Kathy Sierra on Making Users Awesome, Part 9

In the book, Badass: Making Users Awesome, Kathy Sierra analyzed and discussed the new ways of thinking about designing and sustaining successful products and services.

These are some of my takeaways from reading the book.

In previous chapters, we learned from Kathy that we should help our users by reducing the cognitive leaks that can result from interacting with our product/service.

But how? Kathy has outlined the following suggestions.

Tactic #1. Delegate cognitive work to something in the world.

Design an interface that has a separate, labeled, visible control for everything essential the users need to do. When we force the users to memorize the knowledge necessary to interact with every aspect of our product/service, we create cognitive leaks.

Cheat sheets can save users from spending cognitive resources in trying to memorize and recall. At the same time, we also need to recognize the potential benefit of fast and effortless operation after the users learned and memorized the instructions. Remembering vs. not-memorizing is a trade-off.

Tactic #2. Make the right action the most natural and obvious action.

For every action our users need to take, we should ask ourselves, “What is the most likely thing to do here?” Based on the answer, design accordingly, or we might need to add “knowledge in the world” (clear labeling, for example) to help our users.

Tactic #3. Do not make our users choose.

Choices, especially the unnecessary ones, are cognitively expensive.

Tactic #4. Help our users automate skills.

Learning too many sub-skills at a time can introduce severe cognitive leaks. We should help our users practice one skill at a time and quickly master it. Help our users make everything else around practice easier to do.

Tactic #5. Help with the top-of-mind problem.

Some skills or actions required for mastering the product/service cannot be improved much by merely using deliberate practice. For those skills and activities, we can enlist the help from some device that can always remind us what needs to be done, so we do not spend cognitive resources trying to remember to do something consistently.

Tactic #6. Reduce the need for willpower.

We need to help our users stay motivated, and, at the same time, exercising willpower drains cognitive resources. To reduce the need for willpower, we can improve our users’ capacity in several ways.

First, we can help our users build automatic habits for some tasks. Habits require little or no willpower.

Second, we can help our users have more intrinsically rewarding experiences when interacting with our product/service. Intrinsically rewarding experiences do not require willpower. The key is to strike an alignment between the tasks and the compelling context.

Finally, we can help our users train their brains to pay attention. Our minds continuously try to filter out spam/noises, so we need to work hard in making our tasks not caught in the brain’s spam filter. Create situations where the user’s brain will think the tasks to be significant enough for the brain to care to interact with it.