Persuasive Design: Encouraging Your Users To Do What You Want Them To!
Think of the design of a slot machine: its flashing lights give you positive reinforce (and makes you stick with the game, despite knowledge of odds and better judgement). Or the Wheel of Fortune: its design makes you feel as if you are incrementally succeeding, and encourages you to carry on. The idea of these games is about maximizing your participation and keeping your money in the game. Part of what does this is the feeling of little wins the user receives along the way. What is the design psychology for these games?
Design is all about making decisions (and often about increasing money spent). The use of color, placement, hierarchy are devoted to psychologically guide the user. They are all designed based on human behavior.
Architects attempt to dissuade and restrict negative behavior. Politicians persuade us to vote for them. Design is a way of getting people to respond in particular ways.
Advertisers try to influence our purchasing decisions. We can be bombarded with them: Times Square is a cacophony of persuasion. On an average day, we can receive as many as 5,000 messages a day that use persuasive design.
Brands use their understanding of human behavior to increase consumption. Example: Alka Seltzer. Normal dose is just one tablet, but all their marketing (even the jingle "Pop, Pop. Fizz, Fizz") always suggested using two. The result is that they increased consumption of the product through persuasive design.
Supermarkets are designed to increase consumption: It's almost impossible to come out of one and not want to get other items. Sometimes the thing you need is located in the very back of the store. This can be called an anchor point - a central point for getting necessary items. But the the consumer must pass through many aisles to get to the cash register, with numerous temptations to purchase other items. The logic is that the more surface area a consumer covers, the more likely it is they'll want to purchase more.
It covers the senses. Music: Ambient music can be used to increase consumers' heart rate, or to slow them down - both in the aid of making them spend more time purchasing. Sound levels at bars show that if you increase the volume, people drink more (since it's too loud to hold conversations, people drink instead).
Smells. Stores push smells out to increase desires, since smells can increase purchases. (Think of Ikea and their heavy use of cinammon as you select your furniture and approach the cash register.) Studies have shown that the use of lavender in restaurants increases spending.
Some people worry that these techniques are manipulative. But they can also be used for positive gain. Persuasion techniques can be used on people to decrease their use of energy. Budd showed a view of a stairway that had been painted like a piano keyboard. It resulted in more people using that stairway. Also redesign of a garbage can: it made people use it more rather than litter.
Sometimes people have too many options - design can help make choices manageable, helps uses overcome "the paradox of choice." Marketers create shortcuts. There are a variety of different techniques for "choice architecture" or "design with intent" that can have even an minute effect on users.
It's good to know how these designs influence behavior - understanding the cognitive biases that drive decision making. One has to recognize the target behavior and then design for it.
Authority and trust play major roles in design, since they have a big effect on users. If someone is wearing a doctor's clothes, people will regard that person as an authority and look up to them. Don't underestimate the use of clothing: ties, jackets, etc.
Authority and trust are used in design, and can be manipulated to create a beautiful design - the halo effect. Examples of trust indicators: pictures of staff, pictures of customer interactions, etc. The use of badges also affect users.
Layout and positioning. We make decision based on context. We compare things. Stores tend to put the most expensive items in the front of the store. If the first thing you see is something that costs $10,000, then go to the back of the store and see something for $1,000, you'll think that item is cheap. It's making users do comparisons.
The art of menu design. Daily specials sell because people have difficulty deciding among many choices. Also prices: Removing the dollar sign converts people's thinking away money to "credits." Also, sometimes on a menu they put in very high priced items to make you believe the less expensive stuff is a bargain.
Defaults play a massive role in our decision making. We're all lazy, and tend to pick the path of least resistance. Defaults also are a way to limit choices: people tend to select the first or last thing in a list. This has tremendous implications for voting for political leaders.
Designers can use "desire lines" to focus people on calls to action. you can lay out a design to make users flow through an area in a certain way.
A funny example: To cut down on poor aim in toilets, they place a plastic fly in a toilet. The result: people aim better, reducing spillage by 80%.
This is "social proof." We are hugely influenced by the behavior of others - like a form of peer pressure. We look to our tribe, to the people around us to determine the social norms. Think of restaurants. When looking through the storefront window, people tend to go to restaurants that filled, not the ones with empty seats.
But social proofs can trick us. Think of overly long ATM lines.
How to use these techniques on the web? Social proofs can be an indication of popularity. Think of all the web sites that have ratings and comments. We want to go with the selection that has the most positive customer testimonials, the best ratings. Amazon is a master of the social proof. People learn what's acceptable by following the lead of others. Firefox lists its add-ons by the number of people who've downloaded them, rankings, etc.
These are social proof indicators. People don't like to take risks, so they look to others for reviews and ratings. But ratings and reviews can be deceptive: do they really reflect your particular taste?
One concern is developing an online community mood. With Huffington Post, most of the comments are a bitch-fest. With Flickr, the social community manager welcomed people in, showed them the rules and guided them. So now Flickr reflects positive behavior.
Web sites use positive behavior on people. Think of badges. It motivates people to get deep into a site in order to get badges or other rewards (Foursquare is an example.) Social proof is always on Facebook: People download apps based on their friends' behavior. Public comments encourage others to respond. The public views the discussion, and suddenly it's easy for everyone to be social.
Loss aversion. We overvalue the things we possess. A classic study: people were given free mugs at the beginning of a day. At the end of the day, they would only give back the mugs if they were given $30. Similarly, most startups overvalue their product, while outsiders undervalue the product. How to increase value? Limiting supply can drive demand. The idea of loss can be a powerful motivator. Airlines limit the number of seats in order to sell more.
TV shopping turns commerce into a MMO (massively multiplayer online) game. One ad said that if you phone and we're busy, call back later. That plants a seed in the viewer's mind that they must be busy from all the phone calls they're receiving. Ad copy: "Better act fast!" No one wants to miss out on a good deal.
More loss aversion. Big conferences. Woot.com: If you tell people that your product will sell out, it creates the urgency to buy, and people will buy it. For people it's an opportunity to prevent the feeling of regret at not having purchased items.
Likability and gifting. Tom Hanks is rated as one of the most likable actors in motion picture history. If he endorses something, you are going to want to get it.
Win friends and influence people. This concept is used by interrogators to understand the psychology of prisoners. Prisoners then bond with the interrogators.
Take the example of Innocent fruit juice. There's a joke at the bottom of the cartons where it reads: "Stop looking at my bottom." Such mild humor makes a big impression, developing into an emotional bond with people.
Reciprocity and gifting. People love free giveaways. Company use them because they help create an emotional bond with the users. For example: Flickr. They have a welcome message in every language imaginable. Also: Etsy. What these websites do is foster a positive character, thereby creating an emotional bond between users and them.
On Amazon you get free delivery! But only if you pay above a certain amount on certain items. But the notion of "free" makes people want to buy more - in order to get something free (an ironic paradox).
For further reading:
Buyology by Martin Lindstrom
Design With Intent by Daniel J.G. Lockton, David J. Harrison, and Neville A. Stanton
I'm not the only one who felt this was one of the best talks of the Web 2.0 Expo. Budd has plenty of nice example and didn't linger to long on any one of them. Although the many topics must be typical for those in advertisement, many were new to the audience. You could here many "oohs" and "ahs" when he revealed the psychology behind a design strategy.
His design strategy worked on me: now I have to read one of these books on the psychology of design.