Layers of Persuasive Design

Nearing the end of my experience at the OLC Innovate Conference in New Orleans this past April, I was able to watch a short 45-minute presentation about Persuasive Design by Christine Page Chen. The presentation was titled “From Front Page to Final Assessment: Building a Better Learner Experience with Persuasive Design.” Having never heard of Persuasive Design before, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I walked out of the cramped conference room with a few really cool concepts. 

First, Chen used an LMS as the example for which Persuasive Design can be applied. Persuasive Design can be applied to nearly anything, she noted, but for the presentation’s purposes, an LMS would be the example. She talked about her goal of making an LMS more than just courses, using an analogy of a roller coaster vs. Disneyland. You may go to a rollercoaster once for the thrill, and then leave, whereas Disneyland has an atmosphere that makes you want to stick around. Likewise, an LMS should not just be visited only to complete courses, but should have more experiential mechanisms with which the learner can engage. The importance of an engaging LMS was likened to the fact that students who are more involved with campus activities are more likely to graduate than students who don’t; students who stick around on the LMS more than students who don’t are more likely to succeed.

Chen went on to discuss the “layers” of Persuasive Design. She remarked that it has two main characteristics: Information transparency, and Kairos. Kairos is another mode of persuasion (like ethos, pathos, and logos) defined as making a message more persuasive with the right timing at the most opportune moment.

 A common meme shows how the user finds shortcuts around the intended design. UX Design aims to meet the user's needs. Persuasive design guides the user with guard rails (like the tree planted in the shortcut) and incentives (a coffee cart on the path).

A common meme shows how the user finds shortcuts around the intended design. UX Design aims to meet the user's needs. Persuasive design guides the user with guard rails (like the tree planted in the shortcut) and incentives (a coffee cart on the path).

Persuasive Design was best described with an image she presented (which I tried to recreate), comparing User Experience Design and Persuasive Design. UX Design attempts to configure itself to suit the users’ expectations and demands. Persuasive Design attempts to guide the user along a predetermined path using guard rails and incentives.

The “layers” Chen described were methods to guide and incentivize users. The layers are:

Reduction
Alleviate cognitive overload by reducing the onslaught of required interaction. An example is how Amazon allows users to purchase items quickly with one click!

Tunneling
Guide the process and let the audience know where they are going. Show the cause and effect of the user’s actions. WalkMe is a strong example of using Tunneling to guide workflows and interfaces.

Suggestion
Use suggestion to guide the audience. Offer recommendations too. Suggestions should be optional and not punitive if the audience does not abide. An example is Clippy from previous versions of Microsoft Word. Though many found the avatar annoying, Clippy made small suggestions to help improve the experience.

Tailoring
Allow the users to make their own choices based on their interests. Offer opportunities to customize their experience. Old choose-you-own-adventure books are an example of guiding an audience’s experience, but also allowing the audience to customize it.

Self-Monitoring
Track the users' progress and present it to them. Use check lists or progress bars to represent how the users are advancing.

Conditioning
Use consistent design to nurture trust. Use operant conditioning techniques and common gamification strategies to reward behaviors.  

Surveillance
Track the user’s performance, but don’t keep the data for yourself. Chen said “unshared data is creepy.” Data should be shared with the user and serve a purpose.

We did not revisit the LMS concept, however - I think we ran out of time - but my mind was in a tizzy with ideas. How could I apply these layers? What mistakes have I been making? I thought Chen's presentation was one of the more inspiring I saw at the conference. And coincidentally, my employer is interested in using WalkMe in future. We'll see.

Mitchell WollComment