User frustration: It’s not just a symptom, it’s the disease

Published May 29, 2024
Frustrated users are the hidden killer behind so many bad outcomes.

I’m into details. Like you, I notice every detail in the products I use every day. What makes me kind of annoying to live with also helps me spot that little UI glitch or workflow speed-bump that could spoil an otherwise smooth experience. Details drive digital.

But sometimes it pays to zoom out and remind ourselves why we do this work. For me, it’s not just about being part of a company that makes software as efficient and elegant as it can be (which is pretty great). It’s also about users. People. Our colleagues and customers and friends. 

We all know what it’s like to be thwarted by a piece of software. The feelings fall somewhere along the User Frustration Spectrum. From, “Oh gosh, that click didn’t do what I expected,” to “I HATE my life and this stupid job and the company that gave me this HORRIFIC SOFTWARE!”

Been there, screamed that. 

User frustration is real and it’s absolutely everywhere.

But user frustration is one of those weird things: It’s both a symptom of something that’s gone badly wrong and the underlying cause of a lot of really unwanted outcomes.

It’s a symptom because a frustrated user is the clearest possible signal that our digital experiences need improving. The signal can be broad and fuzzy (if you don’t use any kind of product analytics) or it can be pretty discrete and focused (if you do).

But it’s what user frustration causes that we need to keep in mind. Frustrated users are the hidden killer behind so many bad outcomes. For customer-facing software, it’s behind the startup that gets amazing early traction, then stalls. Or that new offer people love, but leave. Or the disappointing uptake of that new feature. 

For employee software, user frustration is behind that inefficient team. Or the month-end reporting that’s always late. Or the failure to spot manufacturing defects before it’s too late.

In short, user frustration attacks everything we’re trying to accomplish. It’s the hidden digital penalty and it’s surely one of the most expensive problems in business.

If all those millions of micro-penalties were aggregated up into one issue, no business or CEO on Earth could ignore it. It would be at the top of every “transformation initiative.” But because the penalties of user frustration are atomized across the business—and hidden behind a thousand sagging KPIs—they’re a lot easier to tolerate.

So I guess you can say, user frustration is what gets me out of bed from Monday to Friday, and makes me go to work two steps at a time.

With this in mind, we produced two little brand videos that try to capture the feelings we all experience at each end of the User Frustration Spectrum. The first is about the far end of the spectrum, user rage:

And the second is about the more routine, everyday feelings of user frustration:

We think they’re a pretty pithy way to show why we at Pendo do what we do. And they were really fun to make.

And, did you catch our new sonic-mnemonic jingle?

Both videos end with our new (well, our first ever) Pendo jingle. It’s a bit of fun but also a new part of the Pendo brand: the sonic part. We wanted a memorable sound to connect our audio ads and videos back to Pendo.  

Quick shout out to our creative friends at Velocity Partners in London and the sonic brand team at Human Worldwide who created this lovely little earworm. 

Hope you enjoy the videos and the Pendo jingle as much as we enjoyed making them.

Working here is fun.