alexandtheweb / blog

The experiencing self battles the remembering self

I’m a bit embarrassed that I had not heard about Daniel Kahneman and behavioural economics until I read Effie Lei-Chong Law’s article on the measurability and predictability of user experience. I dug up Daniel’s fantastic TED talk and finally understood why, at this year’s dConstruct conference, Don Norman spoke about designing memories rather than experiences.

Kahneman explains the vast gulf that exists between the experiencing and the remembering selves, and notes that the remembering self dominates – not only by choosing what and how to remember experiences, but also by acting as a force behind decisions about the future. The implications of this for product design and user experience research seem, at least superficially, two-fold:

  • How the user recalls her interaction with an interface will likely be shaped by whether that interface told a memorable story;
  • User studies must appreciate that relying purely on observing a user’s interaction with a UI or a product will not account for what she will take away from it – or how she will recall her experience with it.

Evaluate the Ecosystem

Andrea Resmini, one of the speakers at Friday’s UX Brighton conference, described how users’ tasks are often fragmented because product makers give too much consideration to a particular channel – be it a website, mobile app or some type of ubicomp device – rather then focusing on the whole ecosystem that supports a user’s goal. In other words: users think in terms of tasks, not channels or devices; and designers are too often guilty of feeling the elephant.

This resonated with me, since, as part of a school exercise, we’d been asked to conduct a user study on some aspect of commuting or transport. We had chosen to examine the Southern ticket collection machines at Brighton station. There are two flaws to be noted here: one in our own approach; and one in Southern’s own design of the task flow across the different channels.

We had set ourselves the task of “How usable / efficient is the ticket collection machine?” rather than “How easy / efficient is it to buy and collect a ticket?”. The second question is more closely aligned with the user’s actual high level goal. Since we focused too much on the channel, we failed to address the higher ecosystem around the task: the website where the ticket was bought, the placement of the machines, etc. We therefore may have failed to identify the true pain points involved in the process.

Secondly, Southern themselves have arguably failed to create a seamless experience of ticket collection. When buying a ticket on the website, the booking confirmation screen reminds us that when using “Ticket on Departure” we will need our “reference and card used to pay in order to collect your tickets. When arriving at the station, the communication from one channel to another has already broken down. The ticket collection machines are not called “Ticket on Demand” (despite the site suggesting, through capitalisation, that this is their brand name). The collections are also misleading. Only the purchase card is needed to collect the tickets OR the reference number and another credit card.

There’s a hint of irony in the fact that we set out to help the user by seeking fault in a machine, but may have failed because the machine, not the task, became our focus.

Seductive barrell rolls

On Friday, at the second and most excellent UX Brighton conference, Giles Colborne laid out a stern warning against designing interfaces that distract. And yet I couldn’t help the feeling, even as tales of lowered traffic fatalities during the Blackberry outage were recounted, that many in the audience would love to do just that – Giles himself admitted that the most “addicting” interfaces are the most successful, be it Twitter, email, Tetris or Facebook.

On the day Giles defined addictive interfaces as those that hand us a delicious, dopamine treat through random rewards, the internet was delighting in the newly discovered Google easter egg of “Do a barrell roll” (among a few others). I smiled thinking that Google have become masters of random treats: Easter eggs, Google doodles. Whether this “random seduction” on their part is deliberate or not is up for discussion, but it’s certainly good for business.

Addictive interfaces may be bad for our cognition, but they keep us coming back and build attachment to a products and services.

Page 7 of 8 Previous Next