Author: Stephen P. Anderson
Does this slim book live up to the promise of its subtitle: Creating Playful Fun and Effective User Experiences?
Publisher: New Riders
Aimed at: Web owner/designers
Pros: Interesting look at psychology of interface design
Cons: Lacks details of references
Reviewed by: Sue Gee
Its Prologue opens:
"This book is primarily about principles of human behavior: why people do the things they do, feel the things they feel, and make particular choices"
and on the next page the author explains:
"What I've tried to do in this book is to collect some curious insights into human behavior, and suggest how we might apply those insights to all kinds of interaction design."
Well it sounds interesting and the book is attractively presented - full color illustrations and bold use of magenta and cyan to mark out sections and boxouts respectively, a fancy font for chapter headings, a two-column layout that makes the almost square pages readable - so let's see what it has to offer.
Chapter 1 poses a key question given the book’s title. It asks Why Seductive Interactions and the first example is well removed from computer interactions - it's about an experiment to persuade commuters to use the stairs rather than the escalator in a Swedish Metro Station by painting the steps with the ebony and ivory of a piano keyboard and fitting them with sensors to play notes. The result of this literally playful interaction was that 66% more people than normal took the stairs. Anderson links this piece of social engineering with LinkedIn's profile completeness feature that uses feedback to encourage users to set up full account information which he explains in game design is an example of progress dynamic and it tends to be effective. Anderson asks
how can we apply these principles to our own projects? More specifically, how can we use these principles to help people to fall in love with our Web sites, application and services?
This leads us to the idea of seduction.
After a discussion of seduction defined as "the process of deliberately enticing a person to engage in some sort of behavior" we encounter another example - the way in which the iLike site elicits information about the users music preferences by allowing them to click on thumbnails of artists they rate rather than having to make a list from scratch and then giving newly registered users a "challenge" by way of a guessing game with a scoreboard. This chapter concludes with an explanation of the author's User Experience Hierarchy of Needs model which proposes that most product and service experiences go through six levels of maturity:
- Functional (Useful) - Works as programmed
- Reliable - Is available and accurate
- Usable - Can be used without difficulty
- Convenient- Super easy to use, intuitive
- Pleasurable - Memorable worth sharing
- Meaningful - has personal significance
This book is about creating more pleasurable experiences and it also takes the attitude that if the truly revolutionary products are those ones that are focused on the experience you want people to have.
Chapter 2 introduces the ideas explored in Section One Aesthetics, Beauty and Behavior. The succeeding three chapters pose questions in their titles: Are You Easily Understood; Are you Attractive? Who do you Remind People of? Using a wide range of examples they cover the topics of cognition, affect and association and at the end of chapter 5 there's a framework for evaluating the functional role of visual elements of websites. Chapter 6 has the intriguing title When Aesthetics Aren't Attractive and looks at situations in which lack of style may accomplish a goal. Chapter 7 considers the benefits of introducing faces into online interactions and then has a summary of the entire section.
Section Two Playful Seduction open with Chapter 8 asking Are You Fun To Be Around and includes an interview with Aaron Walter about humor introduced by the use of the character called Freddie on MailChimp, a service for managing e-mail campaigns. The following chapters ask Are You Predictable, Are You Stimulating? Are your Mysterious and then the section ends with a chapter that emphasizes the importance of providing opportunities for self-expression.
At the beginning of Section 3 The Subtle Art of Seduction we take an excursion into classical social psychology - an experiment conducted on students at Yale in the 1960s. But in the context of this book it is relevant. Throughout this section the author has "suggestions for minor interface changes that can make a big difference" that are based on research into "behavioral economics", a field which is explained as exploring ways that social, cognitive and emotional factors influence economic decisions. The section ends with a role-playing exercise and even if you don't act it out for real reading it conveys the idea fairly well. Just in case Section 3 has seemed to go overboard with its imaginative ideas it is followed by a 3-page interlude "Connecting Behavioral Goals with Business Goals" which considers how to translate business goals - such as adoption, retention and increased sales- into behavioral goals such as clicking on a button.
Section 4 The Game of Seduction relates how when Anderson first gave a talk on seductive interactions people commented it was the best talk on "game design" they had heard. It goes on to look at what makes something a game, or a challenge - something that entices people to return to - and discusses how to incorporate these elements. It covers the ideas of using scarcity to increase quality or to encourage participation. The penultimate chapter in the section closes with
This leads us to a final, sobering question. Is delight enough?
The following page tells us (in the words of Ralph Koster author of A Theory of Fun for Game Design") "delight, unfortunately doesn't last" and he proceeds to share a framework for "balancing conversations about delight and excitement with more practical concerns, the Kano Model which he then applies, very briefly to the airline industry.
There is still one more chapter to go and its title Only the Beginning seems a bit out of place as it really is the end of this slim volume. It introduces more third-party ideas, starting with a metaphor, The Rider and the Elephant from psychologist Jonathan Haidt for thinking about potential conflict between controlled processes and automatic processes. Next we see this metaphor extended by Chip and Dan Heath into a framework for changing behaviors and this is followed up with Fogg's Behavior Grid, from Dr B.J Fogg, Director of Stanford University Behavior Design Lab. There's a boxout from Fogg himself on his Behavior Model, relating it to the way Facebook and Google use triggers to motivate users’ behavior.
The author tells us he had planned a final chapter on stories and identity which turned out to be more than could be accommodated in a chapter. Instead he looks at one further experiment on which of four alternative approaches worked best in motivating behavior and then includes a model by Sharleen Sy looking at what motivates different personality types in the context of games. This seems to open up new horizons that sadly are not explored here.
The book concludes by reminding us that it has been about psychology saying:
"If we can start with an understanding of what kind of things excite and attract us, keep us engaged, and win our hearts and minds, I believe we can create many more delightful, seductive experiences."
This isn't an academic book, it is written in a style that any reader can enjoy. However it would make a good text for inclusion in an undergraduate course that looked at the psychology of interface design although the fact that it lacks a bibliography and explicit urls for its examples would by a bit of a headache for students and tutors alike.