On Episode 22 of the Edge of Innovation, we discuss positive outcomes and how important design is with researcher and author Victor Yocco. Learn more about Victor and his new book Design for the Mind, here:
Paul: Okay. So, now I have some questions, some things that came up in the book that might be helpful to talk through. For example, you talk about positive outcomes. How do you, well, measure that? Okay, so we’re talking about positive outcomes. How do you measure that? And really, what constitutes a positive outcome for our specific users?
Victor: So, I tried to address that somewhat in the book, but I don’t get into too fine detail. There are a number of ways to, first you need to identify the positive outcome. You’re right. And then actually try to measure that. And so part of it will depend on the type of product you have. So, what is the outcome that you want? Obviously, we could start in saying that having people use your product is one outcome that you want. So, number of users. But then is it purchasing things through your product? Is it using your product to find information? Maybe you aren’t offering something for sale, but you’re offering information for consumption.
Paul: Well, but that clouds it. Because there’s two different entities here. One is the website purveyor who says a positive outcome is they use my product or they buy my thing or they do whatever. But the positive outcome for the user may be different. Like you’ve been alluding to, they find the information they were looking for. They have whiter teeth. But how do we measure that? Or how do you approach it when…? What bells go off in your head when you’re looking at something that a designer is proposing?
Victor: Well, I think from my angle, it is the experience itself being something that is usable and a user would walk away not being frustrated with, having spent either less time or having found something that replaces a more difficult process that they have to go through currently. A lot of the designs that we create are replacing legacy systems for really large enterprises, where the layout is nothing but boxes and buttons and data entry fields. And so we talk to users, and they tell us their frustrations are around not instantly landing on a page and understanding what to do. Or not understanding whether or not the date that they entered was correct because they don’t get an error message until they’re completely finished with a workflow.
And those are types of things where, once you implement them, then hopefully when you go back and talk to users, you hear that there’s less frustrations, but there’s also… We use the system usability skill, which is a survey that’s fairly commonly administered. And hopefully you would see an increase in that, if you’re accounting better for the psychology and usability of a product. That would be a sort of concrete way, and it would also be a number that you could present to your client or your peers to say, “Hey, there is evidence that what we’re doing is effective.”
But I truly think that, from the perspective of a design, of a product’s design, and what would be meaningful in terms of the success of a user, is really that it’s something that, even if they don’t want to use it because of the situation that they have to be using it in, is maybe… Nobody what’s to use hemorrhoid cream, but if there’s something that is really painless about the process of acquiring and then getting to the point where you are using it, that’s where it should be. There shouldn’t be a bunch of dread associated with using your product on top of a situation that’s already not pleasant.
Then that can be hard to measure, but also that’s been my, sort of the field that I’ve operated in since being in the settings of zoos and trying to measure was there any attitude shift towards environmental issues or towards the appreciation of fine art. And so it’s sort of my other soapbox. I have a few of them. But one of my other soapboxes that I’ve been on a little bit lately, and I’ve written a few articles on, is that having dedicated researchers is really important — people who are familiar with creating studies and have a strong social science background — because I don’t think it’s fair that we ask designers to build and design and test their own product non-stop or do all the background research. And I have the luxury of working in a space where we do have dedicated researchers, but I think it’s something I’d love to see more of as studios mature, as shops realize the value of research, and that research can also be something that’s sold alongside design.
Paul: A lot of technical people listen to our podcast and some designers and some are coders. And it sounds like — and I’m trying to get a sense of this — what’s the most important part of the website? Is it the design? Is it the code? Is it the UI, UX? And I know they all work together. But it sounds like design is the packaging of all of it together and the presentation layer and what people really interface with. So, Are we saying, “Boy, designers are really important here?”
Victor: No, because I think that what design… Yes, designers are important. Everybody is important. But I don’t think that… So, you can design something, but if it can’t be developed, then it’s just this imaginary concept. And so while the design is important because it’s going to show you want the path is, designers and developers need to work closely together to make something really built that’s realized and is not full of bugs or potential that isn’t tapped into. And so, I would not say that design is more important. I would say that design that’s done in a way that can then was implemented effectively is important. But that means a developer plays just as critical of a role, and understanding what the design is meant to do and building out the product so that it carries that out.
I mean, working as a client-facing, we have front-end developers here. But we often don’t get involved in the backend process. And we’ve seen a number of situations, though, where our design has been handed over to the clients, and then they’ve used their own developers to implement it, and it hasn’t come across very well. And part of that, I think, is because our designers and their developers didn’t maintain that working relationship. They didn’t keep us on the project.
So, yeah. I would say that having the design is important, and it’s critical. An effective design that reduces the workload for the user creates more work on the backend. And that means we need great developers who understand what it is the design is trying to accomplish and then take it upon themselves and the code that they’re writing to do all these processes in the backend that make life easier for our users.
Paul: I guess my comment was more… I mean, a agree, and it was more to bait you on that whole point of you can’t… There’s no shortcuts in all of this. And I think what’s nice about what you’ve done is you have given us… You know, you could say it in the negative. You’ve given us a lot more to worry about. You’ve certainly given us handles to put on those things that we need to worry about really, but you’ve provided a context now for us to understand, really, one of the most critical components of communication on the web, is how do we frame things. How do we talk about them? How do we actually take into account the way a human interfaces or deals with this information as they’re consuming it? And I think that’s largely been missing from, you know, all but the highest levels of, you know, website companies out there, is really, this whole concept of you’re dealing with a human that is a complex thinking machine that really is… There’s a lot of understanding out there, which you’ve sort of given us that first peek into.
you’ve gone through these seven principles. Do you think there’s going to be another book with eight, nine, and ten? Or is this it? You’re done?
Victor: Oh, I don’t know. That’s a great question.
I mean, I guess that’s also for readers to decide. I enjoy writing. I’m fairly certain that if I wrote another one… I mean, I could do it in a similar style and have it be more principles that weren’t addressed in the first book. But there’s a pretty expansive set of behavioral change, research, that I would love to sort of tell a story from start to finish with We never encounter people who are blank slates. Right? People bring their whole life and background to us. How do we acknowledge where someone is at and then walk them down this path towards where they might want to be or we might want them to be, in a way that really makes sense incrementally.
And there’s some psychology out there that I would love to. Because writing also gives me the opportunity to think about how these things apply. I would love to think more about, that says, like, where we acknowledge people, where they’re currently at. And then what are the stages that they go through if they want to change their behavior or start engaging in a new behavior. And how do we design what researchers would call interventions that would meet them along the way to help facilitate their journey. And I would love to give some exploration of sort of this more cohesive start to finish story using psychological principles.
Paul: Absolutely. Well, my opinion, if it’s worth anything, is this book is a definite read. You really should acquire it. The show notes will have all the information. It’s Design for the Mind by Victor Yocco.
Victor: Yes, sir.
Paul: Alright. And, you know, I think that a lot of the things we’ve talked about, you know, might sound a little complicated, especially if you’re listening to think while you’re driving or distracted. And the book requires, if you’re not wired in this, or you know, not a psychology person, it requires real good attention to listen, to read it, and reread it, and to get some of these principles. But once you start to internalize them, they’re incredible applicable. So I would, you know, with two thumbs up, I guess I would say in this Siskel and Ebert world, would be mine. I’m waiting for the movie to come out—
It’s optioned, is it? So, hopefully that will come. Is there anything we haven’t covered, Victor, that you’d like to cover?
Victor: Well, I mean, I want to definitely say think you, and I’m honored and humbled to hear the praise that you’ve given Design for the Mind. And I would also like to offer you and your listeners a discount code that I can pass along to you for 39% off the book if you purchase it through my publisher’s website. But it can often be found at just about the same price on Amazon. So, I’ll be forward at that. But if you don’t mind posting it in the show notes, that code is 39Yocco, and that’s for 39% off the book.
And I don’t know if there is psychology that was involved in that.
Paul: I was just going to ask.
Victor: I feel like the answer should be yes, or that somewhere research says 40% is too much but 38% isn’t enough to motivate people. So 39 — that’s the motivational number. And, but, I guess we’ve had a great conversation today. And as far as psychology and the principles of psychology, and even getting into user research goes, I really had to great time discussing things. And if there’s anything that piques someone’s curiosity or interest out of the book, they can always contact me. I’m on Twitter. @VictorYocco, and then also feel free to email me at VictorYocco@gmail.com. I always feel if somebody takes the time to write something, I will take the time to reply. But I think that getting the opportunity to talk to people — designers, developers — about the importance of psychology is really an opportunity that I can’t pass up, because…
And I think that you did a great job explaining this throughout the interview, but even though we’re working in a digital interface, the thing I realized, even though I was working in a zoo or in an art museum with a collection, it really still was about people and how people work and that to truly honor that and acknowledge that, we want to create great experiences. We have to, then, think about the psychology of our users. It’s just that there’s no way of detaching that.
Paul: Well, when you do, you get a lot of what we have on the web. So, hopefully we’ve done our part to improve the human experience with the web. And I look forward to talking to you in the future. I have ideas for some other podcasts, which we may invite Victor to participate in. So, I think that pretty much sums it up.
Victor: Wonderful. Thank you for your time.