Friday, September 12, 2008

Why usability is no longer enough: the need to design for Persuasion, Emotion, & Trust (PET)


HFI's PET DesignTM offers a new approach to help companies influence and deepen their interactions with online customers through Persuasion, Emotion, and Trust. This methodology is the result of extensive research, pilot programs, and client engagements with Fortune 500 companies over the past several years.

Whether a website is e-commerce, informational, or transactional, its mandate is to establish deeper relationships with customers. Understanding how and why people make online decisions that lead to conversion, and the subtle motivators and emotional triggers that influence how they react to website messages and content, is vital to maximizing the success of a site.

Traditional usability practices focus on creating efficient sites that are simple and easy to use. Thus, usability deals with the “can do” aspect of design (i.e., can users find information, understand content, or complete a task?). But just because a site is easy to use doesn’t mean it will engage consumers and meet business goals.

HFI’s PET Design builds on a foundation of good usability, but goes beyond “can do” to optimize the values of persuasion, emotion, and trust, ultimately influencing what users will do on a website. This helps companies achieve their online objectives, whether that is getting people to buy a product, sign-up for a newsletter, donate to a cause, ask their doctor about a drug, vote for a candidate, invest, etc.

What are your thoughts about this shift toward persuasive design?


Dustin said...

As a Usability Engineer, I'm not sure I would feel comfortable about trying to use psychological practices in order to persuade someone to make purchases. For me personally, it would feel a bit like 'slanted usability'...

In my opinion at this time I feel that if we present the users with a site that is easy to use, and the information they need to make an informed decision, that they will ultimately make the right choice for them (which may not be the same as business goals).

In the technique of persuasion, would this include convincing someone to purchase something they may regret later? Or perhaps something they might have otherwise decided that they don't need? These are more talking-points than they are challenges to PET Design.

I think what would help me most is to hear an example case where someone comes to a site, what are they looking for, what are their feelings, and then how would PET Design help take this situation differently than typical 'Usability'?

steve said...

Dustin, it seems you're approaching PET from a completely different angle than Dr. Schaffer. When you state parenthetically that user goals "may not be the same as business goals", you're hitting the heart of the issue.

Dr. Schaffer is trying to build a business centric approach to interactivity on top of usability. If you're a usability designer that isn't interested in selling something (be it a physical good or an idea), than PET isn't going to make sense for you.

Eric Schaffer said...

Steve, you expressed my thoughts about Dustin’s comments perfectly. His question was a good one – to paraphrase, “When I do usability work, I feel like I’m just enabling people to do things. If I do persuasion work, am I manipulating them to do wrong things?”

The answer is that persuasion CAN be used that way. At HFI, we’ve agonized for years about whether or not we want to teach persuasion and who we want to teach it to. It’s something that’s also a challenge when you do usability work. Would you do usability work on a gun? Would that make you responsible for killing? Would you do usability work on a nuclear device? You may be thinking “No, I wouldn’t do that” but it’s not so obvious. Improving the usability of nuclear weapons could help prevent them from being set off accidentally.

We have to think about our profession and how we use our tools. Are we helping people or not? Persuasion engineering CAN be used to convince people to buy things they don’t need (e.g. convince them to smoke). But you can apply it in ways that help people. For example, persuasive design helped convince a large African population to use soap after going to the toilet and saved tens of thousands of lives.

So persuasion engineering is a tool that you have to decide how to use in a way that’s right…you have to use it properly or you’re doing the wrong thing.

Dustin said...

Dr Schaffer - your paraphase and reply speak to exactly my concern; thank you for clarifying HFI's new PET Design goals.

I've been asked to work on weapon-systems before, and there are certainly multiple ways to look at that kind of work. I think your point about the proper use in eCommerce is a great point.

Thank you both for entertaining my comments/questions...

Chris said...

Dear Dr. Schaffer, I had been a great fan of usability and had been following your work since last 2-3 years. Further, I have also done your insightful 4 module usability course, have read your book on Institutionalization of Usability (made comments too at Amazon).

But before doing this course I came across Dr. B.J Fogg from Stanford university and have read a lot of stuff about the concept that he terms as Captology. Captology is broken into Computers As Persuasive Technology.

The will do and can do approch to our daily work should have been noticed long back as it is very natural and scientific, it's very strange that we took a long time to realize this. It's good to know that a pioneer like you has now taken this initiative to use Persuasion (PET) in work.

My question to you would be, What should come first Can Do or Will Do when we are making design decisions. According to my study it's mostly Will Do.

My study into persuasion also says out loud that if we implemenet the small change like right now you have your picture near your comment, it makes a lot of difference while people make decisions on websites.

Thanks in advance,

Chandan Sharma

Eric Schaffer said...

When we worked out HFI's methodology for PET Design we created SEPARATE projects for CAN DO and WILL DO. Odd that :)

We did it because you may have a site/application/device where you only care about human performance. Or you may care about performance AND persuasion. In fact, that might be the most common case. Then you do both projects with pure usability staff/tasks, and also specialists in persuasion doing persuasion engineering tasks.

The only case where I would recommend doing ONLY the PET Design is when you have a site that is easy to use, but not full persuasive. ALL sites/applications have to be usable. If the user can't find it, the user can't be persuaded by it.

Incidently, our PET Design was hardly just my idea. We have had staff like Mona Patel, and Dr. Kath Straub working on this area for almost 3 years. We had about 30 staff contribute. And we drew on everything from Fogg's work, but also funology, Norman, psychological warfare, ancient texts on conditioning (see John Watson for example), and much more. The domain of persuasion is rich indeed. Your usability skills are a good foundation. But you will have to learn a new framework and a new set of tools.

Mohan Krishnaraj said...

Hello Dr.Schaffer,

First of all, my heartiest congratulation for the new PET introduction.

My question to you would be, how would bigger companies adopt PET and we all agree today that moving organizations on Usability was a big deal, how do you foresee the trends in India or anywhere else.

Eric Schaffer said...

I would think large companies would aggressively add PET Design to the responsibilities of their institutionalized usability operations.

India is unfortunately lagging badly in usability, much less PET. I've spoken to so many SIs in India. They often tell me their clients just don't ask for usable solutions. But i guess that is because that is not their brand. It is a bit like a Panni Puri vendor (seller of tasty if messy Indian snack) saying 'customers never ask for Sushi'. The India executives just don't see that UX is THE way for them to move up the value chain. Sad that.

IM Light said...

We are attempting to adapt the concepts of PET to user documentation. I have been put together a presentation to show our management that by speaking the language of the users and giving instructions in a warm and friendly tone that we can emotionally engage our users, thereby persuading them to use our documentation instead of calling the help desk. By getting them to use our documentation, we build trust with them, which hopefully leads them to come to us for their other documentation needs.

Dr. Schaffer is currently traversing the globe teaching PET Design and promoting user experience. He will make every effort to respond to posts as quickly as possible.