Webdagene Subtle Art of Seduction

by Luke Wroblewski October 6, 2010

In his The Subtle Art of Seduction presentation at Webdagene 2010 in Norway, Stephen Anderson provided a set of tips for applying motivation design in small yet impactful ways. Here’s my notes from his talk:

  • Seduction is the act of deliberately enticing people to engage in some sort of behavior. In seduction, small and subtle things that can make a big difference. If you can’t make big changes in your Web products you can try applying psychological principles in small ways.
  • Example: In a university research study, one group of students heard a lecture about tetanus shots and their benefits but only 3% got the shot. The second group heard the same information but also got asked to write down when they could get a tetanus shot. In this group, 28% got the shot. Ten times students got the shot from this small change.
  • What’s behind this finding? Channel factors –first small steps or minor tasks can shape the path of subsequent behavior.
  • How to apply this to Web design: A retailer found 90% of people that put an item on hold online, don’t come to the store to pick it up. The designers changed the form to include a question asking: “when will you pick it up?” The hope is people’s behavior matches the tetanus study.
  • In a study of frequent buyer cards. 19% of people filled up a frequent buyer card that started with one requirement completed. 34% of people filled up a frequent buyer card that started with two requirements completed.
  • What’s behind this finding? Set completion -the further along we are to completing a set, the more inclined we are to finish it completely. Can you apply this principle to steps in an online flow? Sequencing: to motivate people, break things down into small tasks to motivate people.

Tips for discovering small changes you can make on your Web products.

  • Don’t come on too strong. Limiting choices can help direct people to the right actions. Avoid too many options in forms and selection dialogs. Example: 37signals hides some interactions in their forms. They expose first name/last name as open inputs. The rest require a click.
  • When trying to streamline forms, ask your stakeholders: “If every additional form field lowered response rates by 10% what would you cut?”
  • Visual imagery can help people provide information: show representations and diagrams to help with complex inputs like bank account and checking numbers.
  • Contrast can help bring attention to important UI elements. Buttons with strong contrast increase attention. Lightweight animations can also point things out.
  • Always make suggestions –they can help people make decisions faster.
  • Social motivation: the mere presence of others dramatically changes our behavior. Social proof helps get people involved –show the faces of people that have already completed actions. Facebook’s deactivation page shows faces of people that will “miss you” if you leave. This design causes 1 million people a year not to deactivate their accounts.

Interactions can be conversational. This adds a human element to data input. Here’s how you can develop conversational designs.

  1. Role play! Have someone act out the part of the user interface while you act out the role of the user. Make sure they act just like a form :) You can also have a person-to-person conversation. Record it and use this human conversation to develop the interface.
  2. Script the narrative experience. Write out what an ideal conversation with a customer would be like based on your role-playing scenarios.
  3. Break down the ideal narrative into simple next steps.
  4. Minimize the number of choices & actions people need to make.
  5. Look for micro-moments of interactions that keep people on the mouse VS. the keyboard.