At UxPA this year, Susan Weinschenk presented a lively tutorial, “Design for Engagement”, describing seven drivers of motivation and how we can use them to help users engage with our applications. Her explanations were always accompanied by practical, easy-to-implement tips. Let’s check out a few.
Each person’s inherent need to belong to a group or community was the first driver Susan covered. The need to belong expresses itself in many ways; for instance, someone will more willingly agree to give you something if they turned you down the first time (the reciprocity principle). The message is, ask for something big first, and then request the smaller alternative after their refusal; they will probably agree to the latter. Another intriguing facet of the need to belong is trust. While it may seem obvious, trust is important in fostering engagement; because the look and feel of a UI is often the first thing people relate to, it’s a key place to establish the user’s trust in your design. So go ahead and nit-pick when those pixels are not aligned! It’s a question of trust.
Susan made a compelling case that people tend to imitate what other people do, which explains why the use of video is so prevalent. We think, "those people are using it, I should be using it too". It is the optimal way of sparking the urge to keep up with the Jones’. Something that most people caught on to in the tutorial was the value of nouns in calls to action; for instance, instead of "Donate now", state "Be a donor". This makes people want to join the group of donors, and it achieves a better click-through rate.
A couple of enduring myths were also busted in Susan’s presentation. The famous 7+/- 2 rule proved false, as a typical person can remember only 3 or 4 items max at one time. The click count measure was also tossed aside, since of the three human factors loads—cognitive, visual, and motor—motor is the least resource intense. If you make it easy for people to understand what they need to do, they won't mind a few extra clicks. The message I took away was, let's not be afraid of using progressive disclosure in our designs.
We already know personas are a great tool to work with, but Susan offered one more reason to do so: people remember better when facts are presented in a narrative form. We feel empathy for the characters in the story, more so than for bullet points with no personality. And if we can see the people in the story looking right at us, in a natural-looking photograph, then the impact on engagement is even greater.
Susan’s example of an engaging photo narrative, from Kiva.
The final thing I'll cover is our inherent desire for mastery. No one wants to remain a beginner for long, and no one certainly wants to feel out of control. So give feedback in all forms; tell users that the task they asked for is under way, that it will end soon, and that they were successful. Doing this will boost their confidence and give them the drive to further investigate your application.
These tips are only a small sample of the simple things we can do to make our applications more engaging. Susan’s talk focused on seven motivation drivers:
- The power of stories
- Need to belong
- Desire for mastery
- Cognition and Memory
- Vision and Reading
- Tricks of the mind
For more details, check Susan's book How to Get People to Do Stuff and the web site at Weinschenk Institute.