Seth Owings

Tag: Behavioral Psychology

Don’t Fix What IS Broken

When you hear, “Don’t fix what isn’t broken”, you probably think of some iconic luddite from Hollywood; someone who is unwilling to acknowledge or unable to see the fault in the system and has no desire to address it. Unfortunately, sometimes this describes our clients–not every client and not every time–but many of you can probably name at least one project within the last year.

This post is all about why you shouldn’t actually try to fix the things that are broken.

But before I get started, I want to highlight a few exceptions:

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When to “Ask”

The UX field is naturally focused on the user’s experience and that means that we sometimes identify conflicts between user needs and business needs. There was an anecdote floating around not too long ago that one of the Facebook redesigns improved the experience so much that people were able to get what they needed faster and spent less time on the site. Facebook is providing their product for free to its users, thus it makes all of it’s money off of advertising revenue. Therefore, people spending less time on the site translates directly into Facebook making less money. They quickly released another update that was “even better”, but looked a whole lot like the original newsfeed. I’m not a heavy Facebook user, so I couldn’t tell you if this was true from my personal experience and I have not seen any data–though I doubt they’re keen on releasing that.

As someone who cares passionately about the user’s experience, I really dislike when the business gets in the way of good product design. Most often, this happens when there is a specific behavior that the business must see (e.g. session duration or ad exposure for Facebook). The trick is to find the right way to present your value, so that when you do ask for the behavior, users are more than willing to comply.

How do we ask for the behavior without sacrificing the user experience?

The answer to that question is driven by these:

  1. What problem is this user trying to solve with the product?
  2. What behavior does the business need to see in order to make money?
  3. When have we sufficiently proven the product’s value through the experience to justify the ask ?

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Scenario-Driven Design

We will sometimes get hung up on labels, but whether you call them scenarios or journey maps, or user flows; what I’m referring to here is the situation in which someone is engaging with your product.

Kim Goodwin had a great conversation with Jared Spool on scenario-driven design here. It’s only 30 minutes and well worth listening to, but here is the transcript if you prefer the written word.

Why should you care about scenarios?

Moore’s Law is still holding and as technology is rapidly advancing, we cannot accurately predict how tomorrow will solve today’s problems. Therefore, it is unrealistic to expect everything we build today to work for tomorrow’s users.

This is where I feel like scenarios can give us an edge in our design: by increasing the time to obsolescence.

If we design for features first (without considering the scenario), then we’ve really only addressed the symptom of the user’s true problem. That means all someone else has to do is actually solve the problem and their product will be superior, even if we have the better features. Users don’t want features, they want solutions to their problems.

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Why are my users losing interest?

I was asked to determine why the clickthrough rate on an eNewsletter was decreasing in recent months. As with many such questions, BJ Fogg’s Behavior Model is a great place to start:

B=MAT
Behavior = Motivation + Ability + Trigger

Some behaviors are more difficult to perform; or, in the case of product design, elicit from users. Regardless of the difficulty, their must be adequate motivation for the user to perform the task, the user must have the physical/mental/emotional ability to perform the task, and there must be a trigger to prompt the execution of the task. Additionally, all three of these must occur at the same time in order for the behavior to occur.

If the combined weight of these three factors does not meet the difficulty threshold for the task (at the time the the task needs to be performed), then the behavior will not occur. For example, imagine you want to wake up an hour earlier than usual in order to exercise:

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The Paradox of Choice

More is better, right? Not really. Barry Schwartz has written an entire book on the subject, entitled The Paradox of Choice: Why more is less. In his book, Schwartz highlights two major drawbacks to having more choice:

  1. More options create decision paralysis
  2. We are ultimately less satisfied with the choices we make

More options create decision paralysis

Daniel Kahneman, another psychologist, is most well known for writing Thinking: Fast and Slow which popularized a dual process model explaining perception and decision making in two distinct systems:

  • System 1
  • System 2

Not exactly creative names, but they serve their purpose.

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What is good UX?

Yes, UX stands for User Experience, but what is it? In another post, I said that the user experience is the culmination of every interaction a user has with a product or interface. Ok, so what makes an experience good or bad? I would posit that the difference between a good and bad UX is how obvious the interface is to the user.

A good user experience supports Flow.

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User Feedback Methodology

The 5 W’s

Getting feedback from users is a critical part of designing the user experience for a product. But gathering feedback can be a daunting task. What is the best format? What questions do I ask? How do I translate what they are saying into something usable? Here is my guide to making user feedback more successful, I call them the 5 W’s:

  1. What are your objectives?
  2. What are your assumptions?
  3. How will you collect the data?
  4. Who are you going to engage?
  5. Who is going to conduct the session?

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Loss Aversion in Adversarial Collaboration

I’ve been reading Thinking: Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman and one of the things that really stood out to me was his presentation of loss aversion. I know that humans are loss averse, that isn’t news to me. But what I had never really thought about before was this idea in the context of adversarial collaboration in the workplace.

As a UX Strategist, almost all of my collaboration is adversarial. I am a staunch supporter of the user’s experience, sometimes to the detriment of the business plan. You might wonder, though, why that’s a problem. Shouldn’t the UX guy be supporting the user’s experience? Well, yes… but every other member of the team is a staunch supporter of their [insert focus or metric]. It is not often that every member of the team, from sales to support, is being held accountable by their supervisors for supporting or producing a positive user experience.

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