Saturday, December 27, 2014

Brainstorm for the New Year

One of the more frustrating challenges that I come up against in experience design (customer, user, or game experiences) is that experiences work best when they are customized for each user.  But users don’t like to fill out long profile questionnaires, even to help themselves get better service.  They take up time, feel like a violation of privacy, and lose some of the mystique of the experience (e.g. in games).  Ideally, we would know much more than the demographics that you can mine from their profiles, registrations, or gradually build up over time and can be accessed from the major ad-serving companies (yes, most companies do this whether you realize it or not).  We would like to know their current situation: their motivation level, their emotional state, their interest in the process.  But that would mean constantly hassling each user with a series of questionnaires each time he or she starts a new session.  This is simply not feasible.  What’s a designer to do?

Another frustration for me, this one as a user, is the constant stream of quizzes on my social media feeds.  You know the ones I mean.  What Disney character are you?  What 80s sitcom are you?  What 90s grunge band are you?  What US President are you?  What flavor of soup are you?  Do enough people fill these out to justify the cost of developing and launching them (and paying Facebook to appear?)?  Apparently so.  And also apparently, my friends are prime customers because that is why they appear on my feed.  Ugh.

My Take

Why do I bring these two seemingly disparate topics together today?  I have an idea that I would like to run by you to see what you think.  What if we modify these polls to find out “What Disney character do you feel like right now?”  or “What 80s sitcom are you right now?”  Then we modify the questions to be subtly transformed versions of validated questionnaires designed to measure the user’s current emotional state or motivation level. 

For example, take life trackers. Each time a user logs in, he gets some fun quizzes to fill out.  They can be optional and placed in banners like we see on many web sites today.  But the answers get added to the logs from their fitness watch and eating journal.  We now have a big picture model of how this user’s motivation level and emotional state vary over time and we can correlate it with other activities.  How does it change when he is exercising, waiting in line at the grocery store, working at his desk, hanging out with particular friends or family members, or driving in rush hour traffic (well, not this last one – no texting and driving!!!)? 

The models we could develop from this would be tremendously valuable wouldn’t they?  The user would get a much more powerful picture of his life.  The life tracker could offer more targeted ways to improve his health or his work motivation.  Companies could benefit by offering products or services that have a better chance of helping the user out and converting a customer for life.

Your Turn

Am I on to something here?  If you are one of those people who loves filling out these surveys, wouldn’t it be better if you got a tangible benefit from the answers?  If you don’t fill these out, would you start if the results provided some real value?