Anchoring Errors

Anchoring Errors result from developing an ingrained position due to overexposure to a rare event.

When Design and Interface are Dictated by the Technology

You’ve probably heard: If you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. This is a commentary on how our problem solving perspective is influenced by the tools we happen to have in our hands at that moment. The tools, of course, don’t have to be physical. They can be systems, or lists, or a set of approaches that we’ve learned at school or that are enforced at work. And they can also be digital tools that we feel particularly comfortable using. These “tools” constrict our metal models, limiting the possible solutions to the design problems we face at work (or at home). It’s not a surprise that if we Google “WordPress Templates,” all the results look more or less the same. This is partly because of the tool — WordPress is a great tool, but as any tool, it limits the final creative output to what is easy. (Especially, if the designer is not a programmer.) Here’s a look at Google Image results for “WordPress Screenshots”: What’s interesting is the flip side of this phenomenon. Once we see a lot of nails, we expect nails as the solution. So it is not a surprise that not only do most…

Tools to Jump-start Product Design Process

product design proposal: user groups

I often encounter the Blank Page Syndrome among our clients. They have an IDEA, but find it difficult to translate the nebulous desires into plans and actions that become a business. I hear a lot: “I know what I want, I just don’t know how that gets translated into something tangible.” The problem though is that most times, these individuals don’t know what they really want. And my job as a designer is to do product design therapy to uncover the real needs and separate them from vague desires. There are a few strategies for this (cognitive scaffolding for the design process). From the point of view of the final product, it is important that the client buys into the ideas and makes them their own. When I hear my words spoken back to me a few weeks into the process, I feel more confidant that the final result will be the practical manifestation of my client’s desires. Define the Categories of Product Users When one runs a business, selling products or providing services, it’s important to keep in mind that in most cases it’s not about you (typical mirroring error). The products and services have to appeal to end…

Build It and They Will Come…NOT!

NEXT logo

There’s a common misconception — a folksy wisdom, a p-prim, if you will — that in our many years of product design led many entrepreneurs astray: Build it and they will come! Oh, if only it was so… While this is a wonderfully optimistic world-view, it just doesn’t work out that way in real world. So rather than just say it isn’t so, I will give a few examples where I was personally involved either in the design of the product or the workings of the company. Please keep in mind that all of these examples were EXTREMELY well-funded, had a lot of design resources, and ALL believed that they were changing the world for the better. NEXT We all remember NEXT, right? If not, let me jug your memory… After leaving (or being forced out of Apple), Steve Jobs started NEXT — a computer hardware company to rival Apple. Even with Jobs’ charisma, talent, deep financial resources, access to the best minds in the business… he couldn’t make this work. Some say that NEXT is now part of Mac DNA, but it still stands that as a company is was a failure… Steve built it, and no one ever…

Task Analysis and Product Design

Kids from India and Vegetable Choices

Imagine your were given an assignment to develop a product that could help people eat healthy. How would you go about creating such a thing? What would you need to learn/understand? What is the right medium or technology vehicle for such a product? How would you even start? Below is a very brief outline of how to get started and the key tools necessary for the job. Project Goals The first order of business is figuring out the business needs and goals: What is the product really supposed to do? You have to ask this even if you are the one who is the client on this project. But, most probably, you are working for someone else — the client — and you have to start by understanding what your client really wants to do. You can do that in several ways: Analyzing the Request for Proposals: On many such projects, there will be an initial document, something like an RFP, that outlines the business goals and desires of the client. While some RFPs are very detailed and fully fleshed out, most are not. There are many reasons for this. Some clients are worried someone will “steal” their ideas and…

Google Apps New Pay Policy and Behavioral Economics

Google Apps Icons

Yesterday, Google flipped a switched on its Google Apps policy — starting with December 7th, 2012, Google Apps will no longer be free! The change is for Google Apps for Business and it effectively ends the ability to create free accounts for groups of 10 or fewer users (here’s Google’s announcement). Individuals could still have a personal account, but businesses will have to pay $50 per user, per year… That is NEW business customers will have to pay — if you had a business account prior to the announcement, you get to keep it on the same terms you’ve signed up for — free! But all new Google Apps business customers from this point forward will pay to play. There’s a lot of chatter about whether Google’s customers will pay or walk away, but I’m interested in the behavioral economics analysis of this change. Allow me describe a few experiments on anchoring — the psychological phenomena where individuals get attached to the first result they witness and base their subsequent decisions on that original priming. The experiments I’m going to describe come from two books: Dan Ariely’s “Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions”…

Doctors and Anchoring Errors

In the past few months, two people I know almost died (one will die very soon) due to medical mistakes. Considering both of these men are well educated and live in America, in major metropolitan areas, with access to a wide variety of experts, and with very supportive family and friends, how can this happen? Tragically enough, their stories are not the exceptions. They fell victim to Anchoring Errors — judgement errors common in situations with lots of stress (e.g. emergency rooms); where many individuals are involved (e.g. a parade of doctors assigned to a patient in a hospital); where there’s inadequate time for problem solving (again, think emergency rooms); and, most importantly, there’s no built-in mechanisms to go back and re-conceptualize the problem, to re-diagnose, and to change the solution in the light of other variables or data. Doctors make mistakes. We ALL do, all the time. But when doctors make it, the prognosis for the patients are sometimes dire. In the cases I’m about to describe, deadly… “How Doctors Think” is an amazing book and one I have given to many of my friends and family and even to my personal physician. It describes way in which even…

Designing an Optimum Nudge

Tornado Exhibit at the Exploratorium

I’m sitting by a window looking out at a rainy Paris street, thinking of cultural differences between Paris and San Francisco, taking advantage of bad weather to do some writing. Over two decades ago, I did some ethnographic research a Exploratorium, looking at how different visitors interacted with the museum’s hands-on exhibits. I was looking for ways to improve the visitors’ experience, raise understanding of the phenomena they were observing. What I saw was different ways in which visitors experienced failure: p-prims that got in a way; folksy wisdom that caused confusion; lack of affordances that led to bottlenecks; permission giving that set up strange expectations; etc. The results of this study turned into a Master Thesis for UC Berkeley. Now, I would like to explore some of the ideas that surfaced during my Exploratorium research and apply them to design of nudging — carefully crafted affordances and perceptual cues that manipulated users into acting a certain way while maintaining the illusion of freedom of action. Let me start with a bit of history — a quick summary of some of the results of Exploratorium study. Permission Giving Two decades ago, “hands-on” exhibits were still novel in the museum world.…