NEXT16: Nathalie Nahai on the psychology of the web

What makes us behave the way we do on the internet - and on our phones? To understand that you need to delve into psychology. And Nathalie has done just that.

Warning: Liveblogging. Prone to error, inaccuracy and terrible crimes against grammar and syntax. Post will be updated over the next 48 hours.

Endowed progress

If you give people an 8 stamp loyalty card, or a 10 stamp one – with two done, which gets better redemption? The latter. Why? Because you start with a sense of progress – something underway. People presented with an artificial sense of advancement are more likely to complete that task. The closer we are to a goal, the more likely we are to create effort to get over the finishing line.

You can use this principle both to increase the likelihood of use of a product, and to reduce the time it takes to complete the task.

Sunk cost

We tend to continue an effort once we’ve invested time or money or effort into a project. A player is more likely to put effort into looking after an object if they’re earned it or they’ve bought it, rather than ones just given to them. This is a variation of the sunk cost fallacy. This si why things like FarmVille work – the sunk cost of time and money. It increase the desire to continue. Headspace is a meditation app, that gives you a 10 day free trail. Each meditation unlocks the next one. If you complete them, they congratulate you on completing them – and nudge you to unlock the next bit.

Appointment dynamic

Give users a predetermined tome or place to return for a reward – and they will. It’s the principle behind happy hours in pubs. Left does this. It’s the appointment dynamic.

  • Research what motivated your users
  • Give them free initial progress
  • Use them to create a more compelling user journey

Cognitive load

We all have a limited cognitive and attention capacity. So, to encourage conversion, you have to reduce the cognitive load on customers. The “error” red asterisk is a terrible user experience. Ticks for completion – a great one. The Obama election campaign – the first one – reorganised its sign up and donation page to make it easier to process, and massively improved conversions.

  • Reduce the number of transactions
  • Split complex procedure into steps
  • Reduce visual clutter

Dopamine loops

Tinder works on the sense of rewards. But so does Twitter and Facebook – the scroll to see something great. We’re all programmed to do this – it’s our dopamine system. It’s one of the most active components in our rewards system. For example, after-conference drinks. Byb5pm at a conference, you’re wanting to a beer. Then you take an action, and feel good. So the system rests for a while. But if you want some stimulation during a boring talk, you open an app, get it but the opioid system doesn’t kick in, because it’s not enough of an pleasure hit. So we’re getting mindless triggered to keep using apps.

We get more stimulation when anticipating something than when receiving it. If we can get small regular hits of anticipation, without major reward, we end up in these dopamine loops.

Persuasion continum

Where do you sit between facilitation and coercion? We are the architects of future tech – what kind of world do we want to build?