Technology love and addiction

If you’re anything like me you will have found yourself shaking your head at the number of people totally engrossed and inseparable from their phones.

And if you’re anything like me, you’ve been one of those people.

Why do we panic a bit when our batteries are about to die?  What makes social media so addictive?

There is actually a growing body of design research looking at these questions, leveraging knowledge about behavioural science and brain science (neuroscience) and incorporating principles of ‘persuasive design’ — the science and practice of designing to influence or modify behaviour – into their work.

We can see examples of what Stanford professor, BJ Fogg calls ‘microsuasion’, or persuasive design patterns, in ecommerce sites, which have long relied on merchandising techniques to influence purchase decisions and increase conversion, the percentage of people who buy something, subscribe to something or contribute something to a community.

Things like ‘limited time offers’, ‘only 2 rooms left’, ‘exclusive to members’, ‘people who bought that also bought this’ each play to different motivators – scarcity, status, social relatedness.

‘Macrosuasion’, on the other hand is where the overall value proposition of a product is designed to be persuasive. Wearable devices such as the ‘Fitbit’ or Jawbone ‘Up’ use sensors to capture data about ourselves and use this to provide feedback and motivation to our mobiles.  The behaviour-tracking elements of these popular devices are powerful motivators for encouraging healthy habits.

Weaving into this motivational psychology somewhere is also ‘fun theory’. As it turns out, fun also seems to be a great influencer. There are some great YouTube videos that illustrate this. This one is the Fun Stairs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lXh2n0aPyw.  In our brains we are no doubt getting a nice hit of dopamine.

Why should you care about this ‘persuasive design’ trend?

If you are a product or business manager wondering why your website or app isn’t performing, understanding user experience and persuasive design principles can help explain why and provide directions for optimizing performance.

If you’re an engineer designing technology products, you should be thinking about bringing knowledge of user behaviour into your design process.

From a general interest perspective you’ll be hearing more about brain science, technology addiction and the moral implications of designing to influence behaviour.

From my perspective, it symbolizes the recognition that top performing digital products require a convergence of engineering and behavioural sciences. And it also sparks a greater awareness of my own engagement with technology.

by Elynn Lorimer
CEO & Senior Consultant
Niiu Digital Inc.

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