Persuasive Technology – Changing Human Behavior Through Technology

The more technology becomes ubiquitous and pervasive, the more persuasive it becomes as well. Whether you know it or not, nearly every interaction with technology you have, no matter how benign, that interaction is designed to persuade you to do something. Your phone rings, beeps, or vibrates – what do you do? Most likely, you respond, either by answering the call, responding to the text message, checking the new email, etc. Pretty simple, right? The phone gives a stimulus and creates a desired response. The same is true for web-based companies like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. They thrive on the interaction between users on their sites, so how do they persuade people to login and interact?

Help People Do What They Already Want to Do

The most successful companies understand what their customers want and need and do a great job of making that process easier. LinkedIn is an example of a company that’s awesome at helping people do what they already want to do. You already want to look good professionally, network with people, increase job prospects, etc. and LinkedIn helps you do that. A few years back, once you’d connected with people, if you weren’t looking for a job or looking to hire, why should you return to the site?

There was nothing else to do on the site. So LinkedIn developed new ways to help people do what they already wanted to do: develop users’ credibility as a professional/expert in their respective fields. LinkedIn added industry groups and forums where users can start discussions on relevant topics. They added the ability to post links to articles that users found interesting or relevant to their respective industries and comment on those articles. Then they brought those article posts to a feed on the homepage, intermingled with updates on people in your own network as a way to bring users back to the site and interact more frequently.

Persuasive Without Sacrificing User Experience

It’s a tough balancing act to persuade users to do what you want them to do while making it an enjoyable experience. All of these updates to LinkedIn’s site have been implemented in a way that preserves a positive user experience as a whole. LinkedIn Pulse sends weekly emails with a sampling of posted articles they deem relevant to the user based on their industry and other profile information. It’s another way to persuade users to return to the site to interact and plays on the user’s desire to be informed about information relevant to their industry (something most already want to do), but is just as easy to ignore or unsubscribe if it’s not wanted.

Balance is the key. Effective behavioral design alone will compel users to your site, but eventually they’ll quit if the experience isn’t pleasant. Effective user experience design and strategy alone will provide users with an intuitive, pleasant experience while on the site, but may not bring them back frequently.

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