Monthly archive for March2016

Users make decisions subconsciously – here are 3 ways they do this

Users make decisions subconsciously – here are 3 ways they do this

We don’t always have the mental bandwidth to weigh every possible outcome of our decisions or collect every piece of information available. Luckily, our brains have a fantastic way of processing data in less-than-optimal conditions: heuristics.

Heuristics are rules we subconsciously use to form judgments and make decisions. These mental shortcuts often involve focusing on 1 piece of a problem while ignoring others, usually due to the problem’s complexity. In the absence of hard data, we also make design decisions this way—to help users with exactly these issues—creating the easiest, simplest flow through the product based on our assumptions about our target users’ behaviour.

You apply heuristics every day, but you do it unconsciously. By building your conscious understanding of heuristics, you can become more aware of your own thought patterns, make better assumptions about other people’s decision making, and maybe catch yourself in a false pattern of thought.

Let’s discuss 3 heuristics that can help when you’re designing products.

1. Anchoring

The anchoring heuristic says that people rely heavily on the first piece of information given when making future judgements. Just like in boating, where you anchor determines what you see.

Design implications of anchoring

The anchoring heuristic is very important in e-commerce design. Why? Because visitors anchor their pricing expectations on the first price they see. So don’t immediately filter search results from cheapest to most expensive. If you instead show visitors a higher-priced option first, everything else will seem like a bargain. (Of course, you may have to deal with sticker-shock-induced bounces.) Also, try including a higher-priced item in your design. Even though that item may not sell as well, visitors will use it to anchor their overall pricing structure. Done right, you could see an increase in your overall purchase price.

Watch the power of anchoring in action in this video of Steve Jobs announcing the iPad’s launch price:

2. Familiarity

The familiarity heuristic says that people tend to revert to previous behaviours rather than learning new ones, especially when they’re busy. Ever go grocery shopping in a foreign country? It’s startling how much brainpower—and time—it takes to figure out where the bread aisle is in such a different environment. Familiar things are just plain easier to work with. This is why patterns work.

Design implications of familiarity

We’re going to remind you of that terrible law of high school: following trends makes you more popular. We know: this goes against every creative instinct you have. But you can’t count on people taking the time to learn a new interface or what your new icon means. (Hence the durability of the floppy disk save icon.) And if you must change some things? Try changing them gradually. Of course there are always places to brake all the rules.

3. Choice Paradox

The choice paradox says that when you ask someone to make a choice for the upcoming few weeks (let’s say, about what kind of cookies they’ll want), they will most likely give you a diversified response. So they might say, “I want chocolate chip on Monday, peanut butter on Tuesday…”

But if you change the frequency and ask them what they’d like every day, they’ll most likely give you the same answer as the day before.

People think they prefer variety when considering a longer period of time. But when push comes to shove, their preference for familiarity kicks in, and they’ll revert back to what they know they like.

Design implications of naive diversification

When designing user-controlled preferences, pay attention to how frequency will affect choice.

Let’s say you’re designing for a company that sells food samples on a monthly subscription model. Do you want users to pick all the foods they’ll get over the year all at once? Or should they have the chance to pick monthly? How many options are you providing and how diverse are those decisions? Your users may easily over-anticipate their desire for diversity and would be more delighted to get their favourites again and again. Consider asking this question each time they get a box, rather just once.

The fine print

Humans are unique creatures. Because of that, these heuristics won’t work 100% of the time. However, keeping these heuristics in mind while designing can give you a little insight into human behaviour, increasing your ability to create human- centred products.

Mobile buying will be easier in 2016

Mobile buying will be easier in 2016

When you think of using your favourite mobile app, what words come to mind? Convenient? Simple? Frictionless? Now, what if I change the context to buying something on mobile? Do those same qualities of ease still apply?

For many consumers the answer is, unfortunately, nope. Not yet, at least. Even though shoppers may be browsing on mobile, they’re not completing those purchases. Just look at the stats: the mobile retail conversion rate is only 2.7 percent, compared to 4.4 percent on desktop. And the m-commerce shopping cart abandonment hovers somewhere between a disappointing 66 percent and a dismal 97 percent.

Why so bleak? There are a lot of various factors contributing to this underwhelming performance, but if I had to sum it up, I’d say buying on mobile still isn’t easy.

However, I’ve noticed a few technologies and trends – at various points of maturity – that hint that this year will finally be the year that making a purchase from your phone or tablet will finally feel as simple, convenient, and frictionless as it should be.

1. You can (finally) buy from anywhere

There’s been buzz about the potential of “social shopping” for years, but it’s taken a while to really pin down exactly how to harness that potential. Now, we’re closer to figuring it out: new innovations are giving users a way to make purchases directly on a social network, maybe even without leaving the platform at all.

Social networks are already, essentially, mobile experiences. More than half a billion people use Facebook solely from a mobile device. Four out of five users who log into Twitter do so from mobile. And mobile makes up 80 percent of Pinterest’s traffic.

Now, it’s simpler than ever for people to use the phones are tablets they’re already using to browse those sites to also buy products and services. All of these sites have rolled out “Buy” buttons on their platforms in the past few months. Pinterest rolled out buyable Pins in June, Twitter’s launched Buy Now in September, and Facebook has been testing and refining its buy-button options for well over a year.

There are also a host of startups on the scene, including Modest – which PayPal bought in August – which enables retailers to include buy buttons in apps, blogs, social media sites, and email. And Stripe recently unveiled Relay to enable the entire purchase process – including the processing of orders and payment information – to take place completely within an app like Twitter.

2. Retailers are (finally) putting user experience first

It may have taken a kick in the pants from Google, but the importance of having a mobile-optimized website is finally sinking in with retailers. In April, the search giant started boosting the ranking of sites that met certain criteria – like using text that can be easily read without zooming in – in mobile search results. And maybe that’s one of the reasons why 82 percent of retailers say investing in a mobile-optimized website is a high priority for them.

It’s become abundantly clear that having a website that require pinching and zooming, filling in endless form fields, and tapping a tiny “next” button multiple times just doesn’t cut it. Consumers expect more – and they should. Tablet and smartphone users are five times more likely to abandon a task if the site they’re using isn’t mobile-optimized. And yep, that includes shopping.

User experience is at the heart of what drives customer loyalty – and conversions. Gartner predicts that by the end of the year, 89 percent of e-commerce businesses will see customer experience as their competitive advantage.

3. Friction is (finally) disappearing from the payment process

Speaking of user experience, it used to be that the big retailers like Amazon were the only ones who could offer single-click ordering, and other, smaller players weren’t necessarily expected to measure up. However, next-generation apps like Instacart, Uber, and HotelTonight are revolutionizing how easy it is to order food, secure a ride, or find a place to stay – all in a couple of taps, from the convenience of your phone. Once a consumer has enjoyed this type of checkout, any less-streamlined purchasing experience on mobile is bound to feel a bit taxing.

The good news is that payment platforms like Braintree, Stripe, etc. are now building one-touch features into their offerings, so it’s easier than ever for any e-commerce shop to provide a simple, streamlined experience. And the proliferation of digital wallets like Apple Pay, Google Pay and Walmart Pay is also giving shoppers more options for an easy checkout experience.

While adoption of digital wallets is still ramping up, the technology seems to be helping retailers solve their conversion challenges. In December, PayPal announced that its One Touch product – which has been enabled by 10 million users in the past six months – has contributed to a 50 percent improvement in PayPal’s mobile conversion.


Taken together, all of these innovations and improvements add up to something big. Once buying on mobile is finally easy, consumers will finally love the experience of shopping on the devices they already can’t put down – and retailers will finally reap the rewards. Happy 2016!