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The Biological Power of Push and Pull

On the 28th February 2015, in front of c1500 people at TEDx I stood up and launched my campaign against dumb, linear problem solving digital services.

Someone had said to me last year when I told them I’d got TEDx;

Oh no… you’re not going to stand up and do the hormones and Tinder rant are you?” …Whoops. I did it again.

You haven’t picked the REALLY big TEDx event, have you?” …Double whoops. Go big or go home, right?

When I set up Nexus explicitly as a behavioural design company, I had a mission in mind – to use technology to “Better connect people to digital experiences” and help people learn about themselves, evolve and get smarter.

In order to do all of that, I have to draw a line through the services out there that fundamentally rub up against my design philosophy (basically, all the ones that make us biologically dumber) and there was no better place for me to do that than on those hallowed boards, in the circle, in front of the big red TED.

I’m a fraud. It’s true.

We all know what I am and what I’m not… I’m not a neuroscientist. I’m a strategist. An experience planner. A designer with an unhealthy fascination in brain science – What a dangerous concoction I am.

Since the age of Mad Men, marketers have tried to tap into the human subconscious, basically try to influence consumers to buy their products. We worked out a long time ago that the brain reacts in a unique way when it spots a famous brand name or logo. You see, it doesn’t treat it like any other word or picture, instead it activates parts of the brain normally used to process emotions, and so you could argue that we, in the design community, on behalf of brands, have always been in the habit-forming, brain manipulation business. It’s what we’re paid to do. It’s our job. But a lot of agencies out there who worked out the emotions and story-telling trick have just used it to sell more ‘stuff’.

I say – Shame on you people. The brain is a really fragile, incredible thing. Respect it. We should be using this incredible opportunity we have to break habits, not create them. Stimulate the brain in good ways.

The Times They Are a-Changin’

10 years ago things started to get really juicy and in a big way. The invention of the iPhone started flooding the market with a new type of design – ‘The App’.

Apps suddenly brought digital design into the pockets of the people on a huge huge scale. Directing us like drones with instantaneous gratification and rewards galore. At best guess, about 1.5 billion smartphones were in use by the end of 2014 – That’s a lot of apps being consumed by people. But it’s also created a problem and a really really big one – Enthusiastic designers, creating stupider people.

The brain solves problems in two ways and it’s got nothing to do with the whole left-brain, right-brain tripe that is on posters all over the world too. That’s total nonsense.

There is linear problem-solving, which includes problems that have only one solution and are usually often better solved analytically. An example of a linear problem might be choosing to say yes or no, or left of right… a simplification of something.

Then there are complex, nonlinear problems which can have more than one solution and are solved much better with a different kind of thinking. They require non-conscious thinking. These types of problems are what we often refer to as Insight Problems. These types of problems require creativity – the ability to combine information in a whole new way.

The intense repetition of a task creates new, stronger neural pathways associated with that particular task. So the more Linear and Non Linear tasks people do, the stronger the brain learns to think in that particular way. As a person becomes an expert in a particular thing, the areas of the brain associated with those tasks actually grow. It’s why we get better at what we do if we do it repeatedly. Contrary to popular belief, this is not limited to children or youth either… but people of all ages.

So guess what happens if you make someone continuously perform a Linear task? You teach the brain to get simpler… you dumb people down.

Bus Drivers & Taxi Drivers

Here’s an example of how the intense repetition of a linear and non linear task affects us. There’s a really neat area of the brain called the hippocampus. It has a specialised role in developing the skill used to solve problems & navigate routes. It’s basically one of the bits of the brain that make us smarter and more analytical.
Now a Bus drivers hippocampus is much smaller than a Taxi Drivers because it’s under-stimulated. They drive the same route day after day. They’re Linear problem solvers.

Where-as Taxi drivers have a much bigger, more stimulated hippocampus because everyday they get to choose their own destiny. They solve creative challenges. They’re Non-linear problem solvers.

As a design community we’ve become rather obsessed with turning everyone into Bus Drivers for some reason. Everybody wants to make things simpler and on a massive massive scale. What an epic fail that is for humanity. Back in the day a chap called Einstein made this quote;

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler

We might have wanted to pay a bit more attention to Mr Einstein, but in the last few years the tables on the app store have started tipping dramatically towards the Linear side of the equation.

I call it the Solve and Evolve paradox.

The Biological Power of Push and Pull

Here’s the next part of the story. The bit that’s going to get me into trouble. What a lot of people aren’t aware of is that both types of problem solving encourage lots of hormonal & biological responses. Digital is effectively a biological activity in as much as it encourages different types of hormones to be released in response to the content of the activity or task.

When you engage in digital services hormones are released almost instantaneously and recent research showed that something like a steroid hormone can alter almost every function of our body, from Growth to Shape to Metabolism to the Immune functions and even of course our brains – its mood and memory – possibly even someone’s personality and behaviour.

So the more we encourage people to use a particular app or service that hasn’t even been planned with some of the above in mind (literally) it could be doing two things;

  • Making people stupider
  • Messing about with peoples physiology

You think I’m joking don’t you? I wish I was. Let’s take my old nemesis Tinder on a test drive. Now there’s a dirty little app that hit the market 18 months ago. It’s been nicknamed by scientists as one of the most addictive apps on the market.

This type of new linear digital mating ritual did not even exist until a few years ago, so it’s really a totally new frontier. A whole uncharted set of triggers, behaviours and reactions designed in an app-developers head and released into the wild with very little thought beyond the potential to change the dating game.

Here’s the story of what’s going on…

You find a couple of people in close proximity to you that tickle your pickle, so you swipe them to the right to let them know you’re nearby & interested. Each swipe with your finger sets off a small chain-reaction of events within your body that can be as narcotic as crack.

Your body has gone into adrenaline high-alert in anticipation and swings full throttle through the gears of excitement, stress, anxiety and joy. At least four emotions in one swipe & in literally seconds. That’s pretty cool huh. Designers don’t tend to think about the emotions that come during or after an interaction only really the interaction itself.

At the same time the adrenal glands are starting to produce the hormone testosterone, which is what we call an anabolic steroid and one seriously potent chemical. Testosterone fans out across the body & starts to have its physical effect almost instantaneously. It also returns to the brain, changing the very way people are going to think and more importantly behave.

It just increased peoples confidence and also their appetite for risk.

There’s a really cool side effect of Testosterone feedback loop too… it involves success and failure.

Both male or female, regardless or what happens next, whether they succeed or whether they fail, they actually emerge with much higher levels of testosterone than when you first opened that app. Those elevated levels of testosterone give you a sort of androgenic priming. It gives you the edge, making your reactions much much quicker.

Over the years Scientists have replicated these effects with athletes, and believe the testosterone feedback loop may actually explain winning and losing streaks in sports.

This is total body re-engineering using just your thumb, an app and a photo of someone near-by. But what goes up must also come down… There’s a flip side to winning streaks of course. When you lose, you go the opposite way. Quite literally crashing into the opposite end of the spectrum.

There’s something else going on too – It has to do with the amount of time we let people play on these apps and services.

Adrenaline coupled with Testosterone were really evolutions way of making you run fast enough to get away from a bear in the woods. But after a prolonged siege the body also does something else.

After playing on services like Tinder for roughly 20mins or longer (it varies dramatically between men, woman, big, small, old, young etc), another part of the brain tells the hypothalamus to send a chemical message to the pituitary gland. This message has caused another hormone to start leaking out of the adrenal glands and across your body to take over from the testosterone and this one is the really really nasty one. It’s called Cortisol.

Cortisol is another steroid hormone. Only this one is released in response to stress and anxiety and not excitement or fear. But what we’ve done is trick it to be released during what was actually designed to be, effectively, a leisure activity. Cortisol kicks in to support us during a long siege & hangs around in the body for quite a while.

Cortisol has one main far-reaching command – glucose now – It starts to dismantle your body at a biological level. So people who pull out their phone to play on apps like tinder for a couple of minutes, are running off testosterone which is great. Get stuck in pal. But if people are spending 20, 30, 40 minutes at it, then they’re running off Coritsol, which has in effect ordered a complete re-tooling of your body away from leisure and ready for all out war… we’re letting people eat their own bodies.

We’re encouraging the body to react to stress. We’ve designed Stress.

So not only are we teaching the brain to get stupider by repeatedly making people perform a linear task to find the future Mr or Mrs Smith, we’ve also just induced stress in everybody finding love at first swipe for more than 15 or 20 mins.

Back to the mission

So why have I told you all this? Well – It’s pretty basic… I imagine a lot of you have never even stopped and considered that all these little digital experiences we’re creating have such an amazing effect on us physically, psychology etc. They’re just apps, right? But with every swipe, touch, pixel and ping we’re changing ourselves and the people around us.

If an idea is worth spreading, it’s that we need to make sure we design experiences that are non-linear and that they create short bursts of positive ripples rather than long bursts of negative ones.

Nexus is a company I’ve formed to start using all these amazing little biological quirks to create products that start to have positive effects. That bring these learnings into industries and services that probably have just had teams of really talented designers and user experience people happily designing away with no real legitimate reason to stop and consider what it is they’re actually designing from a biological or psychological feedback perspective (don’t even get me started on the Stamford Marshmallow Test!).

There’s another thought too – What if we could create products that actually start to reverse the effects of atrophy in the hippocampus and amygdala – make people smarter and more analytical? Make people less stressed or depressed?

We’re collecting an incredible amount of data about people and I want to use that data to start to map the human psyche. Help understand our motivations and design the right kind of services that support those motives, rather than random stress inducing dumb ones that make us stupider and eat us.

Don’t dumb down say, banking. Make the people doing banker smarter.

I’ve got nothing against bus drivers, they get me to where I want to go… but I really want to do is start helping people aspire to be taxi drivers… metaphorically speaking anyway.

Live long and prosper.

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B = f(P,E)

Behaviour

Design revolves around finding a pain point or gap and then creating a solution for it. That’s the essence of what good design is and what good design should be. But my design interests have always sat slightly to the left or right of that core principle. What drives me is the reasons, behaviours and cognitive biases that make someone want to use (or not!) a piece of design, a service or a pattern, and not necessarily the thing itself. More importantly, I want to design products that actually move the cognitive needle – drive people back into itself and with that return, allow it to change us in some way shape or form – often quite literally.

One of the major themes in my work is the idea of a “life space” – A “life space” is the combination of all factors that influence a person’s behavior at a given moment in time, not just the screen in front of them. Therefore, a life space may include instantaneous thought, memory, drives and motives, personality, biases as well as the situation and external environmental factors.

Personality

There have been numerous studies over the decades, looking at the way the brain evolves and changes over the course of our lives. Every situation we encounter, every life moment we live in has an effect on the brain. It’s what gives us our individual personalities.

It’s an ever-evolving and solving 1.5kg blob of plasticity.

I started working in Investing Solutions four or five years ago and one of the areas I studied at length was the effects of stress on the brain. I was really fascinated to discover that hormonal responses generated by stressful situations generate subsequent risk taking attitudes. I was also blown away to discover that there is now enough empirical evidence to suggest that exposure to long-term stress can cause what’s know as ‘Hippocampal Atrophy‘ – Something normally associated with memory-loss conditions, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. That’s a pretty frightening side-effect when you stop to think about how hugely stressful the lives many of us live are.

Environment

What if we could create the opposite effect? What if we could actually use the digital experiences we create to start to reverse the effects of atrophy and change certain Behavioural Biases to make us behave better or just think differently? In theory it may actually be possible to stave off the effects of stress and mild forms of depression – maybe even before they appear – using brain focused functions so simplistic in their design that they seem almost too good to be true.

What’s commonly know now is that within the suffers of stress and forms of depression is a tendency to “amplify” unpleasant information and that makes the brain overreact to negative emotional stimuli. It’s also been shown that the children or partners of mental health patients are potentially at higher-than-normal risk of developing the same condition themselves, in part because they may inherit their parent or loved ones trait to overreact. It’s an inherited behavioural bias. So working backwards from suffers themselves, to some of the people around them, may be a really important place to start.

Reversing a behavioural bias and start to “rewire” the brain isn’t as complex as it might sound. We just need to design the right experiences into the services we build.

The trick is going to be teaching people (implicitly or explicitly) how to control the activity that is generated in a network of interrelated brain regions that are directly linked to stress and depression – the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, anterior insula and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. We can already do that using basic Neural Feedback Displays – hell, I’ve been playing with several cheap and cheerful EEG gizmos for years now. They don’t do much more than let me see roughly and crudely what’s going on inside my head, but that’s somehow a good enough place to start and it gives me a deeper connection to myself. When I perform an action, it shows me what the reaction inside my brain is, and that starts to show me more about myself than I knew before.

One of the exercises I’ve been studying shows neural feedback in the form of a thermometer on the screen. You show people sad or negative pictures that might ordinarily raise their “temperature”, and then get them to try to lower that “temperature” by adopting more sanguine mental states. After a while you start to work what the reaction looks like and in doing so create a sort of mental pro-action to stop it occurring in the first place. It’s therapy friends, but not as we know it.

You can start to reverse the behavioural bias. Over the course of a period of time you can start to change the actual structure of the brain. Which is a pretty neat concept.

There’s another technique where a pair of faces is shown to someone on a screen every few seconds; either neutral and sad, or neutral and happy. Then a dot replaces one of the faces, and the user is asked to click on the dot. During one particular experiment using the dot technique, some people had the face replaced by the dot selected at random, but other people always had the dot replace the more positive face in the pair. Over a period of time of engaging in the dot technique, the group that had the dot replacing the positive face, where in effect being trained to avoid looking at the sad faces.

This kind of attentional-bias training, is so simplistic that most good scientists would bet that it could not alter psychological symptoms. But they’d lose the bet.

In both the examples above it’s been proven that stress-related responses – for example, increases in heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels – to negative stimuli – are significantly reduced using both techniques. These stress responses are a key marker of depression, and they diminished roughly one week after the experiments began. Incidentally, some people in the experimental groups also developed fewer defensive responses to negative faces, such as startled blinking however the people in the control groups showed no such improvement.

In another experiment researchers at Cardiff University showed eight people how their brains reacted to positive imagery. After four sessions the participants with mental health conditions had seen significant improvements in their depression.

Was it a placebo effect? Possibly. But so what, that’s still a positive outcome!

As part of the same experiment another eight people with mental health problems were asked to do the exercise but just think positively and were not shown the brain images. They showed no change over the same period of time.

The researchers said they believed the scans allowed participants to work out, through trial and error, which sort of positive emotional imagery was most effective for them.

Once you’ve taught someone the mindset to lower that temperature or unlearn that negative thought, it’s a simple case of asking them to try to recreate that mindset in their daily lives, in normal stress related situations – Call it mindfulness, call it brain-training, call it CBT… you can even call it brainwashing if you like… it’s doesn’t matter, call it whatever best fits – the point is not the label that matters, the point is the start point of the process. You show people the mirror and they start to see themselves.

Summary

There have been plenty of experiments that have failed too by the way. Or shown only a correlation to success in a percentage of the people in the test. Which is totally to be expected.

To me, the interesting aspect of all these techniques is simply that they start by giving people an insight into themselves and their biases and only then do they work towards letting people control their own brain activity.

Most people (especially those living with stress or depression etc) are actually acutely aware and really interested in a way of engaging with themselves.

I’m not suggesting we mass ship EEG devices like EPOC to sufferers of anxiety, stress and depression so they can see what’s happening in their heads – but what I am suggesting is that we can build experiences that help people to understand themselves better and by starting there, we might in turn be able to start to help people reverse or reduce the effects of some of the conditions that can debilitate a lot of people.

People are dynamic creatures with dynamic thoughts, emotions, and psychological forces. To understand people you have to consider all possible factors that influence a person’s behavior and consider how those factors interact and change in time to influence the person’s present state.

So in designing solutions that start to move the needle on behaviour and start to break biases it’s imperative that we look at all the factors and start to influence people piece by pieces. Reversing negative brain patterns and negative cognitive biases starts with understanding the individual and moves out from there to a series of small interactions that gently nudge the brain into reverse.

It’s a noble idea I know… and probably one that many of you would scoff at. But my brain is already growing out of the curiosity of where this might lead me.

badges

Neuro Mechanics and the power of Experience Engagement

Choosing, implementing & designing the right mechanisms is the key to successful NeuroCX and experience design. There are a whole heap of ways of doing it and as previously discussed, it’s the nexus of these events that create real behavioral change and sticky engagements. Let’s take a look through some of the theory and mechanisms here in this article.

MAJOR INCLUSION: You can now download and use my Mechanics Mapping tool (in excel, sorry!) by clicking here. The framework will allow you to look at the ‘ZEN‘ of your mechanisms. What you’re punching for is a nice even spread of functions and features around the entire circle. You can also use the framework to benchmark against a competitor. Simply add in a ‘1’ against a feature in the columns to start visualising the balance of what you have. The second tab is a glossary of the functions for you to use offline.

I mentioned ‘Zen‘ as a term because zen teaches us about simplicity and balance. Sometimes in order to grow we must subtract.

  • When using the framework above ask yourself are there any Features that don’t add to the experience? Would the experience benefit from removing it or replacing it?
  • When you add New Features do you take into account balance to insure the experience remains fun?

Introduction

The growing buzz about NeuroCX can be confusing at best and downright dizzying at worst. For marketers, it takes some effort to wade through the hype and figure out how to extract what really matters. The right strategy will take you beyond badges and leaderboards to dozens of alternative little mechanics that reward attention rather than demand it. These can be combined in different ways to create powerful new experiences that tap into basic motivations.

It’s the little things that give everything meaning. Life is an accumulation of puzzle pieces that make a spectacular picture, or the collection of letters to make words to make sentences to fill pages to complete a story. Ultimately, a thousand little things make something big — and what’s more, small beings united to make something immense often lend a certain grandeur to themselves — all the more for not having done so through any intention.

So imagine the completed puzzle – a stunning picture. Imagine being awed and mesmerized by its image, and then imagine if you were able to elicit such an appreciation of every piece along the way – how much fuller and more magnificent the completion of it becomes. This is the philosophy behind NeuroCX and behind the NeuroScience of Experience Design. It’s all about learning to love the little things to create new behaviors and habits.

While we’re creating a service or product we should really ask ourselves, the team and the client some of the following questions continually throughout the process of the experience design. Keep in mind, these questions will not apply to every situation and should be taken in context to what we’re trying to achieve.

  1. What is the main reason for pimping a product / service?
  2. What are the goals?
  3. What are the main benefits we expect to achieve?

Your reason for adding neuro mechanics into your product / service has a huge affect on how you should go about designing it. If you just want people to spend more time on your website, major distractions from your core product might be fine. If not, you may want to tone down some aspects to ensure it doesn’t take away from the pre-existing experience of your more standard features. Don’t pimp a shopping experience, it’s just shopping! Nobody wants to master mine-fields when they’re buying bras.

First, actions and rewards are fundamental to engagement. The simplest form of rewards are points. The very first thing you need to do is figure out what all activities you want to reward users for and what is most important to you. You need to do Value Weighting planning to determine what is most important so it’s rewarded accordingly and in comparison to each other appropriately.

Next, you need to think of what rules your service may need to ensure you are getting the behavior you want. You may set time limits and other rules to limit users from repetitively doing something over and over when you only want to reward for it once, etc. You really need to take cheating into account to ensure the experience is fair for all users.

You also need to see things from your audiences point of view.

  1. How does it benefit the user?
  2. Do they enjoy it?

There are a lot of ways to engage and pimp elements of your experience to trigger those happiness inducing dopamine bombs to drop. Here’s an A-Z of the possible things you might want consider;

Achievements

Achievements are a great reward if implemented correctly that collectors or perfectionist type users will really love and keep them engaged as long as new Achievements are created.

  • Do you give Achievements often?
  • How long would it take for a user to get every Achievement?
  • Do you have Achievements a user would be proud of or share?
  • Do you allow them and others to see the coolness of the Achievement? Rarity?
  • Have you implemented a place for user’s to collect and show their Achievements on a profile other users can see?
  • Do you have a way for users to show off their favorite Achievements?
  • Do you have an Achievement Map to show you the Achievements you have, ones you could earn and when available info on how you can earn them?
  • Have you implemented Achievement Tiers such as the common ones like “Easy, Medium, Hard, Insane and Unknown?”
  • Do you use clever names and graphics on your Achievements to add Character? How about humor or wit not only in the names or graphics but also in how you obtain the Achievements?
  • Have you kept your users in mind and created Achievement styles that are catered towards them?
  • Do your names for Unknown Achievements (Achievements that you don’t know how you earn them) inspire curiosity/envy in users without prematurely revealing how the user earned it?
  • Do you have Achievements with real depth that require a combo of actions / variables to Unlock?

Example: a badge, a level, a reward, points, really anything defined as a reward can be rewarding.

Altruism

With great power comes great responsibility.

Online Experiences can be used for good, bad and many shades of gray. Product owners should take a moment to consider the health of their users as well as ways to use NeuroCX for Social Good.

  • Do you have methods to show the users how long they have been engaging?
  • Do you warn them when they’ve been engaging too long?
  • Do you give them substantial reasons to take a break such as a maximum on points per day, or a bonus for returning after a certain period of time?
  • Have you thought of ways to leverage your influence to have users do good in the real world through donations or other creative means?

Analysis

Constant Analysis of performance and user behavior has become the norm in the Iterative Design Process.

  • Do you have the right analytics tools and goals set in place to gauge your progress?
  • Do you know where users drop out of your experience? Where they lose interest?
  • Do you know when and where users are having the most fun?
  • How can you use the data you’ve gathered to optimize your Gamified Experience?
  • Are there new Features you can add or non-performing ones you can remove?

Anticipation

Anticipation is a strong psychological motivator that when used properly in your product can get users excited and allow them to endure longer play time at a higher level of enjoyment.

  • How can you use anticipation to motivate your users?
  • Do you “dangle a carrot” so users know what they are working towards?
  • Do users know the result of their next level, achievement, status title etc.?
  • Can you use chance to have users anticipate some random event or reward that might happen?
  • Can you use time to build anticipation?

Appointment Dynamic

A dynamic in which to succeed, one must return at a predefined time to take some action. Appointment dynamics are often deeply related to interval based reward schedules or avoidance dyanmics.

Example: Cafe World and Farmville where if you return at a set time to do something you get something good, and if you don’t something bad happens.

Avoidance

The act of inducing player behavior not by giving a reward, but by not instituting a punishment. Produces consistent level of activity, timed around the schedule.

Example: Press a lever every 30 seconds to not get shocked.

Balance

Balance is important to any good product to insure the experience is fun, has longevity and is fair.

  • How frequent are your rewards?
  • Will users get bored because your rewards are too easy to obtain?
  • How fast do users max out(max level, etc.)?
  • Will users obtain some benefit from being max that will be enough for them to continue to participate?
  • Is there a way to allow a user to “restart” while keeping what they earned? For example, users in WoW have multiple Level 70 Characters.

Behavioral Contrast

The theory defining how behavior can shift greatly based on changed expectations.

Example: A monkey presses a lever and is given lettuce. The monkey is happy and continues to press the lever. Then it gets a grape one time. The monkey is delighted. The next time it presses the lever it gets lettuce again. Rather than being happy, as it was before, it goes ballistic throwing the lettuce at the experimenter. (In some experiments, a second monkey is placed in the cage, but tied to a rope so it can’t access the lettuce or lever. After the grape reward is removed, the first monkey beats up the second monkey even though it obviously had nothing to do with the removal. The anger is truly irrational.)

Behavioral Momentum

The tendency of players to keep doing what they have been doing.

Example: From Jesse Schell’s awesome Dice talk: “I have spent ten hours engaging in Farmville. I am a smart person and wouldn’t spend 10 hours on something unless it was useful. Therefore this must be useful, so I can keep doing it.”

Blissful Productivity

The idea that engaging in a experience makes you happier working hard, than you would be relaxing. Essentially, we’re optimized as human beings by working hard, and doing meaningful and rewarding work.

Example: From Jane McGonical’s Ted Talk wherein she discusses how World of Warcraft players play on average 22 hours / week (a part time job), often after a full days work. They’re willing to work hard, perhaps harder than in real life, because of their blissful productivity in the online world.

Cascading Information Theory

The theory that information should be released in the minimum possible snippets to gain the appropriate level of understanding at each point during the narrative.

Example: showing basic actions first, unlocking more as you progress through levels. Making building on success a simple but staged process to avoid information overload.

Chain Schedules

Definition: the practice of linking a reward to a series of contingencies. Players tend to treat these as simply the individual contingencies. Unlocking one step in the contingency is often viewed as an individual reward by the player.

Example: Kill 10 orcs to get into the dragons cave, every 30 minutes the dragon appears.

Challenge

Challenge is fundamental to creating engagement.

  • What are the challenges in your experience?
  • Do they require skill or luck? or both?
  • Is there enough variety and depth in the challenges that users will stay engaged?
  • Do you have multiple types of challenges throughout?

Chance

Lotteries are popular for a reason, everyones loves chance, the unknown. Treasure Chests in games like World of Warcraft are a great example of chance on multiple levels because you have a chance to get a treasure chest when you kill a monster, then there is a chance of how rare of a chest you will get, then when you open it there is randomness on what item you will get.

  • How might you use the anticipation of a chance to increase fun and the engagement duration?
  • How can you implement multiple levels of chance such as the example with Treasure Chests?
  • Do you show users the likelihood of a chance happen or keep it a mystery?
  • Are chance %’s set in stone or variable based on actions or some other variable?
  • Do you have insanely rare, unique or personal rewards that can be won by chance?

Character

The reward avatar in Nike Fuel a classic example of using humor in an experience to build Character. Having unique and weird quirks can cause users to talk about your Experience. Digital enables some interesting possibilities to build Character that people will remember. In most current iterations of experience design this concept has been entirely ignored.

  • Does your company’s pre-existing brand and attitude shine through in the Gamified Experience?
  • Have you aligned your brand’s character with the User Experience to insure consistency?
  • Can you use humor, satire, etc. to build character?
  • Have you created customized content such as Achievements, Avatars, Virtual Goods etc. to match your brand that users will remember?
  • Do you use feedback or other interactions to build character?
  • Have you created content unique to your brand that users will be surprised by, such as Easter Eggs?
  • Have you implemented any features or created content that is so outlandish or unique that users will talk about and want to share?

Cheating

Cheating goes hand and hand with this stuff if you don’t properly design against it. Before and during the design process you must try to fathom how users could possibly cheat or exploit some flaw in your design. Like anything tho, if your anti-cheating measures are overdone you can hurt the User Experience. users may employ many methods to cheat such as Bots, Multiple Accounts, their own personal time and in extreme situations where real cash or valuable real world rewards are at stake they may hire people for low wages.

  • Are there repetitive tasks that are rewarded with no restrictions that users might try to exploit?
  • If so, might you limit the task with per hour, per day maximums? Perhaps you could require a combination of activity before the user gets rewarded again to create an environment that bots couldn’t exploit.
  • Have you thoroughly thought about your experience design from a cheater’s perspective to see possible exploits they would see?
  • Do you have tools and analytics in place to possibly detect unusual behavior?
  • Have you taken into account how excessive anti-cheating efforts might hurt your User Experience such as excessive captcha usage etc.?
  • Could you require users to use facebook or some other name verification method to verify their identity in the hopes that users wont cheat if people know who they really are?
  • Can you make user activity public so that users might worry others will notice unusual activity?
  • Can you enable the use of Web Reputation Systems and promote users to flag users who have unusual activity?
  • Can you create a system to reward users with points/badges etc. for catching a cheater? Do they lose a little bit of points if they’re wrong to discourage excessive flagging?
  • Do you have legal protection in place to allow you to delete user’s accounts or remove rewards if they have cheated?
  • Do you have social systems in place to reduce points dramatically if an activity was obviously done just for points without caring about quality? Such as if a user left a comment just for points and other users voted it down the user could receive no points or actually lose points.

Choices

Choices empower users, make them feel engaged and ownership over their choices.

  • Do you give users meaningful choices? Would you benefit from making them more or less frequent?
  • Do users get feedback on their choices? Do they see the effects of their choices?
  • Would your users benefit from more or less options when making choices?

Collector

Collectors will work persistently to collect everything in your experience. If you give Collectors rare achievements and items to collect they will keep on until they have them all regardless of how difficult. Not everyone is such an extreme Collector, but most people still enjoy collecting to some degree.

  • Do you have a wide variety of things for users to collect?
  • Can you create collectible content that is very difficult that will take the users a long time to collect in order to increase longevity of engagement?
  • Do you have “sets” such as item sets, achievement sets etc.?
  • Do you visibly show the user their progress in collecting? Perhaps what % they have completed of the set etc.?
  • Can you create limited edition items or other things that Collectors would go crazy for?

Community

Creating a strong bond between users, a Community is critical to long term success, virality and more.

  • Are you doing enough to promote community?
  • Do you use social network integration to leverage existing social graphs?
  • How can you give your users more ways to contact or interact with one another?
  • Have you properly implemented competition and/or cooperation so users have a need to band together and discuss?
  • Do users have a need to form groups to help each other on specific tasks or large quests, contests etc.?

Communal Discovery

The dynamic wherein an entire community is rallied to work together to solve a riddle, a problem or a challenge. Immensely viral and very fun.

Example: DARPA balloon challenge, the cottage industries that appear around McDonalds monopoly to find “Boardwalk”

Competition

Competition is the basis for most of humanity’s progress and evolution. With that being said, different personality types have different feelings about competition and sometimes competition overdone can make users shy away or hurt cooperation.

  • Do your users want competition?
  • Is there a way you can allow users different options so if they don’t want to compete, they don’t have to?
  • Have you taken into account the balance between competition and cooperation?
  • Are there opportunities where users can be competitive and cooperative at the same time?
  • Do you have multiple ways for competitive users to compete, with both others and themselves?

Control

We all want to be in control of what we do. It makes us feel important, safe and most importantly free.

  • Can you give your users more control over their experience?
  • Are there things you currently dictate to your users that could be opened for them to control or vote on?
  • Can you give users more control or power as part of a reward or status?

Cooperation

Cooperation is paramount to building a strong community. Do you have Features enabled that will allow users to collaborate?

  • Do you have various methods of collaboration, both big and small?
  • Can users collaborate with both close friends and strangers?

Countdown

The dynamic in which players are only given a certain amount of time to do something. This will create an activity graph that causes increased initial activity increasing frenetically until time runs out, which is a forced extinction.

Example: Bejeweled Blitz with 30 seconds to get as many points as you can. Bonus rounds. Timed levels

Cross Situational Leader-boards

This occurs when one ranking mechanism is applied across multiple (unequal and isolated) gaming scenarios. Players often perceive that these ranking scenarios are unfair as not all players were presented with an “equal” opportunity to win.

Example: Players are arbitrarily sent into one of three paths. The winner is determined by the top scorer overall (i.e. across the paths). Since the players can only do one path (and can’t pick), they will perceive inequity in the scenario and get upset.

Curiosity

Curiosity is one of the basic human emotions that should be heavily considered in the Experience Design Process.

  • Are your users curious about anything that might be mysterious to them?
  • Are there any ways you could increase or create curiosity with mysterious locked items, treasure chests, or other Mechanics or Features?

Data

Data is king. In experience design users can become addicted to pouring over data about the engagement and their actions, achievements etc. users love stats.

  • Are there stats you are invisibly collecting now that users would benefit from seeing?
  • Have you given users methods to see stats from the entire experience, their personal stats and those of other users or groups?

Dazzle

It is important to Dazzle your users, take them on an experience and insure it’s visually pleasant. Beauty and wowing a user keeps them engaged and makes them remember you.

  • Have you spent enough time on your User Interface and insuring users really enjoy the graphical elements of the Gamification?
  • Are there ways you could visually make things more exciting or interesting to increase engagement?

Discovery

People inherently love to explore. Consider giving more opportunities in your experience for users to discover something new.

  • Do users currently benefit from exploring your experience or content? Do they get bonuses for finding content for the first time, personally, globally or in their group?
  • Are there things users are already discovering for the first time and you’re just not telling them?
  • Could you create new content just for the purpose of users “finding it”?
  • Can you create challenges, quests etc. that use discovery as an element?
  • Can you enable users to compete or collaborate on exploring?
  • Can you provide special recognition for a user to be the first who found something?
  • Do you take advantage of data to show a user how much they have discovered and what’s still out there and undiscovered?

Economy

Economy in your Gamified Experience can add immense loyalty as users begin to care about their Virtual Currency. Just like in real life, your Economy can be difficult to balance. You must plan carefully and take many things into consideration or it will become worthless.

  • Do users value their virtual currency or goods?
  • If not, how can you make it feel more valuable?
  • Do you allow users to trade any non-merit based goods such as money, items etc.?
  • Do you have tools and analytics in place to watch for inflation and other problems in your economy?
  • Could you benefit from implementing a Dual Virtual Currency?
  • Have you created enough Sinks to help curb inflation? Such as, paying for a right to do X, or to take a risk that net sum results in the loss of currency or items.

Endless Scenarios

Experiences that do not have an explicit end. Most applicable to casual experiences that can refresh their content or experiences where a static (but positive) state is a reward of its own.

Example: Farmville (static state is its own victory), SCVNGR (challenges constantly are being built by the community to refresh content)

Engagement Curve

Engagement is one of the most important Gamification Benefits. You can expect Engagement to spike or fall off at different parts of the experience and the life of the user.

  • Do you monitor engagement so that you know the parts of your Gamified Experience that users enjoy the most?
  • If users are dropping off at a certain spot in the experience, can you remove, replace or tweak that part of the experience?
  • If users get bored after X months, can you add content at that time to re-engage them?

Envy

Envy is not always bad. users may aspire to do better due to envy of another user’s status, possessions etc and other users might try harder because they want users to envy them.

  • How do you currently use envy to motivate users?
  • Do users have easy access to see information about other users?
  • What creative ways can you devise to leverage envy without making users dislike each other?
  • Have you taken into consideration the social implications of making users too envious of one another?
  • Do you give users something special or unique that would motivate other users to earn or find it?
  • Do you give users an easy way to compare themselves to others?
  • Do you have various depths of visible status, such as shallow at a glance(not much data) and in depth if you want to see?

Epic Meaning

Users will be highly motivated if they believe they are working to achieve something great, something awe-inspiring, something bigger than themselves.

Example: From Jane McGonical’s Ted Talk where she discusses Warcraft’s ongoing story line and “epic meaning” that involves each individual has motivated players to participate outside the experience and create the second largest wiki in the world to help them achieve their individual quests and collectively their epic meanings.

Extinction

Extinction is the term used to refer to the action of stopping providing a reward. This tends to create anger in players as they feel betrayed by no longer receiving the reward they have come to expect. It generally induces negative behavioral momentum.

Example: killing 10 orcs no longer gets you a level up

Fairness

Fairness is important to the long term viability of your experience. If users feel things aren’t fair they will feel cheated and it could result in negative results instead of positive results. Designers should plan accordingly to create fairness and monitor user sentiment.

  • Do you have feedback mechanisms to see if your users feel treated fairly?
  • In competitions that require skill, can you insure users are matched or judged based on users with similar skill?
  • Do you try to sale any virtual goods that users might consider an unfair advantage such as XP Boosts, Special Items etc.?

Feedback

Feedback is your communication to a user of what they should do, what they did etc. Without proper feedback a user could feel lost and un-engaged.

  • Do users understand the experience and it’s rules?
  • Do they clearly know what to do next or if open ended understand the possibilities?
  • Do you properly communicate to users when they’ve accomplished something?
  • Do users see visible feedback on all of their actions that earn rewards?

Fun

Everyone likes to have fun, some say it’s the reason we live. While not always required in Gamification ( see section on Invisibility ), fun is a critical aspect of Gamification Design and should be one of your metrics for success.

  • What might your users find fun?
  • Are you overlooking something simple? Simple can be fun sometimes.
  • Could you create more mini experiences, chances or moments of skill to increase fun?

This part has less questions because it’s so open ended, we just know it’s something you should focus on. Get creative!

Fixed Interval Reward Schedules

Fixed interval schedules provide a reward after a fixed amount of time, say 30 minutes. This tends to create a low engagement after a reward, and then gradually increasing activity until a reward is given, followed by another lull in engagement.

Example: Farmville, wait 30 minutes, crops have appeared

Fixed Ratio Reward Schedule

A fixed ratio schedule provides rewards after a fixed number of actions. This creates cyclical nadirs of engagement (because the first action will not create any reward so incentive is low) and then bursts of activity as the reward gets closer and closer.

Example: kill 20 ships, get a level up, visit five locations, get a badge

Free Lunch

A dynamic in which a player feels that they are getting something for free due to someone else having done work. It’s critical that work is perceived to have been done (just not by the player in question) to avoid breaching trust in the scenario. The player must feel that they’ve “lucked” into something.

Example: Groupon. By virtue of 100 other people having bought the deal, you get it for cheap. There is no sketchiness b/c you recognize work has been done (100 people are spending money) but you yourself didn’t have to do it.

Fun Once, Fun Always

The concept that an action in enjoyable to repeat all the time. Generally this has to do with simple actions. There is often also a limitation to the total level of enjoyment of the action.

Example: the theory behind the check-in everywhere and the check-in and the default challenges on SCVNGR.

Global

The world is a big place. Gamification in many ways is a connector. Connecting the real and the digital, the local and global. Designers should take into consideration their audience and potentially untapped audience.

  • Is your content suitable for a global audience? If not, could some minor tweaks change that?
  • Do your rewards take into consideration global tastes?
  • Can you create personalized experiences for different countries while still keeping them connected at the global level?
  • Can you use Patriotism at a local or global level to inspire competition and collaboration?

Goals

Goals are fundamental to good experience design. Goals provide a reason to play and way to feel progression and accomplishment.

  • Do users understand the goal of the product and the purpose of it’s existence?
  • Can you allow users the ability to set their own goals? Can you suggest goals to them to motivate them to excel?
  • Can you use goals at a global level that everyone can help work towards to inspire collaboration? Such as how some websites have raised money for charity by showing their goal to everyone and how close they are to reaching their goal.
  • Can you use goals to promote competition?

Grinding

Grinding, or doing a repetitive task to progress in experience, is fundamental to most behavioral change models and if done with the right frequency of intensity with needed breaks from Grinding, can result in dramatic increase in time spent. But Grinding if too difficult can cause users to leave.

  • Are there repetitive tasks that might be appropriate for your Gamified Experience to encourage Grinding, such as viewing of content or other tasks?
  • Do you give something fun and rewarding to break the monotony of grinding?
  • Is this change induced based on time, chance or accomplishment? If only one way could you implement other ways?
  • Can users easily see their progress, short term objectives and long term objectives/progress?

Influence

Influence over actions is a major benefit of Gamification. Most of the time you want to do this subtly and carefully as not to be too pushy with users. Give them goals or challenges that require them to do something that is important to you or reward them more points for doing something that at that moment is of the most importance to you.

  • Can you influence actions of users through the use of Neuro Mechanics without it ruining the experience?
  • Can you tweak your User Interface to influence users?
  • Can you set rules to get users to do what you want?
  • Can you set goals to get users to do what you want?
  • Are there other creative means to influence users without them feeling you are controlling and interfering with their experience?

Imagination

Imagination captives and spires. We want to stimulate our user’s imagination but also Designers will be able to use their imagination to create creative solutions to problems.

  • Are there ways you can stimulate your user’s imagination?
  • Have you created unique and imaginative content that users will remember?
  • Does your Gamified Experience have toy like attributes that inspire child like joy and curiosity?

Instantaneous

We live in the age of instant, on demand and A.D.D. Assuming you have the technology , it’s a powerful tool in your experience design arsenal.

  • Are there aspects of your experience now that are delayed but could be more exciting if they were real-time?
  • Has your UI/UX taken into consideration the power of instant?
  • Could you create content in real-time that users would be surprised and engaged by?

Invisibility

Sometimes you’ve got to be Invisible. The beauty of Gamification is it can be weaved into every part of our lives. Some people will want to see every detail of the experience while others will not want to be bothered and they just want to see the results and rewards.

  • Are there some aspects of your Gamification Design that could benefit from being less visible or entirely invisible?
  • Can you give users options to make things visible or invisible through settings or more temporarily and situational with modes so if I want no feedback today for a specific reason, I can switch modes?

Leveling Curve

Levels are an important method in experience design to show progress and status. When designing you should take into account how fast users will level, will they reach max level and when and does the difficulty change per level?

  • Have you researched the various types of level curves such as wave, straight, progressive etc. and found the one that works best?
  • Are there rewards for levels you could give that would make the level meaningful?
  • Do you foreshadow to show users what they can earn the next level or future levels?
  • Can you create “Tiers” or milestones so that for example every 10 levels could have some major importance with a new status title, power or some other reward?

Longevity

Creating experiences that have Longevity and long term appeal takes skill and persistence.

  • Do you have a plan to continue generating interesting content and rewards so users stay interested?
  • Have you made users feel ownership over their achievements and possessions so that they will not want to lose them if they left?
  • Do you have mini experiences and meta experiences outside the main goal that will keep users busy?
  • Do you have some rewards that are insanely hard to obtain that can take a tremendous amount of time and effort?
  • Have you gave collectors content to keep them busy?
  • Are you properly monitoring how fast users progress so you will know when users need new content?

Lottery

A dynamic in which the winner is determined solely by chance. This creates a high level of anticipation. The fairness is often suspect, however winners will generally continue to play indefinitely while losers will quickly abandon the experience, despite the random nature of the distinction between the two.

Example: many forms of gambling, scratch tickets.

Mini Experiences

Mini Experiences are a great way to add character to design and give a change of pace to break monotony. The classic Nintendo game Zelda is famous for having mini games including fishing, racing and more. Mini Experiences can be obvious or sometimes are entirely hidden almost like an Easter Egg.

  • How might you create a simple mini experience that adds value to your Experience?
  • Do you closely integrate the mini experience into the main experience or just have it be a stand alone way to earn more points etc.?
  • Can you use mini experiences to increase social interaction or virality?
  • Are mini experiences constantly available, time limited or unlockable?
  • Are there creative ways you could use your mini experiences such as “Events” , Competitions etc.?

Meta Experiences

Meta Experiences are experiences played above the “experience”. Meta Experiences can be a great way to make data interesting, to show progress and much more.

  • Do you have meta experiences that give the user an extra reason to participate in the main experience?
  • Can you create a meta experience that requires no extra effort but visually is an interesting way to see your progress?
  • Can users Unlock Meta Experiences?

Meta Experiences require a lot of imagination. The possibilities are wide open to how you can use all this Product Data and Life Data in interesting and possibly fun ways.

Micro-Transactions

Micro-Transactions have opened a lot of untapped potential in experience design by helping to support Freemium Business Models and allowing users to pay for uniqueness, status, boosts and more. Micro-Transactions like many things can be implemented poorly with harmful results. If over used or implemented too early or pushed too hard, users might become unhappy and feel the game is unfair or all about money.

  • Have you created a clear set of goals to monitor the engagement etc. of your users to insure they already care about their points, status and other rewards before implementing micro-transactions?
  • Is there a way you can gradually roll out micro-transactions to ease users into it and monitor results closely?
  • Are there things that users have expressed a desire for that you could possibly charge for?

Modifiers

An item that when used affects other actions. Generally modifiers are earned after having completed a series of challenges or core functions.

Example: A X2 modifier that doubles the points on the next action you take.

Playtesting

Playtesting in traditional gaming happens very early in the design process and is important not only for finding bugs, but for determining what is fun, if experiences inspire the feelings you thought they would etc. Playtesting is different in the context of Gamification , tho still very important.

  • Are you testing your Gamified Experience privately before your release to the public?
  • Could you perhaps release to a limited set of top users to get feedback from your most trusted fans?
  • Do you play with potential new features privately before rolling them out to the public?

Progression

Progression drives engagement. Users want that next level, reward and to see how far they’ve come.

  • Do you constantly give users feedback on their progress via stats, progress bars or other means?
  • Is there more data you could surface to show users their progress for multiple things, in multiple views?
  • Could you use progress data in creative ways to entertain the user such as using the data to power a meta-experience?

Punishment

Punishment has always been used in game design to keep users from doing something you don’t want them to. In traditional gaming if you make a mistake, you might die. In Experience Design, you should use punishment carefully as it could turn off some users.

  • Are you currently punishing your users for actions you don’t want them to do?
  • Do the users feel it’s fair?
  • Can you use decay in your experience so that users must return or they begin to lose something?
  • Are you currently using any form of punishment that is excessive and users generally dislike that you could remove?

Quests

Quests lead users on a journey. In many experiences this really ends up being just a list of tasks you should complete, ordered or not, to receive X reward.

  • Can you create unique quests that help build character?
  • Can you create many quests of varying levels of difficult and time length requirements so that you have some that take only minutes and others that take months to complete?
  • Do you give difficult appropriate rewards for the completion of Quests or perhaps a unique reward for the most difficult ones?
  • If users have completed parts of a quest they don’t know about, are they informed?
  • Can you create Quests that create competition and/or collaboration?

Rewards

Rewards are fundamental to good Experience Design. Having the right Rewards is key to making sure users feel their is value to their actions. Keep in mind rewards are not necessarily physical or even things like points, sometimes acknowledgment and status are the most important rewards.

  • Do users care about your rewards?
  • Do you have unique rewards that users will cherish?
  • Do your rewards seem to be appropriate for the level of difficulty it takes to acquire them?
  • Can you possibly give users a choice in what kind of rewards they get?

Real-time v. Delayed Mechanics

Realtime information flow is uninhibited by delay. Delayed information is only released after a certain interval.

Example: Realtime scores cause instant reaction (gratification or demotivation). Delayed causes ambiguity which can incent more action due to the lack of certainty of ranking.

Risk

Risk stimulates our instincts and can make things seem more exciting when something is on the line.

  • Can you create more opportunities for users to take a risk?
  • Can you make the risks optional so they have meaning and users can chose to participate or not?
  • Can you use risk to simultaneously increase engagement and fun while also providing a Sink to help balance your Virtual Economy?
  • Do you have limits to risk set to protect against users losing too much and burning out?
  • Does risk add to your Gamified Experience or does it create a sense of unfairness to users if elements of chance are involved?

Rolling Physical Goods

A physical good (one with real value) that can be won by anyone on an ongoing basis as long as they meet some characteristic. However, that characteristic rolls from player to player.

Example: top scorer deals, mayor deals

Rules

Rules make experience engagement possible. As with many things, rules must be carefully planned to insure balanced and fun engagement.

  • Do users clearly understand the rules of the product?
  • Do you have some rules that are community policed?

Self-Expression

Self-Expression if properly done leads to a feeling of accomplishment and ownership which can result in loyalty.

  • How do you enable and encourage self-expression?
  • Do you allow users to make meaningful choices which might allow self expression?
  • Do your users have the ability to use a picture of themselves or character as an avatar?
  • If so, can they customize the avatar?

Skill / Chance Balance

Skill is the core of most engaging experiences. An “Experience” requiring no skill will eventually become boring. users love to feel they’ve became better or mastered a scenario. Some users love chance whereas others despise it and want everything to be based off of skill. The vast majority are perfectly fine with a nice balance of both.

  • How might you add more skill to your experience?
  • Is Skill optional?
  • Do you accommodate beginners while still providing a deep challenge to experts?

It is critical to balance skill/chance in your Experience. You may decide to have only one or the other but typically it’s best to have both. The balance really depends on your product Target and your goals.

Status

Status is of immense importance in experience design. It separates “them” from “us” and gives loyal users a feeling of belonging.

  • In your “Experience” how can you empower users with meaningful status?
  • Does status give them anything of reward?
  • Do other users know this?
  • How do you show the change of status? Do you show it just to the user or to others?
  • How can you give a user the chance to indirectly flaunt their status?
  • Have you taken advantage of multiple forms of visible status, such as status titles, levels, tiers, rank?
  • Can you find a way to give users status not just globally but locally based on friends, geography or some other creative way?

Social Interactions

Social Interaction is important to build a community, increase virality and encourage competition and collaboration.

  • Is your Experience enabling Social Interaction?
  • Are users rewarded for interacting with their friends?
  • Do you give users ways to compete or collaborate with one another?
  • Do users know how to contact each other and have open communication channels?
  • Do you have social interactions that take into account multiple “friend spheres” such as facebook, twitter, local users etc.?
  • Do you enable users to do light social interactions or “ping” one another through some action in the experience? If so, is there some substance to how you enable this and various ways to achieve it?

Story

Story is one of the most important aspects of Experience Design. While typically not so important in digital design, there are opportunities to have story elements in the new Experience economy.

  • Can you produce episodic content that is unveiled as the user advances?
  • Can you generate a story based on the Achievements and Facts about a user?
  • Can a meta experience be created that uses the data from the original experience to create a new experience that has a story-arc?
  • Can users create their own story content and share with others?

Surprise

Surprise seems simple, but it’s very important. People love to be surprised with something they didn’t expect and surprises are known to have an emotional impact on us that we remember.

  • What can you do to surprise users in a positive way?

Get creative, surprise is one of those areas that is so broad that you’ve really got to open your imagination.

Time

Time is our friend and enemy, a relentless and inevitable force.

  • How do you use time to your advantage?
  • Do you use scarcity of time to your advantage?
  • Do you use features such as countdowns, timers etc. to maximum effect?
  • Do you use cool downs so users will come back again and again when an ability, action or event is available again?
  • Do you use decay over time to insure users return?
  • Do you give bonuses based on time spent engaged or in any other creative way?
  • Experiences where your time is the score?

Unlockables

Unlockables are a great way to show progress in a cool way. users can unlock areas, specials, levels, status, achievements etc.

  • How might you implement locked content and unlockables to make users excited when they’ve unlocked something?
  • How can you create artificial scarcity with locked content in order to enable unlocking?

Urgent Optimism

Extreme self motivation. The desire to act immediately to tackle an obstacle combined with the belief that we have a reasonable hope of success.

Example: From Jane McGonical’s TED talk. The idea that in proper experiences an “epic win” or just “win” is possible and therefore always worth acting for.

User Experience

User Experience has become an art form and just like with other technology is very important to insure users have a pleasant experience. When pimping a non-experience you must keep in mind the original user experience and how Neuro Mechanics will affect that experience in a negative or positive way.

  • Does your design hurt or help the original Experience?
  • Do users clearly understand the Experience, it’s purpose, Rules and how to participate?
  • Can you empower users to change how they use certain features?
  • Are you properly using your UI to influence users to take the actions you want them to?
  • Is any part of the experience painful for a user and reducing fun?

Vanity

Mirror, mirror… Many users love recognition and love to hear about themselves.

  • What features can you create to feed user’s vanity?
  • Can you create a “Customer of the Week” or similar concept so users will want the chance to be recognized for their efforts?
  • Can you do something to make users most important Achievements known to their friends, or everyone?
  • Is there a way you can more personalize feedback and communications to target the specific user so they feel special?

Virality

Virality is important to growth of user base which if done right should enrich an experience.

  • How can you increase virality?
  • How might you encourage users to “recruit” new users willingly?
  • Are your viral mechanics fun and natural or do they interfere with the flow and experience?

Virtual Goods

Virtual Goods help to build community, economy and a sense of ownership.

  • Have you created virtual goods that users care about?
  • Could you create virtual goods that actually serve some function?
  • Can you use the power of “Vanity” to make items seem more special?
  • Can you create scarcity to drive demand for items?
  • Can virtual goods be traded, gifted etc. to help build a community?
  • Do you allow users to customize their virtual goods?

Conclusion

It’s a wondrous thing the new world of Digital Engagement and your options are limitless. Just stop and have a think about some of the above before you crack on design things… you might find once you’ve launched you get a bit more engagement  and a bit less attrition.

(Based on an original article at Badgeville)

[MARKETING MAGAZINE] : #SXSW14 Neuromarketing is the next step in engagement

SOURCE: Marketing Magazine, 13th March 2014

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Pete Trainor, associate director, UX, part of Sapient Nitro

Successful brands today are manipulating consumers’ minds to better their sales in new and developed ways, claims Pete Trainor, associate director, UX, part of SapientNitro. Here he walks us through his SXSW talk, “Is there a neurological recipe for success?”

Even before the age of Mad Men, marketers were trying to tap into the human subconscious to influence consumers to buy their products. You could argue that we, in the marketing industry, are in the habit-forming business – we build products meant to persuade people to do what we want them to do.Since advertising began, the mass public has been influenced by the images they walk past, see in the press and have beamed into their eyes through their TVs.

Smirnoff as an example used a technique called ZMET – Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique – in their advertising throughout the 2000s. Images were manipulated in the shape of the Smirnoff bottle to make the passer-by stop and study the shot.

The essence of ZMET reduces to exploring the human unconscious with specially selected sets of images that cause a positive emotional response and activate hidden images, metaphors stimulating the purchase.The major thinking part of human activity (over 90%), including emotion, takes place in the subconscious area that is below the levels of controlled awareness. In today’s new technological landscape, it’s now even easier to reward that part of the subconscious brain and influence behaviour towards engagement.

Turning brands into habit

Turning brands into daily or weekly habits is the key in the next stage of consumer engagement. It’s what I call “Neuro CX” or Neuro Customer Experience. An experience with a brand that is immersive and can quickly become a habit.

Personalisation is starting to get really prescriptive because of big data in digital experiences.

A lot of the branded utilities that we’re creating are also something that we want to use to make the public’s life better, by facilitating a healthful habit. Nike Fuel, for example, is a habit-building product that, at its core, aims to create loyalty whilst reminding us every time we hit the button that Nike is still a brand that’s relevant.

Nir Eyal, who wrote the book ‘Hooked’, says “If manipulation is a designed experience crafted to change behaviour, then Weight Watchers, one of the most successful mass-behaviour change products in history, fits the definition”. Manipulation and influence can’t be all bad.

Personalisation is starting to get really prescriptive because of big data in digital experiences. The data is there now to create highly relevant experiences which in turn can enrich a consumer experience. Amazon targets products at you that they think you’d like based on your spending patterns for example.

Old retargeting methods are out

Instead of using old retargeting methods, such as showing someone an ad for a car that person just viewed online, brands are using new technologies to help them decide, often in advance, whether a consumer should be shown an ad for, say, a luxury car or an inexpensive car, or any car at all.

Social media companies work with advertisers to help segment users based on their Facebook data. Facebook can tell an advertiser that a group of mothers using the site are talking about sending their children to a festival, and a big manufacturer of say, sun cream, could create an ad campaign that focuses on children using their product at a festival.

Facebook can also help the manufacturer categorise consumers as heavy or light buyers of sun cream and determine the number of ads each group will see. Those who buy less may see fewer ads than those who buy more.

Online retail is one part of the economy that is really doing well in this space. Indeed, the statistics show it is a substantial success story bringing in record business for firms like John Lewis.

The psychological approach

Retailers often talk about offerings, design and functions. But that focuses on the website and its mechanics. The companies that are doing well online lay their focus at the other end of the relationship; they focus on their visitors and customers, relegating the website itself to the lesser part of the equation. In other words, the successful retailers focus on online customer behaviour, taking a psychological approach, rather than a technical one.

Brain scanning research shows that website visitors make the decision as to whether to stay or to click away within 600 milliseconds.

This is evident in online retailers such as ASOS who changed their strategy a few years ago. Their website has several psychological triggers which show their visitors they need to stay. The same is true for Next or John Lewis. These firms provide psychological signals that the visitor can interpret within seconds. Brain scanning research shows that website visitors make the decision as to whether to stay or to click away within 600 milliseconds.

Traditional retailers are used to having several minutes in which to engage their customers. Plus they can manipulate things like lighting, temperature and sound, to make the shopping experience more enticing. But online retailers have only seconds and they cannot manipulate those environmental factors that increase the likelihood of buying.

Neuromarketers: exploiters?

Other examples of the manipulation of the mind to better advance product sales are; Microsoft mining EEG data to understand users’ interactions with computers including their feelings of “surprise, satisfaction and frustration”.

Google made some waves when it partnered with MediaVest on a “biometrics” study to measure the effectiveness of YouTube overlays versus pre-rolls. Result: Overlays were much more effective with subjects. Daimler employed fMRI research to inform a campaign featuring car headlights to suggest human faces which tied to the reward centre of the brain.

All the successful brands are doing it. But the practice is not without its critics and issues. First, consumer advocates and other groups have claimed neuromarketers are exploiting people to “sell us stuff we don’t need” and creating unhealthy and irresponsible addictions and cravings.

Ian Bogost, the famed game creator and professor, calls the wave of habit-forming technologies the “cigarette of this century” and warns of equally addictive and potentially destructive side-effects. However, I believe the customer is smart enough to make up their own mind and we’re simply helping them make better, more relevant decisions.

Applied Neuro CX

All this theory about Neuro CX is great, but what can we do to implement it into functionally? What exactly can we do to get the Reward Centre flooded with dopamine & create habits?

To start, let’s look at some insight into habit, inspired by the book Killer UX Design by the brilliant Jodie Moule.

Define a habitual user

How often do you want someone to use the product? What do they do? How long do you want them to stay? How often do you want them to visit? These questions will help you to outline what you are expecting up front before you launch. This is easier to do if your product already exists, but try to estimate what you’d expect or hope for, at a minimum.

Focus on behavior

Remember, we are focused on users’ behavior, and what creates a habit varies for the type of service you deliver. Focus on individual users and what they are doing, and assess if they’re making your product a habit or not. The overall active user rate is not predictive; it is what they are actually doing that should be the focal point.

Plan out the Macro & Micro usage thoughts. How many times a day, week, or month do you see as realistic usage? Set a clear expectation for overall frequency of use of your product, but try to be realistic. Everyone wants users to engage daily, or even hourly—but few products manage this. The context of your product will help guide what you can sensibly expect.

Then it’s important to plan where in the process of behavioural change to target activities that stimulate the Reward Centre. Timing is everything in the game of addiction – grab people at their most susceptible or vulnerable. Behaviour change occurs during the covert and overt activities that people use to progress through an engagement with a service or experience.

There are ten such processes as explained by Prochaska:

  1. Consciousness Raising (Increasing awareness)
  2. Dramatic Relief (Emotional arousal)
  3. Environmental Re-evaluation (Social reappraisal)
  4. Social Liberation (Environmental opportunities)
  5. Self Re-evaluation (Self reappraisal)
  6. Stimulus Control (Re-engineering)
  7. Helping Relationship (Supporting)
  8. Counter Conditioning (Substituting)
  9. Reinforcement Management (Rewarding)
  10. Self Liberation (Committing)

The first five are classified as Experiential Processes and are used primarily for the early stage transitions.

The last five are labeled Behavioral Processes and are used primarily for later stage transitions.

People pass through a series of stages when changes occur. They are:

  1. Pre-contemplation
  2. Contemplation
  3. Preparation
  4. Action
  5. Maintenance
  6. Relapse

The opportunity for small, sustained positive reinforcement occur at 2,3,4 & 5. In theory if we get these moments loaded full of dopamine stimulation then pre-contemplation is taken care of by your herd (more on that later!) and relapse is prevented because a person is positively engaged throughout the experience.

Set the baseline

Once launched, you are in a position to collect and analyze data around habits. Measure at intervals how many of your users actually fit the definitions you set at baseline, and then at different time periods post-launch (monthly, quarterly, six-monthly).

Who is dropping off and why? Understand who engages with your product and who dumps it. Try to uncover why that might be the case using UX methods.

Measuring behavior is a job done longitudinally and there is no way of hastening time. The best results are taken over a long period, and during this time anything could change—so hang in there. There are also slow starts.

There is no magic percentage you can assign to assess whether your product is creating a habit. Actual user behavior patterns are most predictive of an eventual habit.

Evolution, Not Revolution

Iteration as an approach to learning continues even after you’ve launched, and is backed (or refuted) by larger volumes of customer data that reflect actual use of your product.

You need to take these learnings and continue to evolve your design, but keep in mind that it is about evolution rather than revolution at this stage of the game. You are not looking to fundamentally change your design approach, but rather to tweak and refine based on a new level of understanding of your customers’ needs and habits.

Observe the Early Adopters of Your Product

Watching the early adoption of your product will allow you to ascertain where the real value of your product lies for your users, helping you to then shape the product in new or unexpected ways.

A great TED talk with Evan Williams, the co-founder of Twitter, reveals how watching early adopters of the product helped to uncover hidden value that was not imagined in its creation.

In this talk, Evan discusses how Twitter was originally created as a broadcast medium. Users shaped its evolution by inventing ways of doing things; for example, using the @ handle evolved from users shouting out to other users they knew whom they wanted to draw into their discussions; it was not part of the original design.

Similarly, the use of the hashtag [#] to search for like items was not originally designed, but created by a third-party provider as a way to locate content as the service grew and evolved. Twitter then purchased this service, and the hashtag became an invaluable way of locating content across all posts.

What does a habitual user look like?

Once you’ve launched, identify the behaviors that differentiate your habitual users from the rest, and try to identify the tipping point that took them from normal user status to habitual user status. It will take more than stats to uncover the answer, and this is where follow-up contact with your users will be useful to uncovering the “why.”

Before you go see users in the wild, check your data and formulate a hypothesis about their usage and why they might have taken a certain pathway that other users have not.

Model Your Top Users’ Habits

Target your devoted users and try to understand their usage and behavior in detail so that you can apply learnings from this group to the rest of your user group. Understand what it was that hooked them more strongly than standard users so that you can then use this information to attract a new group or convert others.

You could focus on data and drill down to see what they did and where they went within your product, uncovering the patterns and areas that drove their usage. Alternatively, pull out your UX methods again and talk to your most passionate users about how they use the product; monitor them in their own context and ask them to keep a diary through the trial so that you can uncover greater detail than stats alone can give you. Your devotees will love it!

Identify from your data commonalities among the habitual users to see if there is a pattern that led to a habit that can be translated across a wider group.

Modify Based on What You Learn

What you learn post-launch will allow you to focus on aspects to further develop and refine your product. You’ll also be able to market your product to new users in a way that directs them towards the end you seek.

To reach a deeper level of understanding, head out of the office and start talking to the real users of your product once again. This should help you to add context to the analytical data you’ve collected. Key areas for expanding your learning at this stage are:

What are hurdles to engagement with the product or features, if any?
What gaps do competitor’s products fill that yours don’t?
Is the problem your product solves one that customers want solved?
Are your strategies influencing users’ behavior towards the desired result?
Which aspects of the product resonate with users, and which do not? (In this sense, you understand the aspects of the original vision that have been validated, and those areas that are not resonating.)
Remember: with product design, it’s about evolution, not revolution.

Other thoughts on executing NeuroCX

As well as the strategic considerations above, there’s a whole wave of tactical things we can do to fire up the reward centre & back in NeuroCX into our products;

Data collection

  1. The first question(s) you ask a user should trigger a positive feeling – Consider the idea that you might actively provide or suggest that a user listens to their favourite song during registration. It’s scientifically proven to flood the Reward Centre and put the user into a positive state of mind.
  2. Don’t collect too much data in one foul swoop. Seek to collect only the minimum with the intention of collecting a stack of additional data throughout the duration of the experience. Play the long game.
  3. In a registration or application that has to collect a lot, consider offering a recess. A deliberate break in proceedings. If it seems annoying then it’s probably the right thing to do. It helps the brain retain the knowledge already passed into the system and makes the user feel in control.
  4. Offer data collection milestones. Literally reward someone with a discount or virtual token of some kind the more data they give you.
  5. Allow users to donate this virtual token as a gift to entice new members, which in turn could gift them with more points or rewards. Generosity gets the dopamine flowing.

Content strategy

  1. Don’t give everything away for free. It’s vital that content is earned. It might seem cynical, but it’s crucial for brain stimulation that a user feels like they’ve achieved something. Content is a great vehicle to do that.
  2. Link content exposure or / and tone of voice to level or score. The more a user grows, the more content you release or give them access too – Progressive disclosure and Asymmetric Paternalism.
  3. Reward a user for sharing content and influencing the Viral Loop. The net for new users widens, the generosity dopamine kicks in and associative conditioning teaches the user that sharing feels good and is rewarded.
  4. Break content into small parts and drop the full edit over a long period of time. Create cliff-hangers. It’s going to fly in the face of our natural inclination, but you have to be willing to accept that this approach might be annoying. The positives however, certainly outweigh the negatives. You’ll keep users wanting to come back and make it easier for them to learn too.
  5. If content is king, then the maven is its queen.

Ongoing engagement (maintenance and CRM)

  1. Make sure people are constantly made aware of progress. Even small steps like “congratulations, this is your 1st week engaged in X, Y & Z” give positive reassurance and stimulate the reward centre and feelings of achievement.
  2. Similarly, contrary to popular rhetoric, make people aware of negative behaviours, but don’t punish them for it (progress moves you forward and unlocks new content and levels, negative just stalls progress – a blip in the road, not a u-turn).
  3. Show people where they rank amongst a subset of close peers. The maven loves to be made to feel that they are valued and among the elite. Being elite doesn’t mean the ultimate best, it can be the best in your vicinity.
  4. Make sure you use the ongoing triggers to teach new things. Knowledge grows exponentially. The more we know, the greater our ability to learn, and the faster we expand our knowledge base.

You get the idea… Just give people joygasms as regularly as possible!

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A neurological recipe for success

 Do something for me please – before you get too comfy, get out your iPod or go to your stereo and put on your FAVORITE song and listen to it while you read this post. You’ll find out why later. Cheers.

Done? Awesome. Read on then friends.

I believe that all clear-minded people should remain two things throughout their lifetimes: curious and teachable. ― Roger Ebert

In 2013 I went on a journey into human motivation. I set out to try and understand not just what a good experience is, but why a good experience is a good experience. It’s changed the way I look at creating services, tools, apps, marketing and stories. More than ever it’s important to make Customer Experience that stands out from the competition and I believe there is a basic recipe for success.

Welcome to the most powerful tool in digital… The Brain

It’s a busy little organ the brain. It’s tireless, it never takes a vacation and has work to do 24/7. A continuously evolving organ made up of lots of little compartments for doing lots of little things & is the most complex organ in the body. A three-pound mass of gray and white matter that sits at the center of all human activity – you need it to drive a car, to enjoy a meal, to breathe, to create an artistic masterpiece, and to enjoy everyday activities. In brief, the brain regulates your basic body functions; enables you to interpret and respond to everything you experience; and shapes your thoughts, emotions, and behavior. It’s fuelled by a combination of genetic based learnings – called fluid intelligence – and experiential based learnings – known as crystallised intelligence.

What is Neuro CX?

The beginning of wisdom, is the definition of terms – Socrates

It’s to do with NeuroMarketing, right? Nah… Not this one. A totally different thing. It’s got manipulating the brain in common, but Neuro CX is about longevity and teaching consumers to repeat behavior and start associating those repeated behaviors to good feelings, good experiences and the brands that supply them.

It’s about tapping into crystalilised intelligence and making people want to continuously open your app, or visit your website or engage with your product.

The challenge for any provider is creating continuous sustained usage with users. Remember, products used daily create a barrier to entry for competitors in their market. If your users are unable to imagine life without your product, you can safely say you’ve met your goal. So what makes a habit?

When a human encounters an experience (offline, online, good or bad) and it is deemed a ‘sensation‘ – i.e “that was amazing” or “that was terrible” – the brain releases the chemical dopamine which lets an areas of the brain called the ‘Reward Centre‘ know to deliver a sense of pleasure or pain, happiness or sadness and focus the attention of the individual so that he or she learns to repeat the behaviour (or not) again and again. When you think about some of the great technology solutions of the last 20 years, many share a common ground: they create a habit. When technology has created a habit in people, a person’s use of a product is automatic, without thought.

The reward center of the brain is critically involved in mediating the effects of reinforcement. A reward is an appetitive stimulus given to a person to alter behavior. Rewards typically serve as reinforcers. A reinforcer is something that, when presented after a behavior, causes the probability of that behavior’s occurrence to increase. It’s also how positive experiences remain engrained with an individual. We are literally genetically programmed to remember positive and negative things and if we like them, repeat them over and over until it becomes a habit.

The more you can get the user to do something without making a conscious decision, the stronger the habit becomes. Frequency of use leads to the creation of a habit in your users; so if your users are coming back regularly, it’s likely that habits are forming.

You can read a more in-depth overview of the biological bit here.

There are three major mechanisms we can use to manipulate the reward center. Put them together and we have Neuro CX;

  1. Expanding scenarios linked to sustained progress and instant gratification (Joygasms)
  2. Encouraged altruism (Kudos)
  3. Repeated, interrupted experiences (Commas)

A lot of tools, websites, social media and apps offer one or some of the above… But it’s the really really sticky (read ‘Addictive’) experiences that give the user a little hint of all three.

Expanding scenarios linked to sustained progress and instant gratification – Joygasms

Associate Conditioning

Associating good feelings with desire to repeat an action, task or activity is where things start to get interesting. We call this “associative conditioning” and it’s this response of learning that positive feeling is linked to certain experiences that we can bake into our work.

If we get really contrived with it, we may even be able to encourage addiction to a service or function. Scientists have long known that the release of dopamine is strongly associated with addictive behaviours. Addictions occur when the brain betrays the body, causing feelings of pleasure from activities.

By creating certain ‘ideal conditions’ that stimulate the Reward Centre we can create repeat behaviour. Similarly we can also introduce negative scenarios and teach people to avoid things too.

Researchers at the University of Iowa have observed that emotions persist in individuals even after they forget the cause, an important clue about how the brain stores different kinds of information and worth remembering when we plan our experiences. The act of doing might vanish from conscience thought, but the feeling whist doing could remain.

Even though emotions seem fused together with memories in our stream of consciousness, it turns out that this is not the case.

Here’s another random but interesting one: A recent study published in the journal of Neuropsychopharmacology suggests that despite the bitter taste, the chemicals in beer also trigger the brain’s reward system. This pleasurable effect might explain why we’re so willing to keep drinking past the first sip — until intoxication takes over, and we’ll drink just about anything after we’re drunk. It may also explain why some people can drink casually while others slip into alcoholism.

It’s the Reward System that these artificial stimulants fire up and why drugs & alcohol can be addictive & what we can recreate the conditions of using digital.

The trick to this is also capturing people in the moment of intent – at that point where they’re deciding to or not do something like going to lunch and looking for a place to eat, or deciding whether to walk or drive to work in the morning… hit them in the moments with a little nudge of generosity and repeat that behavior over and over at the same time until the behavior is changed; “Check your balance – POSITIVE REWARD” … “Check your balance – POSITIVE REWARD” … “Check your balance – POSITIVE REWARD” … “Check your balance – NEGATIVE NUMBER, BUT DON’T FEAR, YOU’RE ON THE RIGHT TRACK, KEEP GOING YOU STUD” … “Check your balance – POSITIVE REWARD”.

These notifications need to be planned and intended to spur activity in the moment, deployed at just the right time. Built around a very important idea: Adding notifications to a service isn’t just good for letting us see what we’ve done. It’s also crucial for building services that can tell us what we should be doing.

Activity tracking is one thing; activity tweaking is something else entirely. That’s why real-life coaches are so great. They help you set goals that are relevant to your life, and they help push you to achieve them. They’re personal. This is the piece that most services have missed thus far and that we need to get better at to make Neuro CX a real possibility.

You have to create your service with the ability to constantly slurp up data from your world and sort notifications into two broad categories. The first are the notifications you get when things happen and reward you with a pat on the back when you hit a Streak or a Milestones.

There’s a dopamine response that happens when you get a digital pat on the back. Actually being able to connect that dopamine response to the behavior is very powerful to the feedback cycle.

Travis Bogard, VP of Product Management and Strategy at Jawbone

The other preemptive notifications need to come through a more structured goal feature which lets the user opt into day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, year-to-year goals. Telling you that you’re on track with the bigger things in life. The virtual equivalent of a beckoning spouse – Helping you at decision points born not out of a domestic routine but data, algorithms, and  connectivity.

Encouraged Altruism – Kudos

During this kind of highly structured, self-motivated hard work, we regularly achieve the greatest form of happiness available to human beings: intense, optimistic engagement with the world around us. We feel fully alive, full of potential and purpose–in other words, we are completely activated as human beings. – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Another major factor that can effect and trigger the Reward Center is altruism. MRI studies have revealed that when we perform an act of kindness, the Reward Center is aroused and we experience feelings of pleasure. The brain is flooded with happiness-inducing dopamine whenever we share something we think other people might find useful or help out someone deemed to be in need, or worse off than ourselves. So getting people to pass things around (once you’ve rewarded them with it in the first place) could be another great way of getting people addicted or immersed in your content;

You earned 100 points, unlocked the best content yet – Why not share that content or how you got to it with your friends & earn an extra 50 points.

Stand back, possible dopamine explosion imminent. The ego has landed.

The oh-so-exciting “Frontiers in Human Neuroscience“, also shed new light on how the brain responds to reward and translates it into extraverted behaviour; “Rewards like food, sex and social interactions as well as more abstract goals such as earning money or getting positive peer recognition also trigger the release of dopamine in the brain, producing positive emotions and feelings of desire that motivate us to work toward obtaining those goals even more. In extroverts, this dopamine response to rewards is more robust so they experience more frequent activation of strong positive emotions,”.

This reinforces my belief that the mavens (a trusted expert in a particular field or someone who seeks to pass knowledge on to others) have to be the crucial first wave of people to be introduced into a new service or product before release to the general populous. Beta should not be a place fir everybody, it absolutely has to be a carefully targeted thing that finds and recruits the extroverts who are going to end up being the dopamine fuelled messengers and recruiters to your new service or product. Rewarding those mavens is also crucial because the Dopamine released facilitates memory of the circumstances that are associated with the reward moment which is a significant role in sustaining extroverted behaviour. Extroverts show a greater association of context with reward than introverts, which means that over time, extroverts will acquire a more extensive network of reward-context memories that activate their brain’s reward system.

If you think about the reward center in the context of an extrovert, it’s possible that something like posting on Facebook & the ‘Likes’ generated over time from the generosity of sharing, can literally become addictive to an extrovert & therefore encourage even more sharing in order to get more likes & so on & so on. It’s why some people share so much of their lives in such a sustained & open fashion. It taps right into the part of their psyche that gets joy & reward for the generosity of telling people they’ve just done something inept or found something kinda useful.

I myself am probably as I type getting high on the idea that the 2 people who read this post might share it. Bonus.

Repeated, interrupted pleasure points – commas

The Zeigarnik Effect

Let me go back to a previous post I’ve made about the ideals of gamification and in particular the Zeigarnik Effect. It covers a simple principle – People remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. Sounds a bit mad I know, but it’s true.

The “cliffhanger” just may be the oldest trick in the story-telling book, especially for television and there is a reason why it’s used to great affect… you want to tune back in!

Despite numerous exposures to this method, our brain just can’t “get over” suspenseful moments: it’s a relationship that just won’t die, we will always want to know what happens next!

In fact, suspense works so well that the Zeigarnik Effect would have you believe that it’s the best way to kill procrastination.

Research in that area seems to point to humans being much more inclined to finish something that has already been started (researchers interrupted people doing “brain buster” tasks before they could complete them… nearly 90% of people went on to finish the task anyway, despite being told they could stop).

A University of Maryland study of undergraduates found that after a physics lecture by a well-regarded professor, almost no students could provide a specific answer to the question, “What was the lecture you just heard about?”. Another study by Kansas State University found that after watching a video of a highly rated physics lecture, most students still incorrectly answered questions on the material. When students were quizzed about a fact presented only 15 minutes earlier, only 10 percent showed any sign of remembering it.

Suspense in stories really allows you to create addictive, memorable content, as long as the suspense appears early enough in the activity and is combined with a positive ending or reward – Now we’re getting into Neuro CX.

Consider the idea that lots of positive, but unfinished tasks, start to shape a formula for successful and sticky experiences that people will want to engage with and repeat over and over again.

This is of course nothing new – It’s just the old nudge strategy mapped back to some new thinking and neurological reasoning. But by breaking things down and mapping seemingly dispirit principles together, I’ve done is make us realise just how important it is to plan in a solid set of these functions in every single project I work on.

Nice work fella, you just read a piece of content about Investing… have 5 points. 10 bits of content read… have 100 points. But no more today, tomorrow is a better day to unlock your destiny.

Positive Distractions Help You Remember

The Zeigarnik effect also suggests that people who suspend their primary task and engage in totally unrelated activities such as playing games, will remember the primary material better than those who complete tasks without a break. We should literally be interrupting task flow with totally unrelated, positive experiences.

It’s possible that interrupting people mid-registration or an important application might be something for us to try. Literally going against what we’ve been preaching for over a decade now. Instead of making registration simple and quick, let’s make it longer but bite-sized. Lewin’s Field Theory states that a task or experience that has already been started, establishes a task-specific tension. This tension, once established is relieved upon completion of the task. In the case of task interruption the reduction of tension is being impeded. Through continuous tension the content can be more easily remembered.

It’s also great if the positive secondary experience is not directly linked to your primary, because we can teach consumers something totally random and they’ll begin to associate that with the brand or procedure that served it up + distract them from potentially dull or time consuming primary subject matter.

For alcoholics, research has found that even the sight or smell of beer is rewarding to the brain, pushing them to drink – A secondary experience linked back to the primary drive. In a related study published by neuroscientist Valorie Salimpoor at the Montreal Neurological Institute, it was discovered that music can also activate the same reward circuits in the brain as alcohol.

In 2005 Teresa Lesiuk studied “the effect of music listening on work performance” and found that music promotes a “positive mood change and enhanced perception on design while working.” Results showed that quality of work was lowest when no music was played, and that individuals actually spent longer on a task when there was no music. On the other hand, those who who did listen to music finished their assignments more quickly and proposed better ideas.

An article from Psychology Today adds that while listening to music may be productive for some, it can be a distraction to others; therefore, they offered several things to consider when choosing music for productivity:

  • Use music with no words to avoid interfering with language tasks.
  • Silence is a kind of music and can be just as effective as music. If music is a distraction, try nature sounds.
  • Listen to music you like because it helps you feel better.
  • Try different speeds, or tempos, of music as it alters the mood and can help with tasks that require a different pace or energy.
  • Take musical breaks. A change of environment, even sonically can make a big difference in work productivity.

So here’s a thought for you – why not start to introduce new, totally random elements into traditionally boring tasks. For example, what if the first question in a long, drawn out banking application process was “what’s your favourite song Bob?” which drags the tune out of iTunes & plays an instrumental version of it in the background while you fill in the boring bits. In theory dopamine would flood the reward system and you’d feel positive throughout the experience. The perfect distraction to the dull job at hand. Associate Conditioning also starts to link the happy feeling with the task and / or brand too. It might not be as random as it sounds.

Summary

I’ve also put together another post around applied application of NeuroCX here.

In theory if I was practicing what I’m preaching I would have stopped halfway through the article and offered you a game and then released the rest of the article tomorrow. Trust me, you’d have come back – You wouldn’t have been able to ‘not’ too!

Neuro CX is about by-passing the reptilian brain in order to THRIVE instead of SURVIVE. The reptilian brain is based in survival mode which elicits impulsive programmed responses (constant reaction to present triggers). Characteristics of the Reptilian brain include dominance (dominate or be dominated), aggression, sex and seeking a mate, rigidity, obsessiveness, compulsiveness, worship, fear, submission and greed. These are all constricting and limiting frequencies. Looking at the Limbic parts of the brain and tapping into the Reward Center start to open up huge possibilities in the field of UX and Experience Design.

A lot of people reading this might be thinking “gamification”, but NeuroCX is that thinking plus some more. The traditional explanation of ‘gamification’ would be something like; “Taking techniques from games and game design and applying them to non-gaming contexts”. But the biology behind good experience is far more complex and can be manipulated by more than just game thinking. The idea that badges (otherwise known as achievements or trophies, once you have completed a feat, challenge, or task) as a means to show your achievement are what makes something sticky is too simplistic, NeuroCX can be anything just as long as its sustained & continuous throughout a relationship with the product user. It’s the good vibe, not the little token.

I hope that by altering how digital is approached using NeuroCX we can improve motivation & change consciousness.

If consciousness is about awareness or how an individual perceives and interprets his or her environment, including beliefs, intentions, attitudes, emotions, and all aspects of his or her subjective experience, then in theory by creating experiences that make users neurologically addicted (how pompous does that sound!) and providing it to the widest possible audience, then we could change collective consciousness. Collective consciousness is essentially how a group (an institution, a society, a species) perceives and translates the world around them. Change a collective consciousness (Facebook anybody!?) and you create a fundamental shift in perspective or worldview that results in an expanded understanding of self and the nature of reality. The beliefs, attitudes, perceptions, and assumptions through which we filter our understanding of the world and our place in it also move.

It all sounds very complex and esoteric, but trust me when I say it’s not. In fact most of you are probably already doing bits of it by accident. However I do think it’s crucial that you use these facts of biology and behavior to actively guide clients and products towards better experiences. It should be inherently part of EVERY experience strategy, not just the ones you think need to be a bit gamey or kooky. Your project doesn’t have to be the next Nike Fuel to include Associative Conditioning – In fact it’s even better if it isn’t! Map it into your boring topics even more vigorously. Make them addictive. Make them pleasurable & make the user want to come back again and again.

Special thanks due to the Barclays Behavioural Finance team for inspiring me to explore the wider side of Experience Design outside of my normal box – Greg B Davis, Emily Haisley & Antonia Lim.

The CX of Visualising Data

Introduction – Visualizing the abstract

I’ve been working on a project over the last couple of months that’s opened my mind to a whole new place in UX that I’ve fallen deeply in love with. It’s always been there and I’ve always admired it, but I’ve never had to interact with it first hand and given it much studying until now. The area of Data Visualisation or InfoViz as I’ve been calling it with my clients.

I’ve got some new heroes in the form of Hans Rosling and David McCandless. Men who not only do the visual part, but have become voices that help articulate the importance of visualising data in ways that the normal user can consume. I love that quality in people.

By visualizing information, we turn it into a landscape that you can explore with your eyes, a sort of information map. And when you’re lost in information, an information map is kind of useful. We should allow the dataset to change our mindset and if we can do that, then maybe it can also change behavior. It’s a fascinating area.

David McCandless in one of his Ted Talks said the following; “We’re suffering from information overload and data glut. We need to help visualize information, so that we can see the patterns and connections that matter and then design that information so it makes more sense, or it tells a story, or allows us to focus only on the information.” Never truer words spoken about ANYTHING we do in UX, not just InfoViz.

Data is the new oil?

Lots of wonderful comparisons to natural resources when I having my adventures round data land. If the data is the kind of ubiquitous resource that we can mine and can shape to provide new innovations and new insights, and it’s all around us, and it can be mined very easily if we set our UX up to gather and harvest at the right times.

Graphis diagrams: The graphic visualization of abstract data

I recently found out about this book by Walter Herdeg, which is truly a great great thing if you can actually find a copy of it. The original was published in 1974 but still has some genius to it and the v.2 book is also full of thoughtful quality. A seminal vision for the convergence of aesthetics and information value, which codified the conventions of contemporary data visualization and information design. One of the 100 most influential design books of the past 100 years, it features work by icons like legendary designer and animator Saul Bass, Brain Pickings favorite Milton Glaser, TED founder Richard Saul Wurman and many more.

For instance, check out this beauty:

Examples

During my exploration for this project I’m working on I’ve stumbled upon a whole wealth of amazing InfoViz and I wanted to share my favorites with you so you can marvel at the Data, but also at the incredible Interaction Design and Visual Design that go into making InfoViz so magical.

Four Ways to Slice Obama’s 2013 Budget Proposal

With Obama’s recent budget for next year proposed, Shan Carter et. al of The New York Times let you explore the plan in their new interactive graphic. It provides four distinct views of what the breakdowns look like, all the while keeping a distinct link between each click with smooth transitions and consistent objects. The transitions make this graphic. It’s often useful to see data from different angles, and the smooth transitions (rather than abrupt jumps) let you see how things are and how they have changed, effectively. This is fine work. Click here to check it out in all its interactive glory.

The London Riots from The Guardian

The Guardian newspaper in the UK are the bonafide gurus in visualizing news information. Here are two amazing examples from the same news topic – The London Riots – and both prove just how incredibly talented the Guardian designers and InfoViz experts are + just how fascinating some of the data from the London Riots is.

The shooting of Mark Duggan on 4 August sparked a series of riots, first in Tottenham then across England. This timeline was created to follow the spread in interactive realtime, culminating in what could be the most incredible catalog of an even ever put into digital form. Their version of it for the Arab Springs was similarly fascinating and groundbreaking!

It’s both Visual and Visceral. Articulating time as a road is very clever and breaking events across the timeline by location is equally captivating. Massive kudos indeed – Click here to go have a fiddle and marvel at this one.

However… it wasn’t the jewel in the interactive InfoViz crown for the Guardian. Oh no… they kept that back for this:

The analysis of 2.6 million tweets shows Twitter is adept at correcting misinformation – particularly if the claim is that a tiger is on the loose in Primrose Hill and that’s exactly what they did with this amazing info t0ol:

Throughout the UK riots, many scanned the internet in search of reliable information. In the absence of confirmed news, the web was often the only way of tracking events. Amidst the hubbub, countless topics came and went. As worries mounted, speculation grew. Rare individuals requested sources, countered hearsay, sought the truth. The rise and fall of rumours on Twitter is a striking display of social forces in action. Click here to have a play, it’s really quite a breathtaking thing they’ve created.

Rethinking the food nutrition label

The food nutrition label is on almost every food item, but it can be confusing in the sense that it doesn’t tell you much about whether something is good or bad for you. The UC Berkeley School of Journalism hosted a challenge for designers and food experts to rethink the label.

We are confused about what and how to eat and so we’re eating too much of the wrong things. In fact, we’re eating too much of everything. Two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese. The obesity rate among preschoolers has doubled since 1970. Type 2 diabetes has become an epidemic. We want to make it easier to choose healthy food.

Visual designer Renee Walker won with her rework shown above. The rectangles on top of each label represent main ingredients, and bars on the bottom provide a quick thumbs or thumbs down for a breakdown of fat content, carbohydrates, etc. Icons of spoons and scoops are used to supplement serving size since no one knows what 182 grams looks or feels like. Click here to find out more.

Electricity Generated from Renewable Sources

I really enjoyed the simplicity and fluidness of this one. It’s basically a breakdown of energy consumption by country, by year. Simples. Check it out. This is the kind of thing that would normally be shown to the consumer as a table of data, or a bar chart. It’s a much more engaging experience when you can reach out and touch the data. Brilliant.

If you liked that one you might also like this one from the U.S, which is Your Electricity Bill redefined.

Political Climate Chart

Another great example of how to break 3 dimensions down into one clean interaction. Time, Issues & Political Party. The norm’ would be to add things onto a bar-chart or similar. This way we get something much more fun and something much easier to digest. Click here and have a go yourself. Some fascinating data.

Here’s another two from the U.S that give us interactive views of similar data scenarios. What a “Hundred Million Calls to 311 Reveal About New York” and the “US Health Care Spending: Who Pays?” breakdown.

Sources & great references

I’ve browsed A LOT of great resources recently and digested a lot of great InfoViz… here are some of the sources I’d recommend if you’re starting to fall in love with Data like I have like the carbonite offer codes:

Cartophile Cartographia
Chartsbin Chartporn
Cool Infographics Comicbook Cartography
Daily Infographic Daily Statistic
Data Visualization Everyday Venn
iGraphics Explained iLove Charts
This Is Indexed Information Design
InfoGraphic Directory Infographic Site
Info Graphic World Info Graphics News
Infograph Love Infosthetics
Information Is Beautiful Junk Charts
Flowing Data Fuck Yeah Visual Data
Mind Map Art Neoman Infographics
News Graphics Old Map
One More Graphic PD Viz
Social Media Graphics Mega Maps
Infographic Showcase Visualsing Data
Vizualize Viz World
Well Formed Data

Mobile by numbers

I’m fascinated by mobile. The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it… and I genuinely believe the digital world will change unrecognizably in the next couple of years because of mobile. A typical mobile user is on the go in an unpredictable environment, interested in quick glance-able information, focused on discrete individual tasks and is often distracted, so we’re already having to rethink our traditional approaches to accommodate this kind of behavior.

Mitch Joel at TedX Montreal made this brilliant statement; “We’re in a world of one line of connectivity. That’s us. You see… we don’t have to “go” to the internet any more because the internet is now an intricate part of our lives” which I think sums up effortlessly the UX we’re creating now. Context is King so circumstances or conditions that surround a person, place or thing affect behavior because content is of little value it it does not address the context of where you are. User Experience isn’t about lines & grids & boxes anymore, it’s about making sure content flows ubiquitously around users digital lives in a way that makes (common) sense.

2010 estimates put the world population at almost 6.8 billion inhabitants and it’s growing by 1.14% year on year. Eric Schmidt from Google estimates that there are about 35 billion devices connected to the internet at this junction in time and the U.N. Telecommunications Agency estimates that 77% of the population of the world own a mobile device. Soon there will be so many that we’ll probably stop counting.

There’s more to this as well… Former adviser to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, Professor Manuel Castells from Cisco predicts that by 2014, the number of mobile internet users will surpass the number of users browsing the internet via a desktop computer and a Morgan Stanley mobile report from 2010 backs this prediction up. Statistically modeling that if current rates continue by the middle of 2013 we’ll be using more mobile data up than fixed lined data.

Cisco also predict that mobile Internet traffic is expected to quadruple to a whopping 767 exabytes (one exabyte is equal to one billion gigabytes) a year by 2014.

So what was the tipping point? Well obviously smartphones have played their part in moving us forward into the a new mobile internet world, but it’s that pesky iPhone that made it ‘easy’. Increasingly, mobile phone usage is about Data not voice. An average mobile phone user uses their phone for 70% voice whereas an iPhone user is only 45% voice. The thing about mobile that’s so brilliant is that people can reach for the internet using whatever device makes sense to them at that time and where ever they may be.

Let’s look at some other fascinating numbers from a MediaScope Mobile Population Study conducted in 2010. In the UK, 76% of the population owns a mobile phone. The biggest market in the is the 14 to 24 age group and 87% of this age range own one or more mobile devices. A 2010 Mobile Shopping Study by Yahoo/Nielson revealed that 30% of respondents believe that mobile internet is more convenient than a home connection, sounds obvious but it’s still a relevant number because it proves users mental models are changing. 80% of people in the same Yahoo/Nielson study said that they use mobile during miscellaneous downtime and 76% use stated that they use mobile while waiting in line or for an appointment. 62% said they DIDN’T have time to interact with brands on phones unless it ‘got straight to the point’. 59% sometimes visit a site on a mobile and then follow up on the desktop and 34% visit a site on a desktop and follow up on a mobile. So users are starting to time-shift. 69% said that they use mobile for point of sale research while shopping and 62% use mobile while watching TV… So people are starting to interact with TV via their phones. Largely down to services like Twitter if we’re being subjective about this.

In 2010, 9 percent of Superbowl ‘Ad Blitz’ views were on mobile devices, which is why YouTube made the site mobile… In 2011, 23 million, 481 thousand & 693 people viewed Ad Blitz… with a staggering 3.45 million of those views coming from mobile… up to a cool 15% of views from last years 9%.

Simon Mainwaring, former Nike creative at Wieden & Kennedy said “[In the future] brands will no longer be places you visit, but people you meet along the road” which I think is an interesting way at looking at the new mobile trends and what that’s doing to brands.

…and get this… the most expensive item sold via ebay’s mobile app was a 1985 Piper PA-46-310P Malibu airplane for $265,000 according to Mashable and Marketing Week told us in January that the largest purchase on the M&S mobile website at Christmas in 2010 was two sofas costing over £3000! People are making serious purchasing decisions straight from their pockets now. Something we never would have seen a few years ago. The sleeping dragon is awakening.

What about who people are currently using to interact with the internet? I’ll let the brilliant guys at www.icrossing.co.uk help me there with this mobile infograhic:

Good stuff. Apple clearly have the market wrapped up… but for how long I wonder. There’s that free platform that will easily interface with low cost components and it’s called ANDROID… I predict the market will change dramatically in the next 18 months because totally new handset manufacturers will have the ability to start to pop up running on Android. Put it like this:

a free operating system (Android)
+ dual core ARM 9 @ 416MHz2G GSM/EDGE
+ 2.8” QVGA resistive touch screen
+ 2MP camera
+ GPS
+ WIFI and BlueTooth silicon
= $90 components + plastic case
4 weeks to market!

Looks easy doesn’t it. Apple might be the giant, but the Google beast is going to be fighting them hard very very soon.

How about an interlude… let’s look at 2010 in a format that’s more digestible. This rapid-fire tour of 2010’s key consumer and technology mobile trends shows the staggering growth in consumer mobile usage across a dizzying array of applications and social media platforms.

Looks amazing doesn’t it. Summary:

Massive increase in apps downloaded

  • FIVE BILLION apps downloaded — up from 300 million in 2009

Whopping expansion of location-based services

  • FIVE MILLION Foursquare users — up from 200,000 users in 2009

Surge in mobile social media platforms

  • 347 PERCENT growth in Twitter mobile usage
  • 200 MILLION mobile Facebook Users
  • 100 MILLION YouTube videos played on mobile devices everyday

Ongoing explosion in data traffic

  • 3,000 PERCENT growth in one carrier’s data traffic since 2008
  • 3,339: average number of texts sent per month by US teens.

Unprecedented competition and choice

  • 96 PERCENT of mobile users can choose from 3 or more providers
  • 92 PERCENT of mobile users are satisfied with their provider
  • 4 CENTS: average voice rate per minute in the US
  • 77 MILLION: number of smartphones shipped in the fall of 2010.

So tell me I’m not going mad. The mobile world (mobile is beyond phone and encompasses anything internet connected away from a desk by the way – I’m mobile now & on my laptop!) is an exciting and potentially game changing one.

To be continued.

Competitor Benchmarking

We’re not supposed to give secrets away are we? Oh well… let’s break the rules & throw caution to the wind… I’m going to give you a leg-up on competitor benchmarking because it’s one of the most important tasks we perform in UX.

The term “benchmarking” is relatively new but the concept is as old as competition itself. Whether in industry, sport or in other aspects of our daily lives, we continually need to reference our own performance against others.

All of us benchmark most of the time without realizing it. At one time the concept was known as ‘interfirm comparisons’ because in an industrial sense, that is what it is.

As a task it’s important to make it very clear that this is ‘subjective analysis’ not ‘objective research’. You can of course go through stats if you have them and look at two or three websites against each other, but the chances of your having that kind of data are almost non-existent, so assume this is you as a UX person or intern looking at lots of different sites, following some rules & guidelines & grading them based on observation. Subjective observation. Doesn’t make it wrong, it does however make it someones opinion for a lot of things.

The criteria

So here’s a start for ten… if I was going to look at four sites and compare them against each other I’d take the the following areas & give each site a score out of 3. 1 being dreadful and 3 being top of the class. Scoring is of course entirely a decision you can make for yourself. I just like to keep it simple.

1 Findability

  1. Site was easy to find using Google
    • Search for brand found main site quickly
    • Search for “SOMETHING TO DO WITH THE INDUSTRY” directed me to this brand
  2. Search results were helpful

2 First Impressions

  1. Website was well branded
  2. Clarity of next steps was obvious (you found what you were looking for)
  3. The site is very product led
  4. The site is very campaign led
  5. The site has offers and incentives up front
  6. The site has clear data-capture opportunities up front

3 CTA effectiveness

  1. Visibility
  2. Clarity
  3. Simplicity
  4. Page position
  5. Competition from other messages

4 Ease of use

  1. Navigation
    • Simplicity
    • Contextual signposting
  2. Major headings on pages are clear & descriptive
  3. Styles & colors are consistent
  4. Emphasis (bold, etc.) is used sparingly
  5. Main copy is concise & explanatory
  6. URLs are meaningful & user‐friendly
  7. HTML page titles are explanatory

5 Content

  1. Emotional connection
  2. Commerce
  3. Tools

6 Accessibility

  1. Site load‐time is reasonable
  2. Adequate text‐to‐background contrast
  3. Font size/spacing is easy to read
  4. Flash & add‐ons are used sparingly

7 Personalisation

  1. Website can be personalised
  2. User can choose what content they are shown
  3. The experience can be customised to interest

As I mentioned… this isn’t an exhaustive list of criteria, it’s just the list I use and from time to time I change it on an ad-hoc basis dependent on the client I’m doing the benchmarking for. You’ve got to keep it flexible & play to the audience.

It’s actually what you do with the data that can be useful.

Analyzing and using the benchmark

Using something like Excel to do the benchmark I’d recommend giving each point on the list a score and then a final ‘average’ for each section (you’ll see what I mean on the sample spreadsheet I’ve attached). It’s the average score that you can then use to generate the chart(s) you’ll want to share with the client. I recommend using a ‘Radar’ chart for the visualisation. Simply because it overlays everything on top of each other in a way that lets you see exactly what the lay of the land is. They look fun too.

What I look for in a visualisation like this is not just where your client is performing well against it’s competitors, there’s a chance because of marketing etc that it always has and always will compete heavily in some areas more than others (like SEO / findability) what this shows us very quickly is where opportunities to disrupt the marketplace are. Take the example on the right, there’s clearly nobody in the area of personalisation. Move into that space before someone else & you can grab the point of don-displacement first.

Summary

A benchmark is a quick, simple way of hitting a client with some insight that will conceivably justify decisions you want to make as an agency. It also gives you an opportunity to go back to a client after you’ve done some work and say “You’re score in the area of XXXX was XX, it is now XX therefore we’ve improved usability”.

I’ve included a sample spreadsheet so you can have a fiddle. Punch in numbers where the 1’s are on the first sheet and you’ll see the rest generated automatically. Please note I don’t do technical support… so if you break it that’s not my problem… it’s literally to give you a foot-up and show you the idea.

Download sample benchmark

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Mobile Access 2010

The following stats come from a survey conducted by Pew Research at the end of 2010. It’s based on data collected from a survey in the U.S, however it’s fair to assume that relatively speaking the stats reflect behavioral shifts across most Western markets.

As of May 2010, 59% of all adults go online wirelessly. The definition of a wireless internet user includes the following activities:

  • Going online with a laptop using a wi-fi connection or mobile broadband card. Roughly half of all adults (47%) go online in this way, up from the 39% who did so at a similar point in 2009.
  • Use the internet, email or instant messaging on a mobile phone. Two in five adults (40%) do at least one of these using a mobile device, an increase from the 32% of adults who did so in 2009.
  • Taken together, 59% of adults now go online wirelessly using either a laptop or cell phone, an increase over the 51% of users who did so at a similar point in 2009.

The use of non-voice data applications on mobile phones has grown dramatically over the last few years. Compared with a similar point in 2009, mobile phone owners are now more likely to use their mobile phones to:

  • Take pictures—76% now do this, up from 66% in April 2009
  • Send or receive text messages—72% vs. 65%
  • Access the internet—38% vs. 25%
  • Play games—34% vs. 27%
  • Send or receive email—34% vs. 25%
  • Record a video—34% vs. 19%
  • Play music—33% vs. 21%
  • Send or receive instant messages—30% vs. 20%

Young adults (those ages 18-29) are also avid users of mobile data applications, but older adults are gaining fast. Compared with 2009, mobile phone owners ages 30-49 are significantly more likely to use their mobile device to send text messages, access the internet, take pictures, record videos, use email or instant messaging, and play music.

Let me just add my own input into this data – It’s rising – Year on year mobile usage is becoming more ubiquitous. Largely due to advances in connectivity and more urban access to wifi and 3G signal. But also because handsets themselves are becoming more desirable. This is as much about product development than it is about service providing. iPhone is now an object of desire… it’s less of a phone and more of a total digital solution. Same with the new tablet devices… my digital behavior has totally changed since I got my iPad. It’s just ‘easier’ to access ‘stuff’. The next big phase in mobile will be undoubtedly ‘affordability’. Devices will come down in price significantly once the early adopters have been exhausted and the less cash-flush user will be able to join the revolution without selling a kidney.

Source: Pew Research

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