Conversational tone can help make a digital experience more user-friendly and fun. A lot of designers and content developers choose to give their programs a personality and use plain everyday language to reinforce a sense of approachability. Sometimes this manifests as comments like “This won’t take too long,” “It’s fun–we promise,” or “Wasn’t that easy?” But if you’re going to adopt that self-congratulatory angle–patting yourself on the back for a simple and fun user experience–you better deliver. Here’s a recent case where Starbucks did not.
After I posted about seemingly obvious information not necessarily being obvious to the people we design for, someone reached out to me on Twitter to challenge my points. We went back and forth for a bit, disagreeing on whether to design for what he called “the lowest common denominator” of user, someone who is not knowledgeable or engaged. His concern (as I interpret it) was that in targeting that type of user, we reduce the utility of anything we build for the people who might be better equipped to use it. And so I found myself wondering, does making it easy mean designing for the lowest common denominator? Continue reading Does Making It Easy Mean Designing for the Lowest Common Denominator?
It’s easy to assume that some facts are self-evident when we create a product or experience. Even if logically we accept that nothing is obvious, it’s so easy to fall back on believing that some things are. Every now and then I encounter an example that shows me again how wrong that assumption can be. This time, it happened at brunch. Continue reading Case Study: Nothing Is Obvious
In general, I try not to share my political opinions on social media or anywhere else where it might disrupt from the type of interaction I’m trying to have. It’s been difficult during election season, with what I perceive as a particularly shall we say passionate presidential race, and finally I have something I must say. I didn’t expect that the thing that would push me over the edge would be the Green Party candidate, Dr. Jill Stein. But then she went and started pandering to the anti-science crowd. In the words of Hall and Oates, I can’t go for that. Continue reading What’s So Scary About GMOs? Science Says: Nothing.
In The Wizard of Oz, the Great and Powerful Oz ended up being an illusion controlled by Professor Marvel, a skilled performer hidden behind a curtain. Similarly, many exceptional digital experiences come from the expertise and coordination of offline functions. This is especially true any time digital experiences provide an entryway to something non-digital, whether it’s retail (all things shopping), health care delivery (online pharmacies, remote medical consultation, and the like), or real-world magic (the Disney park experience). What does it take behind the curtain to make a great digital experience happen? Continue reading Behind the Screens: Aligning Operations And Digital Tools
Subcategorization is a social identity dynamic that can have either negative or positive ramifications for behavior. This psychological process happens when a person or group is deliberately excluded from comparison. It’s what US Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez just did to her teammate Simone Biles when she told Aly Raisman before the floor exercise competition, “If you get silver again, you’re the best, because Simone doesn’t count.”
A while back I wrote about a program that uses choice to help picky eaters broaden their palates. I just finished reading First Bite: How We Learn to Eat by Bee Wilson, where she describes a more intensive version of the choice paradigm to help what is know as “restricted eaters” gain comfort with more foods. The basic premise of Wilson’s work is that taste is learned; anyone can expand their food repertoire with practice. Continue reading The Psychology of Adventurous Eating
Supporting people’s sense of autonomy is a key principle for designing engaging experiences. Designers can sometimes nudge users into taking specific actions by painting those actions as being consistent with the user’s values or goals. For example, insurance advertisements often focus on how the product can protect loved ones if the buyer dies unexpectedly; this plays on a common deeply-held value of looking out for the family’s best interests. A lighter hearted but poorly executed version of this has lately been endemic on my travels through the web: Email sign-up light boxes that accuse the user of some undesirable quality if they don’t enter an email address.
Former US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop famously said that “drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them.” (C. Everett Koop also bears the distinction of being someone I confused with Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken regularly throughout the 1980s.) Likewise, it doesn’t really matter how great an experience is if you can’t get someone to engage with it in the first place. Continue reading Engagement Is Everything. (That’s My Excuse.)
Imagine it’s your first visit to a dentist, doctor, or health coach. They will usually start with a basic exam to establish your level of health. That begins the discussion of any changes or improvements you might want to make. Normally in the formal care system, that first visit is accompanied by the transfer of your historical records from previous providers so the new one can tell not just your current state, but your trajectory. That’s not necessarily so with coaches, and definitely not so with digital coaches. But that history is so important.