Behavioural psychological view of user experience & usability (method)

User experience and usability: The precise definition on a psychological basis - defined and explained in 2,000 words in detail.

Jessica Salver

Jessica Salver hat einen Faible für Reisen und neue Orte. Nach einer Ausbildung zur Reiseverkehrskauffrau, einem Bachelor und einem Diplom in internationaler Tourismus-Wirtschaft, entschied sie sich für digitales Neuland. Als Projekt-Managerin und Product-Owner hat sie seitdem Digitalteams auf Kundenprojekten für bspw. LG Electronics, E-Plus, AXA und granini geführt und Kunden umfangreich beraten. Seit 2012 hilft sie etablierten Unternehmen, digitale Produkte zu entwickeln und zur Reife zu bringen. Bei manymize® ist Jessica für die Qualitätssicherung, das Partner-Management und die Produktentwicklung zuständig.

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User-Experience and Usability: Descriptions and tasks are blurred

Again and again I am asked how user-experience and usability differ. And indeed, the terms are not carefully delimited. User experience design is more of a mindset than the result of a careful scientific approach. Usability has already been defined much better and more comprehensively.

The suitability for use is relatively easy to determine with the help of tests. The user experience looks different. How do we assess whether a user’s experience is positive or negative? One thing is known from psychology: the questioning of people for emotions and feelings is usually distorted, the results are not valid.

Since 2012 we have been working intensively on the psychological background of emotions and experiences. The result is a methodology derived from scientific knowledge that can be docked to classical methods. This also applies to the user experience design. Our methodology considers behavior as the goal of user experience and usability in particular, and interaction (engagement) in general – it provides guidelines to focus thinking and acting on the user or customer. We call this methodology EmotionalCommerce©.

Digitization means Behavior Business.

The focus is on the human being. This has always been the case in the economy. And there is even more to digital activities. Knowledge and knowledge of the user and his or her behaviour is worth its weight in gold. Let’s look at the successful ecosystems – Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and so on – who is successful in these ecosystems? Companies that create relevance. And the ecosystems measure relevance in the form of interaction and quantitative measurements. These measures include click-through rate, visit duration, bounce rate, referral to social networks and so on. It is astonishing that these metrics are used consistently across all networks. They are the foundation of successful digital offerings. The beauty is that we can identify and analyze successful formats. Because high interaction always means the presence of behavior. Behavior is therefore the key to digital success.

Human behaviour is the success factor of the future

The Stanford professor B. J. Fogg has developed the probably best method for explaining behavior. Behavior arises from the presence of three elements – motivation, ability and a trigger. Motivation arises from emotional reactions. Skills are either available or create obstacles when you are absent. These obstacles prevent behavior. Triggers are all elements that have a psychological effect on people and trigger behavior. Unfortunately, emotions are still insufficiently explained in the model, which is why we use another model that was developed in 1988 to explain emotions on a cognitive basis. The OCC model of emotions derives emotions as a consequence of cognitive processes. This results in up to 11 basic emotions. These are positive, negative or neutral. This creates motivation that motivates us to avoid or avoid something. The model explains emotional motivation (experience) using three elements. Above all, the consideration of long-term goals is crucial. Often we prefer the long term over the short term – a characteristic that only humans possess. Important goals are life stage goals, life goals but also goals for the year. As a rule, all important, significant, short-term targets pay into long-term targets. Skills in turn describe the ability to transform motivation into behavior. Obstacles arise both in the context of usage and through permanent restrictions. By the way, suitable concepts can remove obstacles. Our methodology can be used as a guideline for thinking and acting in different areas. Be it in the development of new digital business ideas and business models, in online marketing or, as in this article, in the differentiation of user experience design and usability.

  • Motivation: Does the possible behaviour contribute to my medium- to long-term goals? Are my standards and values adhered to or are they endangered? Does it meet my aesthetic expectations? Are existing design patterns used? Can I use my experience to classify the offer? Is the offer easy to use, does it open up to me directly and directly? Are cognitive processes considered and operated? If the answers are positive, an emotional charge arises – one notices this in oneself by the fact that it tickles and we quickly and definitively invalidate objections. Remember your first iPhone. Anyway, it was such a moment with us.
  • Capability: Do I have enough time to deal with the offer? Will my financial resources be sufficient to accept the offer? Do I understand the offer or is it too complicated? Is using my status in social groups at risk? Does the offer help me to increase my social status? Can I reconcile it with my established routines? When there are enough abilities to act, one is emotionally charged and ready for action. Now all it takes is one trigger.
  • trigger: Triggers are the spark for behavior. Think of it as a car engine. Petrol and air are present, only the spark is missing to start the engine. Triggers can, for example, be clearly communicated call to action elements. Often these are combined with persuasive elements of sales psychology (e. g. reciprocity, sympathy, scarcity – in other words Robert Cialdini’s “Principles of Persuasion”). All the triggers work together to create a behaviour out of motivation and ability.
  • Psychological Basics: Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2002, described it in simplified terms as follows: Our brain is incredibly efficient and effective. This is mainly because it consistently relies on patterns and automation. In other words, 90% of our thinking processes are controlled and determined by the subconscious. Only 10% of thought processes are analytical in nature. Because these 10% discharge our mental battery quickly and deeply. Think about how exhausted you feel at the end of a working day. And then think about how easy and relaxing your free time is. At work, your brain usually operates in analytical mode, but always looks for opportunities to switch to subconscious processing. In leisure time, the brain usually acts according to subconscious patterns. It relaxes. The decisive factor is that the brain rewards lower energy consumption – the initial stimuli associated with this are positively enhanced. The simpler something is, the more the brain prefers it.

Observe behaviour – do not inquire

Psychologically it is dangerous to ask people about their wishes and preferences. Because there is always a difference between the publicly accepted attitude and the individual, honest attitude. The latter is only revealed in behaviour. This behaviour can be systematically recorded and evaluated. With an adequate behavioural psychological methodology hypotheses can then be made. Positive results indicate a match with the behavioural components. If the positive results are missing, the hypotheses must be varied. Marketing channels are perfect for test runs.

User-Experience: A Behavioral Psychological Definition

Our definition of user-experience design takes the psychological component into account and allows a precise delimitation to other disciplines. At the same time, our definition integrates all stakeholders.

„Experience-Design ist das Erzeugen positiver emotionaler Erlebnisse für Nutzer und Kunden, auf Basis verhaltenspsychologischer Elemente, mit dem Ziel wirtschaftlich relevantes, für die Verantwortlichen wichtiges, Verhalten einzuleiten.“

User Experience Design aims at a positive user experience in the interaction between user and application. Interactions are therefore the decisive key. Interactions mean behavior. Behavior we understand and can examine the individual attributes for experiences. Of the elements, only motivation generates emotional reactions. Consequently, the behavioural psychological component of motivation can be equated with user experience. This also makes it clear that if we don’t place value on a positive user experience, we are taking the great risk of a negative experience. In short, you cannot not create emotions. User-experience design therefore means generating positive, emotional reactions by delivering the right stimuli, information and content in the dimensions of goals, standards and aesthetics. Thus, we have three dimensions that can be documented in customer archetypes, measured in direct interaction and used to develop hypotheses and design concepts. In addition, user experience design is not an isolated discipline, but the foundation for efficient and effective activities in online marketing and online sales. This is because knowledge about behaviour, goals, norms and aesthetic preferences can be used very well in all disciplines as guidelines for thinking and acting. If you are at the beginning of a project, analyze the activities of the market leader or the company that is currently preferred by customers. Evaluate the activities based on the behavioural elements and form hypotheses. Bundle these hypotheses in personas. Develop targeted concepts for content and topics based on these personas. Start with fast test runs after implementation to test all hypotheses on the market. Be sure to exchange information with other departments in the company.

Usability: A behavioral psychological definition

We have already successfully defined user experience design. But how does usability fit into the construct? The following definition of usability is derived from the behavioural psychological derivation. This creates a clear delimitation.

Usability is the ability of the user to use an application without obstacles. The removal of obstacles in structure, design and content is the main task of usability optimization. The goal is to overcome obstacles that stand in the way of existing motivation and prevent economically relevant behaviour.”

We have learned that user experience prepares economically relevant behavior and generates positive emotional experiences. But what is the point of a motivated user if he does not have the ability to express behavior. Usability revolves around optimizing the digital application in different dimensions and can extend into the product itself. For this purpose, it is determined in which of the capability dimensions users and customers have a shortcoming. The dimensions are time, money, mental capacity, physical capacity, social constraints and established routines. The optimization of interfaces usually refers to the cognitive optimization of structures, functions and design. These are optimized for human information processing. Complex processes are split, hidden or automated. Information is consistently moved to where it can be effective. In product optimization, for example, faster deliveries can help to ease the time constraints, reduce financial hurdles and further services reduce physical effort. Usability has the task of removing all obstacles that stand in the way of the desired behavior. This also makes one thing clear – usability enables behavior, but is dependent on sufficient motivation already being built up. Usability without motivation leads to an offer that can be used very well but nobody wants to use.

Conversion optimization: Behavioural psychology definitionn

Conversion optimization is ultimately the attempt of more users to build up a user of the offer and products no emotional motivation, the website or the shop puts hurdles in the way of the user, then also with conversion will be nothing.

Most online shops and websites have poor conversion values because they are not relevant enough for the user and offer little or no positive experiences. Therefore, conversion optimization always consists of the unity of user experience, usability and sales psychology elements. Abbreviations will fail, the path must be followed from the beginning.”

Optimizing conversion is an important task. Figures show that only a small percentage of users become customers or leads. The idea behind it is simple. Through persuasive, psychological elements the user is to be persuaded to convert. In reality, this approach usually fails. It ignores the fact that only motivated and competent users can be persuaded to behave. Consequently, the first step of conversion optimization is the creation of motivating content, an appealing modern aesthetic, followed by the systematic optimization of the application on empowerment. Only in the last step is the installation of triggering, sales psychological elements, such as scarcity (number of products), reliability (customer evaluations), authority (studies & awards) and other mechanisms. Most online shops and websites have poor conversion values because they are not relevant enough for the user and offer little or no positive experiences.

Reading recommendations for this topic

Not from us, but worth reading – in the form of a presentation. It also provides a detailed account of behavior and supports our hypothesis that behavior should be at the heart of all digital activities.