E-commerce Link: Human by Design
The user experience (UX) community is slowly starting to realize that designing for usability alone is no longer enough to gain consumer loyalty. Human Factors International, a company specializing in user-centered design, has coined the term "PET design" and has come up with a set of guidelines to help improve the development of great user experience. PET design stands for:
- Persuasion: Communication intended to induce belief or action, guiding someone toward the adoption of an idea, attitude or action.
- Emotion: Physiological state of arousal. Triggered by beliefs about something. Has a cognitive, physiological, social and behavioral aspect.
- Trust: To have faith or confidence in something or someone.
The idea of using these concepts to support good usability is an important one—we need to ensure that users not only can perform a task (usability), but they will feel compelled to do so (persuasion, emotion and trust). It is the interplay between motivation and ability. A perfectly usable website won't add much to your brand if the message it carries doesn't appeal to its intended audience. PET design speaks to how UX designers and marketers can marry their expertise to create a consistent experience. Here are some PET principles we should keep in mind when designing for the Web:
• Less choice is better: Users get stuck when given too many choices. People tend to want more information than they can actually process and we need to find a sweet spot for how much to offer.
• Commitment and consistency: These go hand in hand. Users behave more consistently when they are committed. If you can get users to commit (by providing contact information, for instance), and you start a relationship with the users (by sending a free copy of a magazine), then the users will be more likely to commit (pay for a subscription) later on. The more committed users are, the more consistent their actions will be (regular subscription renewals).
A good example of this is the Kleenex Cool Touch website. By giving you and a friend a sample of their newest product, Kleenex got users to sign up by providing names and addresses. This established a relationship by giving customers something and got Kleenex's brand out there.
• Tell people what you want: You might ask users, "What's your skincare routine?" and give them a reason to respond: "So that we can send you personalized samples!" Be up front; users are cautious about giving out personal information. It's fair to tell them what the information will be used for, as well as what's in it for them.
• Social validation: As humans, we often look for social validation when making decisions: Which movie should we go watch? Is this a good hair treatment? I hear this car maker has improved their motors and so forth. Ratings, reviews and testimonials are powerful and influential in users' decision-making process. As brands foster their online presence in social media, we should be able to take advantage of the social validation potential present in those.
• Authority: Along the same lines as social validation, users respect the opinion of perceived figures of authority.
• Scarcity: Less available items seem to be more valuable. Think of online airfare websites, for instance, when they note "only 2 more seats available at this rate." That might not be true, but it does make you consider clicking the "purchase" button right away.
• Urgency: It drives action. Urgency and scarcity function similarly. Think of those online retailers who sell only one specific item at a hefty discounted price for a 30-minute period of time. The unbeatable low prices, pressed by the rush of only having a few minutes left to purchase, makes consumers think it's OK to buy an item, even if only impulsively—it's such a great deal, isn't it?!
• Food, sex and danger: These drive people, so see if it's appropriate to spin that to your advantage.
• Faces: People like pictures of real people. Sounds pretty obvious, but "putting a face to the name" (of your brand) can make it more human and relatable to your audience. Think of Progressive's Flo; she could be your neighbor down the street.
• Tell a story: This is no new concept for UX'ers. Telling a story is part of what we do. The story we tell about a brand has to be compelling and consistent throughout all touch points.
• Emotions influence usability and vice-versa: Even small usability issues can be deal breakers when a user is dissatisfied with a website or a service. That can have a snowball effect if your brand or service is not prepared to accommodate for those occurrences with good customer care, for instance.
• Reciprocation: This is all about customer recognition. Showing that you appreciate your users/customers/consumers can help convert them into advocates who can vouch for your brand, in regard to social validation. There are numerous rewards programs of all kinds whose sole purpose is to "give back"—it's important to do so.
I believe the next big thing will be to merge rewards programs with mobile social media. American Express recently joined Foursquare to start giving credit card users cash back for making purchases at certain locations when they are checked-in.
UX designers must be mindful of the psychology concepts the PET design preaches. We create products for human beings and need to have a deeper understanding of how people function.
It is becoming clearer that UX is no longer about usability only, but about the complete internal user experience. There are a variety of tests we can do to prove that a product is usable. Our next concern might be how to test products against the persuasion, emotion and trust principles talked about earlier. That, in itself, is a topic for an entirely new discussion that needs to be brought to the table for marketers and designers alike.
Barbara Luciani is a user experience designer at Designkitchen, a Chicago-based interactive design agency, and a colleague of regular E-commerce Link columnist Cristin Siegel. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.