Building Badass Users

This is one of the better talks on product management, user experience and behavior science that I’ve seen recently. It was given by Kathy Sierra in the last Mind The Product conference:

Building Badass Users

It’s always hard to summarize content delivered by a great speaker. So much gets lost in translation. But my best attempt to do so, in this case, is below:

Kathy’s initial premise is that the key attributes of a successful product don’t live in the product – they live in its users.  People want to be amazing in what the tool enables them to do, not at using the tool. For example: people want to be amazing photographers, not amazing at using your camera.  So what really matters is the “post-ux ux”, what happens in the real world, after people have used your tool.

Furthermore, the things that prevent users from completing the user journey (becoming really good at the context they’re using the tool for) are derailers that live outside of your tool. Therefore, the solution, is not adding more motivation for using the tool, but reducing/minimizing the derailers. Those, in turn, tend to have a common root cause – a reduction in ability and/or willpower caused by cognitive leaks.

She then suggests six ways to reduce cognitive leaks:

  1. Delegating usability from your head to the real world. Often times the opposite happens as a result of trying to create “simple” or “streamlined” UIs.
  2. Creating defaults and smart filters. Making choices is cognitively expensive.
  3. Reducing the need for willpower. Turning actions into habits.
  4. Making it easier to focus. Using the brain’s “natural” attention grabbers: scary things, faces with strong emotional content, innocent/cute things, things that change (visually). And making sure that you’re not unintentionally using these things to draw attention in the wrong direction.
  5. Helping the brain let it go. Giving clear, clean feedback that the user can trust, on actions that the user have taken.
  6. Giving them faith that you know what it’s really like. We often act as if the actions we expect the users to take are simple and easy, when we should acknowledge that some things are hard. Examples: Wasabi’s “I’m freaking out” button, Kindle Fire’s “Mayday” button.
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Building Badass Users

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