User Experience – the secret to improving it

Understanding any aspect of human behaviour like user experience is never as straightforward as we would like. If humans were the conscious, rational decision makers we used to believe then human study would be simple. We would just ask people about what they did and why they did it. Sadly, we humans are a lot more complicated. Firstly, our unconscious controls most of our decisions and actions, so we often don’t know why we do things. Secondly, as social creatures wanting to fit in, when people ask us about why we do things we often try to say the ‘right thing’ – either because we don’t want to look stupid or because we want to please the person who is asking. Thirdly, we often don’t remember the what’s and whys because they didn’t make it into conscious thought.

Much of the user research we come across still relies on asking people questions or getting users to talk through their experience. I don’t know about you, but my normal behaviour is not to talk through what I’m doing online whilst I’m doing it – I think my family would be seeking help for me if this were the case.

User experience has plenty of data

When it comes to understanding user experience, the advantage is the vast amount of data available about customer behaviour. We can track exactly where they go, we can analyse their mouse movements, we can track how much time they spend, what they open, where they come from and where they go afterwards etc. This data provides great insights into what users do. However, it misses a vital element…

User experience research

…the human.

This is the secret, not much of a secret and actually pretty obvious. But understanding the human and specifically their unconscious, emotional response, is critical to designing improved user experiences. Sadly, digging into this unconscious behaviour is rarely practiced – and that’s because it used to be difficult. It is much easier to ask users questions about what and why they do things (which we know from earlier is only useful if humans are rational, conscious decision makers).

How to improve the user experience

How can we understand human behaviour and use this to improve the user experience?

The advancement in neuroscience and technology help. By using the latest biometric devices, we can monitor customers physiological response to the experience. We can see the Tripping Points®, those moments that cause stress/arousal; we can capture the change in facial expression and the changes in posture that show the issues customers are having. We can also see the moments of excitement, of happiness, the moments when your experience genuinely makes people smile.

For one recent client we were able to identify a number of these Tripping Points® and prioritise them in terms of their impact on the human. We also witnessed first-hand the very notion that people don’t say how they feel. Participants who had a difficult and frustrating time during the experience were more than happy to state that things were easy when questioned after the event. Perhaps a case of attribution substitution at play here.

For another client, we could see how choice overload played out. Faced with too many options, the physiological stress response kicked in and created sub-optimal outcome – the potential customer simply chose not to buy anything!

Stop relying on what customers say

Designing for the human means that we must stop relying on what they say and start matching the data about what they do to data about how they feel and respond. This is about observation and capturing the physiological and psychological response. This is harder than simply asking questions and requires a smarter, scientific approach, but with advances in technology and biometric devices becoming ever more accurate and discreet, we now have the ability to monitor hundreds of people in their own homes interacting with websites, phones and tablets, etc. We can capture the unconscious response using discreet devices and provide quantitative analysis that delivers ground-breaking insights. If you’re just interested in what people say then stick to traditional research. But if you are interested in the truth, the unconscious behaviour and insights that can truly improve the customer experience and deliver the ROI, then now is the time to re-think user experience.
If you are interested in improving the user experience contact us to find out about our scientific approach.