnecessary step would be to cross the pop-up. Each step should take the user closer to their desired result, not the other way around.

  1. Lack of immediate reward. 

Let’s go back to the meditation app. Here, the user wants to calm their mind. Yes, there might be some steps that are not so enjoyable, like giving app permissions, but you can eliminate them by ensuring a seamless user experience when they engage in the main task, which is meditation. For example, a small checklist pops up and asks them to find a less distracting space , turn lights off and sit in a comfortable position. 

  1. Unappealing UI

Design aesthetics is too important to be ignored. 

As per Interaction Design Organization, “aesthetics is a core design principle that defines a design’s pleasing qualities. In visual terms, aesthetics includes factors such as balance, color, movement, pattern, scale, shape and visual weight. Designers use aesthetics to complement their designs’ usability, and so enhance functionality with attractive layouts.

A dated and unattractive design can signal your user to leave the application altogether. From typography to the color palate, each element should be taken into consideration separately. For example, using gaudy colors in a meditation app and taking a maximalist approach in the design might backfire. 

Related reading: Importance of UI Design for Better User Engagement

  1. Too much noise. 

Yes, your mobile application development may have a chock-full of features but the user doesn’t need all of them at once. Don’t introduce all your product-led content in one go. Let them become familiar with that one feature they need, and then give them a heads-up about how other features can benefit them. 

  1. Sluggish performance. 
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No matter how good your product is, slow performance can derail your expected retention and conversion rate. More load times mean more frustration. Prioritize your load time before your competitor does and learn how your web host affects your website’s speed.

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Improve UX to remove user friction 


  1. Carry-out an in-depth UX research. 

User experience research helps you figure out what your users need, what they expect, and eventually behave with the product (happy, sad, annoyed, for example). 

While it’s best to conduct UX research right at the beginning of the product, doing it mid-way can prove to be valuable because you have real-time data and experiences that you can tinker with.

According to Erin Sanders, here are steps that comprise UX research. 

  • Objectives: What are the knowledge gaps we need to fill?
  • Hypotheses: What do we think we understand about our users?
  • Methods: Based on time and manpower, what methods should we select?
  • Conduct: Gather data through the selected methods.
  • Synthesize: Fill in the knowledge gaps, prove or disprove our hypotheses, and discover opportunities for our design efforts.

Conducting UX research also includes desk research, expert evaluation, competitor analysis, in-depth interviews and behavior data analysis. 

  1. Meticulously reduce steps. 

Sit with your UX designers and map out the steps that don’t have any tangible value, yet they exist. Reduce them to as few as possible, even if it means renouncing some functionality. It’s always better to go with partial functionality that is well-utilized than full functionality that is barely utilized. 

  1. Delight users to compensate for time. 

There is no denying that certain steps are just.. time-consuming. Like uploading a file, or page loading times. Wait times cannot be rectified with better performance. That’s when you need to delight your users and use psychology to make sure that the waiting time does make them go away. Entertain, or use humor with the help of a great microcopy. Read more about human psychology, and use it to your advantage. 

Related reading: 6 Tips for Creating Captivating Graphic Designs for Marketing

  1. Use the principles of gamification
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A gamified design makes use of rewards to sculpt a user’s behavior. Think of leaderboards and achievement badges. But rather than thinking of coins you win in temple run, there’s more behavioral psychology at play in product designs. 

This can be an excellent tool to boost user engagements and rev up conversions

But don’t gamify your entire product experience because that can backfire. Wondering why? Gamification tends to reward the brain by releasing a neurotransmitter called dopamine, but too much of it can mean that the user might get addicted, which in turn isn’t the best thing you would want for your product as it could be harmful in the long run for the user. 

  1. Prioritize performance. 

This one is for your engineering teams. Whether it’s a B2B app or a commercial app, app performance is too important to the sideline. Fewer features with brilliant performance can generate higher engagement than more features with poor performance.

  1. Brand rapport matters

If your ideal user is the CEO of a company then you need to make sure that your brand overall, be it copy, design language or other elements is in rapport with that user. Sprinkle humor that is relatable to the user, and use branding colors with them in mind. Conduct experiments to explore segments that don’t align with your user, and rectify it by onboarding the right experts. For example, in the mediation app, it’s better to use neutral, mind-calming colors, not hard-hitting neons. 

  1. Stay abreast with industry standards. 

Take a look at how your competitors are performing in the area with the most user friction and devise solutions that are better and more effective. Keep up with blogs and industry-standard publications that have real-time case studies on UX. Remember, improving UX is not a one-shot game but a journey in itself. Additionally, if necessary hire seasoned experts to review your work and processes. 

Increased abandonment, and reduced conversion rates? No thanks

Circling back to the first point, instant gratification and reduced attention spans call for brands to make their products to the point and help them get their tasks done within less time, and with maximum efficiency. That can be accomplished by identifying and reducing user friction and improving UX. But again, that is not a one-day process, it is always a journey of trial and error. However, if you have your foundation clear, like having a solid idea about the user journey map, then you can save yourself from a lot of trouble. 

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