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The Art & Science of Seductive Interactions
Categories: Technology

Stephen P. Anderson gave a great talk tonight to the NY Chapter of the Interaction Design Association (IxDA). He spoke about using psychology to achieve great user interface and design. He showed a ton of examples of great design, analyzed why it worked, then spoke about the psychology behind it. He sells a card deck that explains the psychology, called “Mental Notes,” which he gave attendees a sample of.

Here are some of the examples:

  • Piano Stairs
    • Example: See this video in which they encouraged people to take the stairs, rather than the escalator:
    • Why it worked: They made a piano of the stairs, and 66% more people used the stairs than the escalator because of it. It worked because fun can change behavior.
    • The Psychology: It tapped into people’s curiosity.
  • LinkedIn Progress Bar
    • Example: In 2004, LinkedIn showed a simple progress bar, which allowed you to see what percent of your profile you had completed. They succeeded in getting tons of people to fill out their profile to 100%.
    • Why it worked: Levels broke the task into sequences and challenges excited the user.
    • The Psychology: People felt a status for achieving 100%.
  • iLike:

    • Example: In 2008, Anderson was doing research for a music application and signed up for a lot of services. Most of them were mediocre. He pointed to iLike, which had a clean registration process, with helpful pop-ups (for example, “we want your zip code to tell you when bands you like are in town.”). To pick his favorites, rather then type them in like other sites required, it showed visuals with pictures of bands.
    • Why it worked: User goals meshed with business goals: “I had a great time clicking bands I like and iLike gained lots of data about my musical tastes & preferences.”
    • The Psychology:

1.     Feedback loops – We are engaged by situations in which we see our actions modify subsequent results.

2.     Curiosity – Teased with a small bit of interesting information, people will want to know more.

3.     Visual imagery – Vision trumps all other senses and is the most direct way to perception.

4.     Recognition over recall – It’s easier to recognize things we have previously experienced than it is to recall them from memory.

5.     Pattern recognition – Our brains seek ways to organize information.

  • iLike Challenge
    • Example: After he signed up for iLike, he got an e-mail confirmation that told him to play the iLike Challenge. It would play 30 seconds of a song and you name it. It tracked points based on speed and correctness. It was playful and had a social component.
    • Why it worked: Again user goals meshed with business goals. You can show music preferences and buy direct from the game. “And iLike gained lots of data about my musical tastes, preferences and knowledge.”
    • The Psychology:

1. Sensory appeal attention/memory

2. Appropriate challenges

3. Feedback loops

4. Status – We constantly assess how interactions either enhance or diminish our standing relative others and our personal best.

5. Achievements

What We Know About People

It wasn’t the usability that makes it great. Usability is removing friction. Increasing motivation is psychology. He encouraged the audience to think about what you know about people. For instance:

  • We’re curious
  • We seek out patterns
  • We don’t like to make choices, but we like choice
  • We’re afraid of change
  • We like to order and organize things
  • We’re intensely self-centered
  • We’re lazy
  • Highly visual thinkers and learners
  • Like to be the hero of the story
  • We respond to our name

Then he asked: “are you using these observations in your designs?”

Applying Curiosity to Interaction Design

  • The bestselling Hotwheels car is the one where they don’t reveal the car – you can’t see through the plastic.
  • NetFlix has movie rating capability all over their website, but when you return a movie, it shows two movies with question marks. It asks you to “rate your recent return to reveal 2 movies you’ll love” – most people rate movies there.

Are you in the Club? We naturally desire those things that we feel are restricted and want to be part of something with limited access. Sabre travel had a Q&A site internally and employees had to “unlock karma points” by answering questions in order to upload photos and other things they wanted to do. 60% of the questions are answered in 1 hr.

Lighten Up! Humorous interactions are more remembered and enjoyed. For example, MailChimp has lots of humor, and people will forget the frustrations of e-mail when using it.

Loss Aversion and Ownership: Anderson pointed out that Foursquare mayorship didn’t mean anything until it was threatened. You want to protect what you had once you lose it.

When asked about creating business applications using this strategy, Anderson asked, “Are there humans involved?” If so, he said, “human psychology applies.”

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