What do You Know About People?

Stephen Anderson_SeductiveInteractions
Quite a lot, as a matter of fact. Yet, often the design of the customer experience doesn't seem to take that into consideration. There are many reasons why that is the case, starting with the very top one — we know too much. That is we think we know, therefore we stop looking. This matters to how we experience information and interactions through our mobile devices.

There are some universals that experience designers think about. For example, Stephen Anderson lists a series of questions in a great deck on seductive interactions. I agree with his list. People:

  • are curious
  • are afraid of change
  • seek out patterns
  • like to order and organize things
  • are intensely self-centered
  • are lazy
  • are highly visual thinkers and learners
  • like to be the hero of the story
  • respond to their name and other first person cues
  • don't like to make choices, but like choice
  • like to be in control (and like to be guided)
  • find novelty and surprise interesting

These behaviors manifest themselves  in the way people interact with your content — online and offline.

Many of the patterns emerged during a conversation Beth Harte and I led at a local MENG  (Marketing Executives Networking Group) event a couple of nights ago. We used visuals as cue cards to talk about the hype and reality of social media.

The room responded to both the verbal and visual content, as well as our non verbals and those of the rest of the group. Since Beth and I took turns in adding stories and commentary, I had the chance to observe reactions. In face to face situations you are lucky, as you get a lot more information than online.

However, they are almost exactly the same patterns you will have in online interactions. Except for online, people act and react much more quickly than they do offline. When you have a group in a physical room, you have the opportunity to form a small community, even if they might be strangers to each other when they walk in.

Proximity works as context, because we are such visual thinkers. And even though each person may have a different take on the experience, given his or her filters, assumptions, and level of participation, there is also a shared group experience.

This is difficult, yet not impossible, to recreate online. You do that by helping the people in the digital room see each other. From a usability standpoint you have cues like green dots that signal when your friends are also online — think about Facebook and gmail, for example. On Twitter and FriendFeed you need to signal you're there by posting comments, using @replies, and the like button respectively.

Discussion threads attempt to mirror the conversation in the room, and you sort of look to the avatar for the non verbals — many individuals change their image frequently, probably for this reason. There is still one missing piece: the group experience.

Because when we're online, unless we're sitting right next to each other and sharing the experience that way, we're alone behind our keyboard. So online, you are dealing with many single individuals, and not yet a group. Which is why until you have built a community, you are still very much the one node on which the experience of each one of them depends.

Plus there is an added challenge. I don't know if you've noticed it, too. When looking at the big screen of a laptop or a computer, your view is more expansive, broadened by the ability to see more things at once, toggle between them, connect them, etc. The view, thus the task — and the thinking behind it — are much more focused on the small screen: that of the smart phone.

Which is why phone apps and sites optimized for mobile are simpler, more streamlined, sequential, etc. I'd like to go back to the initial question and relate it specifically for the mobile environment: what to you know about people who are interacting with information and other people through this small gateway?

Try it, and tell us what you find. Long onto a heated discussion on a Facebook page from a mobile app, observe what you feel. Does it magnify your perception of what is going on? Does it bring your point of view to bear more sharply?

I believe that the small, yet convenient, interface is a magnifier of the behaviors listed here. What are the implications for designing the individual and the group's experience? Will the moderator need to be more present to temper that magnified perception and reaction?


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0 responses to “What do You Know About People?”

  1. That IS a great post! Time is oddly accelerated online too. And since we know that people are demanding (human nature) they seem to demand replies and answers much faster than if we were sitting together face to face.
    I love your thoughts on amplified human nature behaviors. So true!

  2. It takes time to think through what should be said – and what should be left unsaid. Your “tag team” approach to presenting with Beth Harte gave both of you time to come up with appropriate stories.

  3. Not to contradict you, Cliff. I do much better when I’m in flow, with the conversation, than when I try to come up with something clever because I have the time to do it. However, it does take years of execution, research, and learning to “come up” with stuff.

  4. “…there is also a shared group experience.
    This is difficult, yet not impossible, to recreate online.”
    I’m sure some people feel more connected to their online communities even when in a social environment. On a busy Saturday night I recently witnessed party-goers active on Facebook via cellphones whilst stood amongst their friends in bars and clubs.

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