(Notes from the UK Usability Professionals’ Association workshop with Dr Susan Weinschenk)
We often attend events and network with other experts in the usability and user experience profession. I recently attended a workshop organised through the UK Usability Professionals’ Association and thought it would be useful to share my notes. In this workshop Susan Weinschenk (a well-known consultant and author from the US) presented her ten principles for engagement. These principles are a really nice summary of considerations that we consider every day when designing interactive experiences.
Ten key principles to keep in mind when designing for humans to create positive engagement:
- We’re hard-wired to pay attention to human faces
- We can really only remember/deal with only 3-4 items at a time
- We have mental models – Susan has a theory that our expectations for technology are set based on what we use between the ages of 8-12. The biggest demographics are people under 30, then those over 50 but the smallest group is the one in between – and they’re doing all the designing for everyone else…
- We look to see what others do when we’re uncertain (social proof)
- Food, sex and danger grab our attention – our ‘old brain’ is afraid of losing out on stuff
- Video is super engaging – when we hear people speaking our brain activity syncs with theirs. Some sites have effectively used Video Genie, which makes it easy for customers to easily upload their own video testimonials.
- We are motivated to connect with other people
- We judge beauty subconsciously – we like some level of uncertainty, like uneven boxes or columns but no spiky edges!
- We process information best in story format
- We expect technology to follow human-to-human interaction rules
Putting design theory into practice
After Susan reviewed these principles, we got into groups and evaluated a site to see which ones they were using. My group was allocated IKEA.com and it was interesting to note that features and functions addressing these principles were mostly absent. After our evaluation we sketched a redesign for the site employing some of the principles (at Bunnyfoot we often do similar things with clients, in ideation or participatory design sessions). Among other things, my group decided to use videos submitted by representative customers (in this case students) showing what they’d done to do something different with their samey flat-pack furniture.
Top take away
Although these principles are not new, it was good to be reminded of them and discuss and put them into practice with fellow professionals who I don’t work with every day. My top takeaway from the workshop was the reminder that most of our mental processing is subconscious (in fact more than 80% of decision making is non-conscious according to the literature). We’re constantly absorbing, judging and interpreting things that we’re not even aware of. So as designers, it’s our job to create designs that to talk to more than just our customers’ conscious brains.
Have a go at looking at your own website in relation to these principles – would you do anything different?
- Alex Ng also did a great write up on “Designing for Engagement” from the same event that you might like to read.
- Jon Dodd wrote an excellent blog about how eye tracking shows us what people really look at called “observe, don’t ask” which explores how eye tracking can help us to understand what the human brain looks at.
- To learn more about how to weave information into a story, join us on May 24th 2012 for Frank Rose’s talk on “how the digital generation is changing the way we tell stories”. See our news story for more details and ticket information about the Frank Rose event.
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