I bet you would have heard this legendary story on UX design.

Here it goes:

Six hunters enter a forest. Given that it was totally dark out there, they all had got their torches out.

But then, their torches weren’t much of help. All of a sudden, one among the lot bumped into a giraffe. He shines his light and only sees only the leg of the giraffe. “It seems to be a huge stem of a plant,” declares the dazed hunter.

Another one shines a light on his body and immediately dismisses the earlier finding and announces to his team mates, “Nope, this is not a stem of a plant, but a wall painting with an array of lovely dots on it.”

“No, no, both of you are absolutely wrong, these are yellow leaves of a plant,” declares the third hunter when he shines his lights on the ears of the giraffe. And so the story goes on.

Each hunter sees the giraffe from his own perspective. No one is able to exactly tell what the thing is.

Ah! Found it to be a hypothetical story? Yes, it is

Anyway, the point I am trying to drive home is that people view things from different angles.

With regard to UX design, the visual designer approaches UX from one angle, the back-end developer from a different angle, the interaction designer from the third angle. Each individual sees things through his or her own lens.

Among other things, our background, experiences, and culture also influence our thought processes.

This phenomenon is called “perceptual set theory”. It explains the human tendency to perceive things based on expectations, existing information, and experiences.

In essence, people hailing from different cultures perceive same things differently.

Also read: 6 user experience lessons every founder should know

This brings us to the first point on UX and User Psychology: Click Whirr Theory.

Click, Whirr Theory

“Civilisation advances by extending the number of operations we can perform without thinking about them.” –  Alfred North Whitehead

The Click, Whirr concept talks about automatic, stereotyped behaviour that humans mindlessly apply in certain situations. The concept was first mentioned in the book, The Psychology of Persuasion, by author Robert Cialdini.

How to apply Click, Whirr Theory in UX design?

According to Cialdini, it’s not good to experiment with basic features of a website or an app. Why? It’s mainly because humans generally don’t appreciate changes given that they don’t have the time, energy or capacity to recognise and analyse all those changes. That’s the reason why they prefer to go by stereotypes or rules of thumb to classify things as per their key features and then respond mindlessly to one or another of these trigger features present.

In the app or website context, the positioning of the basic features should remain the same. Let’s say, the navigation bar of your website. The navigation bar is supposed to be in the header section only. Users wouldn’t want to see it in the footer or anywhere else for that matter because it might confuse the user and lead to bad user experience. So, it’s better to comply with users’ automatic, stereotyped behaviour.

Long story short: Users prefer Click, Whirr processes. That is, they wish to mechanically react to a certain piece of information, rather than getting into the analysis part of it.

I know what you are thinking now? What in case if you want to experiment with your UX?

No worries. In my opinion, you can do that as well provided you offer clues to users as to how to go around with the ‘new change’ introduced. But then, you need to test peoples’ responses to the new changes, and in turn, change those that don’t bode well for them.

This brings me to the second point:

Just Noticeable Difference

As the title suggests, Just Noticeable Difference is one way of approaching design changes without annoying the users. One day at a time, one step at a time…will ensure that design changes, though slightly noticeable, are subtle enough to not irk or annoy the users.

Example: The design changes undertaken at Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon. Three of these tech giants have stuck to their basic design patterns since their inception. Sure, changes have been made. But it was always a hush-hush affair. No big fanfare or anything. These changes were so subtle that visitors never get a clue of it. This technique of making subtle changes, that’s not so noticeable, is popular as Weber’s Law Of Noticeable Difference.

Research studies have shown that users don’t appreciate massive changes on the website at one go. Adopt a slow and steady approach and you will be able to overhaul the whole website over time.

Also read: 5 features to enhance user experience of your online marketplace

This brings us to the third point of UX design …

Fogg Behaviour Model

Got the drift so far!

That is you are not supposed to meddle with website design in a major way. But then, how to direct users’ to achieve your business goals?

Simple. Leverage Fogg’s Behaviour Model.

According to the model, you need to have three specific elements working together to trigger higher response rate from users. These elements include the following:

  • Motivation
  • Ability
  • Trigger

By accounting for these three elements, web designers can easily figure out what makes users take action on your website.

If you want users to buy things from your website but if it’s not happening, you can leverage this model to see which of the triggers are missing in your design.

The motivation factor could be broken down further as extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation. The extrinsic motivation includes physical rewards, money and things like that.

Intrinsic factors include satisfaction, enjoyment and so on.

Now, how do you make users do things they typically don’t enjoy doing?

Simple: Offer them some sort of incentive or reward to complete their task.  For instance, Chili’s Reward app has got it figured out. By signing up my Chili’s rewards app you get 60 points – which is good enough to fetch you a free menu item. And, if you keep spending more at Chili’s you will able to collect more points helping you collect more free items. What’s more, the app also offers a free appetiser or dessert on your birthday.

Caveat: Don’t offer extrinsic rewards to people who are already motivated and performing at peak levels. Such people are intrinsically motivated and are not really looking forward to external rewards when they kick-started their work.

The worst being, once you start offering them external rewards, their intrinsic motivation goes north, which, in turn, might affect their performance. It’s called the over justification effect. An over justification effect takes place when users are offered extrinsic rewards, which indirectly curtails their intrinsic motivation to do things.

Coming to the second most important element of Fogg model: Ability. Yes, motivation isn’t enough to attract users to perform an action. Ability is equally important, combined with the third element ‘trigger,’ if you want users to take any sort of action.

Say, for instance, you want to go rock climbing. For this, you need to have a wide variety of instruments such as ropes, shoes, harnesses, helmets among others. All these supplies backed by a trigger are imperative to complete an action.

Also read: Social commerce goes beyond social; It also requires tweaking user behaviour

So you must understand both the intrinsic and extrinsic factors to know what triggers the users into action. For this, you could use mediums such as customer experience, buyer personas, user journeys and other similar tools.

This brings us to the bottom line

The best UX designs are models of economy, helping users reach their goals (well, the products) quickly. Nonetheless, you need to study their behaviour closely to identify the extrinsic and intrinsic factors that influence their buying decisions. More importantly, you need to nail down the barriers that are causing issues between you and them and find an alternate course that’ll provide them the ability and trigger to go ahead with their purchase.


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