Persuasive design

At SXSWi 2014, one of the best sessions I attended was about changing user behavior with persuasive design. Here are some highlights from that session.

So, what is it?

Persuasive design is guiding your users to an action you’d like them to take. E.g., 30% of your users aren’t finishing your online survey, so you utilize a completion meter so they know where they are in the process.

Interesting, tell me more…

Matt Danna, the session presenter, spoke about design patterns for microsuasion. Here are some of the points I found most helpful:

  • Good defaults – Your user takes an action based on a default you designed, such as a pre-selected option to receive a company newsletter inside the registration form.
  • Reduction – Reduce distractions, get the user’s attention. Matt used the Google homepage as an example of a seriously reduced webpage.
  • Tunneling – The user has no way to go back other than moving forward, such as inside a shopping cart payment process. While I understand this concept, it is frustrating to me as a user, so I’m not sure I want to subject my users to that level of frustration. However, it does achieve the goal for the company (e.g., completing the payment process).
  • Blocking – You block the user from taking a certain action, such as texting while driving.
  • Kairos (timing, opportune moment) – Using the right time to prompt a user to take an action. Matt used an example of an electronic speed limit sign that shows your current speed as you drive past it. Typically, they blink if you are over the speed limit, prompting you to slow down right away. If the speed limit sign just recorded your speed and didn’t tell you right then and there, it wouldn’t do you much good while you’re driving. Thus, it takes the opportune moment to tell you as you pass it.
  • Wordsmithing – Words matter! Using action verbs and personalization makes a difference.
    • “Create an account” versus “Join now
    • “Start your trial” versus “Start my trial

The Dark Side

Persuasive design has it’s own Dark Side. I bet you can think of a website you’ve registered for that make it easy to register but very difficult to unregister. Or an app that makes you spam your friends just to sign up.

Ethics are important! In fact, ethics are key to gaining user trust. Don’t be tempted by the Dark Side. Use the Ethics Force to implement persuasive design in an ethical manner that still accomplishes your business goals.

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