Note: See all my notes from Internet Summit 2011 by clicking here.
Apologies for the formatting — this is a crude copy & paste…
The Secret Life of Usability
Todd May, Sr. UX Designer at Viget
“If usability engineers designed a nightclub it would be clean, brightly lit, bathrooms would be easy to find. But no one would go there.” — Joel Spolsky
Usable software is like edible food.
Good design and good decisions are the interplay between emotion & logic. Thinking about the way to help people make effective decisions is key.
We first respond to a product emotionally.
We should anticipate and shape emotion in our designs.
1913: Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring Premieres, to riots.
Cornell University 2011 Study: We’re biased against creativity. We tend to favor things that are tried & true, and fit into our worldview.
What users need to know
|—- « THE GAP
What users know
The task of UX designers is to shorten that gap. As the gap increases, users feel uncertain, uncomfortable, and defensive. They feel disempowered.
Simplifying. Remove what the user doesn’t need to know.
Acquainting. Move the user’s knowledge from where they are to the target level of knowledge in small increments.
Furby: Manufacturers asked users to hold Furby upside down (until it shivered!). People reported feeling remorse at doing this. Takeaway: people respond even to machine interfaces in a human way.
MailChimp: email mktg software. You’d think this would be dry, but they did things differently. They’re designed for emotion. The layout, the language, the terminology, even the monkey himself. They’re not intrusive personality elements, but they “flip the bit” and give you a sense of delight, to think positively about the experience you’re about to have.
How do they do this? With a style guide that emphasizes emotion and experiences of the users.
Success Messaging: Mailchimp congratulates you for finishing a task.
Failure Messages: Dealing with user’s confusion, stress, and anger.
Thinking about users’ emotions and mirroring or at least responding to them is critical to making the user feel safe.
Usability is a conversation conducted through an interface.
Key elements of shaping a conversation among people:
* Messaging: At every point, what does the user need to know? What do they not need to know?
* Attitude: What tone do we take?
* Delivery: What’s the best form for communication? Email? Blog? Handwritten letters?
Viget uses personality maps to address this. Maps cover Frames of Mind with Needs and Emotions. What are the users’ Needs at each step and what are their Emotions? How do those translate to Messaging, Attitude, and Delivery?
At each step: Considering, Onboarding, Seeking Help, etc. the user has different needs and emotions and it’s critical to understand the differences.
Why Clippy failed: He was like an insistent, petulant 5-year-old. He had personality out the yin-yang, but no awareness of social customs.
Gift-giving: People who get small rewards, even if they’re dissociated from a product they’ve been given, see the product itself as more usable. We like to give back to people who give to us. Usability is bigger than the function of the application - it goes to giving the user a feeling.
TurboTax does this with it’s reward bar / refund balance indicator. It even spins like a slot machine :). It creates an expectancy, a sense of motion & action in the user. “If I do this next thing, I’ll make the number change!” That feedback/treat while going through the product that inspires people to move through their otherwise-challenging taxes.
The Nest thermostat: the world’s most beautiful thermostat. It learns. You put it on the wall, you set the temperature, and over the course of a week it figures out how you live and intuits how to adjust the temperature for you. But there’s more: over time it tries to inspire you. Using it’s little “leaf” indicator it rewards you for turning down the temperature. Just a small LED, but it gives meaning and feedback.
Turntable.fm: Terribly unusable, but incredibly addictive. It’s a chat room that plays music — technically not sophisticated. But it’s got a reward system built in. When you play a song someone likes, their avatar nods. This lets you know you’re making your friends happy and inspires you to find more songs they’ll like! It drives people to persevere through and incredibly crappy interface. They could’ve just had a thing that says “NNN people like your song,” but by doing it visually they give the emotional connection.
When we feel good, we overlook design faults.
Positive feedback makes us accommodating. Negative feedback makes us dismissive.
One way to look at applications is the arrow of time. Along the way of using software, the user encounters successes & rewards but also Errors & Friction. This traces a balance of positive or negative impressions of the product as the user moves through it.
Wrapping it Up:
I. Usability is based on perception.
II. Perception is affected by emotion.
III. We should anticipate and shape emotion.
Q: At State Farm Insurance, how can we layer some of these concepts on the buying process?
A: Ideas: think about how much context switching will the user need to do? How much paper shuffling will they need? Try to frontload that stuff so once they sit down they can rip through without starting and stopping.
Q: How much do generational differences play into the role of usability and emotion?
A: Good question! There’s definitely a generational aspect to it that keys into familiarity, i.e. things people are used to seeing versus things that are new.