When I was little, I was playing magician for a while, learning how to draw the attention to one thing which gives you the opportunity to perform a trick on another. I remember being pretty proud about a trick, where I “smashed” a glass through a table without breaking it. That’s why I loved this article about the little psychological tricks used (in magic and) in experience design in order to make users do, what you want them to do.
This is exactly what product designers do to your mind. They play your psychological vulnerabilities (consciously and unconsciously) against you in the race to grab your attention.
A couple of expamples in the article illustrate this: From the way a menu is designed it shapes your perception about the available choices, not matter if they actually represent the available options. Or the instant reward you get (or might not get) when refreshing your facebook timeline is the same used in slot machines. I found most interesting that e.g. Facebook’s suggestion to tag somebody in a photo triggers an emotional response in the other person. It feels like another person made a conscious decision to include me in the description. With smart replies / message suggestions constantly growing I wonder how that changes our perception of conversations and social approval in the future.
Tech companies often claim that “we’re just making it easier for users to see the video they want to watch” when they are actually serving their business interests. And you can’t blame them, because increasing “time spent” is the currency they compete for.
Even though I knew about many of these mechanisms (I have worked as a user experience designer for a couple of years) it always puzzles me how well these tricks work on myself. It upsets me a little how “user-centered-design” – in a true sense of catering to the user’s needs and empowering the user – sometimes just turns into a phrase or simply means using nice stock photos as personas. So this article is a little reminder and Monday inspiration for all UX- and product designers out there. Have a great week!