• 07 Mar

    Experiencing, remembering and user experience

    The remembering selfIn 2010, Nobel Prize winning psychologist, Daniel Kahneman took to the stage at TED. In his talk, he presented the idea of two types of self:

    • Experiencing self
    • Remembering self

    The ideas he introduced concern the way we go through life, experiencing and then remembering the events and occurrences that happen through our lives. The implications are both surprising and far reaching.

    For digital marketers however, it has even more potential: To understand the concept is to give yourself a significant advantage when considering the user-experience (UX) of our sites.

    Here’s a quick primer to get you going on what it is, why it’s (staggeringly) important and what you should be doing about it.

    The two types of self

    So, a quick lesson for you – what do these two types of self mean?

    Experiencing self:

    The experiencing self is the ‘you’ in the moment who lives through the event”, says Paul Spector in an article on the topic. Whenever you go through an experience, your experiencing self is the one that is present at the time.

    As Daniel Kahneman puts it:

    There is an experiencing self, who lives in the present and knows the present, is capable of reliving the past, but basically it has only the present. It’s the experiencing self that the doctor approaches [and] asks, ‘does it hurt now when I touch you here?‘”

    Remembering self:

    Continuing his description, Paul Spector says that “the remembering self is the ‘you’ that writes the history. It is also the remembering self that is consulted when planning the future.

    Daniel Kahneman has this to say:

    …[it] is the one that keeps score, and maintains the story of our life, and it’s the one that the doctor approaches in asking the question, ‘how have you been feeling lately?‘”

    Some surprising results

    There has been significant research carried out on the concept of the experiencing self and the remembering self and how the two are used in daily life.

    One such experiment asked participants to have their hand immersed in ice water cold enough to cause some pain. Participants were warned to expect three different trials:

    1. The first trial would last 60 seconds
    2. The second trial would last 90 seconds, but in the final 30 seconds the water was slowly warmed by a (slightly) more comfortable (but still painful) one degree
    3. In the third trial participants were allowed to choose which of the two previous trials they disliked the least, and then repeat that one

    Throughout each trial, participants had their free hand on a keyboard in order to record their level of pain. Here is what the results looked like (I’ve made the results in the graph up, but it demonstrates the point I am trying to make):

    Experiencing vs remembering self study

    Let’s summarise this scenario quickly:

    • In trial one, participants experienced a constant 60 seconds of pain
    • In trial two, participants experienced a constant 90 seconds of pain, where the final 30 seconds were slightly less painful

    So based on this, which do you think the participants decided to repeat?

    I think it’s fair to say that any sane person would opt for the shorter period of pain, and would choose to repeat trial one.

    The astounding thing however is that a massive 80% of participants opted to repeat trial two, having previously reported a slight decrease in pain for the final 30 seconds of the trial.

    Just think about that for a moment; participants willingly ignored the fact that they experienced a full 50% more time in pain and chose to report trial two (the long one) as the one they would be happy to repeat.

    The implications

    This finding is significant because it shows that regardless of the experience that the experiencing self goes through, the remembering self disregards this and chooses to remember the lower level of pain at the end of trial two.

    Experiencing self vs remembering self

    It effectively means that regardless of how bad an experience is, as long as the end of it is lower than the peak of discomfort, your remembering self will remember it more positively, therefore overriding the experience you just went through.

    Taking this concept onto the world of marketing, imagine what this means for a brand.

    A brand’s website could have the best user-experience, content could be easy to find, enjoyable to read and the product at the end could be desirable and well priced. All of that stuff is great for your experiencing self.

    But what if, after working your way around the site, you go to purchase a product only to be sent to a separate domain to complete payment. What if that separate domain was built by a competent developer, but bypassed the UX/design team (it happens)?

    Suddenly, you’ve just made your customer’s final interaction with your brand a negative (or less positive) one.

    That plays right into the hands of the remembering self, which is going to take the negative feeling at the climax of the experience and tarnish the entire memory and feeling towards your brand.

    Now the chances of your customers recommending your brand to friends, or returning in the future, or simply enjoying your product are greatly reduced.

    What can be done?

    Basically, don’t forget the what a user’s final interaction with your site will be.

    Infact, don’t just remember to take care of the end, but prioritise it above the rest of the experience. That’s not to say that the rest of the user experience shouldn’t be top notch, but if you are going to mess up one part of the experience, make damn sure it’s not the end.

    As you might expect, there are some brands who get this completely wrong. Take Apple and Paypal for example.

    A friend decided to purchase an iPhone direct from the Apple website and take advantage of their free credit option, allowing the customer to spread the cost of the device over a period of up to 24 months.

    The payment service was setup and managed by Paypal.

    As you’d expect with anything from Apple, the user experience whilst browsing their website is beautiful and functional in equal measure:

    Apple and Paypal

    Apple and Paypal

    Choosing the device you’d like to purchase is a joy; switching between feature options, colour and size is logical and very easy to navigate.

    This is a service that appeals to the experiencing self; the part of you living in the moment, choosing a new phone.

    Next, it was time to sort out payment. This is where Paypal joins forces with Apple to sort out the payment plan. The plan itself was relatively easy to setup but a few months in, Paypal had failed to take the correct amount of payment (if any at all) each month.

    This forced my friend to login each month (without a reminder), and remember to manually make the payment, using Paypal’s un-user-friendly interface.

    In short, the final user experience in this whole episode was a clunky, unreliable payment service. It was a stress, a hassle and it terrible final experience.

    This plays to the remembering self. Based on the poor payment experience, it applies bad feeling to the entire Apple service. As such, the experience of purchasing an iPhone from Apple and paying through Paypal is rated as poor.


    The conclusion is simple, user experience should look like this:

    Appealing to the remembering self

    And not this:

    Appealing to the remembering self

    Further information

    Want to delve deeper? Watch Daniel Kahneman’s TED talk here:

    Main image – by Clem on Flickr

    By Paul Wood Marketing
  • 11 Aug

    How to run a blog schedule

    I go on the internet quite a lot. I go on the internet everyday in fact. Whilst on the internet I use my skills of observation to look at what is out there. In an un-scientific study, I’ve concluded that 98% of the internet can be broken down into two broad categories: naughty websites and blogs. Sometimes the two categories merge, but let’s ignore that for now.

    What this means is that if you want to launch (or revive) a blog (or a naughty website for that matter), you are going to need a plan. As the cliche goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. If the internet generated dust you’d probably find plenty of it hanging around on blogs.

    So, today I want you to decide to keep your blog dust free. Get your marigolds on, pull your socks up and get ready to sort your blog out.

    Take simple steps

    Blogs can be written by a single person or a team of people; either way, you are going to need a schedule to keep things on track. The first thing I normally do is decide on a publishing schedule, so I suggest you do that too. Weekly, monthly, daily, whatever, I don’t really mind, it’s up to you. Decide now…

    OK, so you’ve made a decision, now you need to set some goals. Goals for publishing work best when they involve taking simple, easy to achieve steps. Think of it like this; if your only goal is to publish a blog post by a chosen date, you are left with a rather large end goal to aim for. If, instead you break the large goal down into smaller tasks with their own deadlines, you are more likely to hit the desired end goal (publishing the post). I recommend you break your schedule down into the following three milestones:

    1. Submit an idea

    You can’t publish a blog post until you have written it, and you can’t start writing it until you’ve come up with an idea. I suggest you start here. Coming up with an idea is the most important part of the process and by separating it into its own deadline you are guiding your writers to focus on the idea instead of moving into the writing stage too quickly.

    Once a writer has submitted an idea there is a high chance that they have committed to the process early on, therefore reducing the chances of them giving up on writing the post.

    2. Submit a draft version of your post

    Another common issue I’ve seen when working on publishing schedules is that writers are often very keen to work on the final version of their post. Slow down there skippy. Don’t run before you can walk. Accept the fact that you are going to make mistakes. That’s fine, we all need to go through various iterations of things we are working on.

    Make sure your team of writers know that the work they submit to the editor for proof-reading/feedback should be considered a draft, and nothing more. It’ll mean that changes will be seen as a positive, they will improve the post. It’s also easier to relax into writing something when you know that it is a draft. If your writer is relaxed about the process they are less likely to miss the deadline.

    3. Publish post

    The post has been written (in draft form), the editor has read it and suggested some improvements, the writer has responded by submitting something even better. Guess what comes next? Publish the post.

    Bonus – Don’t schedule too far into the future

    I use a schedule like the one I’ve described above to keep this blog (white.net/blog/) moving. The three key deadlines are split by a week each:

    Week one – submit idea
    Week two – submit draft
    Week three – submit final version/publish

    I schedule every writer’s next deadline, which covers about five weeks. I don’t go further than that. Things have a habit of changing, and if that change means that the schedule needs to move for multiple people that can cause problems. Before you know it writers are getting lost, things are going wrong, deadlines are being missed, there’s smoke coming out of the building and a picket line has formed outside the car park. Don’t let that happen.

    Make it visible

    The next challenge when developing a publishing schedule is to ensure that everyone involved in the process is able to see what is coming next. I’ve seen a number of publishing schedules which, although highly organised, completely fail to keep the entire team updated on who is writing what, and when.

    If you haven’t got visibility, your process is hard to see and therefore hard to understand. If something is harder to understand than it needs to be, there’s a high chance the people it affects will lose energy in trying to keep up with it. There are a couple of ways to remedy this:


    Kanban is a system that can be used to improve visibility. It was developed by Toyota in Japan and is a key part in helping the car manufacturer to deliver vehicles ‘just in time’ (JIT). The idea behind kanban is that your system relies on cards, each one a representation of a writer’s idea moving through the three stages of the publishing process. Below is an example of a kanban board where each card on the board represents a blog post moving through the stages to publication.

    Kanban for publishers

    Some people like to have a physical board in place to achieve this, but an online system can work just as well. Trello is built on this principle, other project management tools borrow from these ideas. Use whatever system you like, just make sure it is always visible to the team.


    In addition to maintaining an easily visible schedule, I’ve found that keeping the team updated regularly helps to stop the rot. Every Monday morning the team receives an email clarifying the schedule, and during a weekly huddle the key deadlines are covered. The update is just about short enough to avoid anyone crying, clocking in at around 30-seconds to be exact.

    It’s not what you know, it’s who knows what

    Have you ever seen a publishing schedule run itself? Of course you haven’t. Although it can be a labour intensive task, you’re going to have to face facts; without an editorial team your blog is going to gather so much dust, even Kim and Aggie would have trouble cleaning it up.

    There are two key roles you’ll need to recruit for. They are:


    This person essentially maintains editorial standards on the blog. They should decide what topics should be covered, who the audience is and who the writers are. The other key role this person will play is maintaining the schedule. Sometimes that means stepping in when a deadline has been missed.


    The role of the sub-editor is to check the accuracy and style of each blog post. Their role is key during the ‘draft’ phase of the process. They are essentially the annoying people who send your blog post back with lots of ‘improvements’ marked on it.


    There you have it. A simple, practical process for keeping your blog schedule up to date and healthy. You can see how well it works by coming back to this blog (white.net/blog/) again and again and observing how impressively regular we all are!

    Further reading

    The Toyota Way – one of the best books to learn about the principles behind lean methods and JIT production

    A Content Strategy Template you can Build on – a great post explaining how to take your strategy a step further

    By Paul Wood Content
  • 30 Jul

    Organic Traffic Does Not Simply Disappear


    The Curious Case of the Missing Organic Traffic

    In SEO, there are few things worse than waking up to find that your organic traffic has disappeared. First there’s denial, shortly before anger sets in. A few curses later and you begin bargaining before sinking into the depths of a foggy grump. Finally acceptance; it’s gone.

    So, what on earth has happened to it? It’s easy to jump to conclusions when organic traffic goes missing. Some might say it no longer exists. That’s hard to believe; a market doesn’t eat itself over night. Others might think that Google has pulled the rug from underneath them, often true but not always the case.

    So what can be done when you are a few thousand organic visitors light? The answer: ask the right questions. Take a step back from the situation and go through the following sequence of questions:

    Q1 - Your Website

    What has changed on your website?

    The first place to look is inside. You control your website, so you should know what has changed. First you need to work out when organic traffic began to drop. There are two options here:

    • The drop was very sudden (practically overnight/within the space of a few days)
    • The drop began weeks/months ago and has continued on a constant, downward trend

    If the drop was sudden you can be more confident that there was a specific, recent change that occurred to cause the issue. Conversely, if the drop happened over a longer period of time, you have an immediate clue that there is a fundamental change that is causing a downward spiral.

    Now you know how quickly your organic traffic disappeared, you need to work out what has changed on your website to see if this is playing any role. Ask yourself questions such as:

    • Have any pages been added/removed recently?
    • Has a new version of the site/a feature launched recently?
    • Has my content strategy changed?
    • Has anything broken?
    • Has my website been hacked?
    • Are there new links pointing to my site?

    Focus on gaining insight into the three core pillars of your on-site strategy: technical integrity, on-site content, and link profile (which directly influences the integrity of your domain).

    Note down all of the changes on a timeline and then move onto question two…

    Q2 - Google

    What has Google changed recently?

    You’ve already looked at the things you control, so now it is time to review the factors that you cannot control. Chances are, when you look at organic traffic you are mainly looking at traffic from Google. Whether Google is your primary organic traffic source or not, these principles apply just as well to other sources of organic traffic.

    This question is all about understanding what Google has changed in the build up to your drop in organic traffic. There are a number of places you need to look in order to answer this question:

    These are only three sources of search engine news, but most of the time they will have you covered for anything that happens in search. Note down anything significant that has happened around the same time as your organic traffic troubles, put your pen down and move onto question three…

    Q3 - Market

    Has your market changed recently?

    It’s all very well understanding what has changed on your website and what Google has been up to, but it would be incredibly short sighted to ignore what is going on within your market.

    Chances are you already have a good understanding of the market that you operate within, but things change, so take nothing for granted. Begin by updating your keyword research. Searcher’s intent and their use of language can change quite dramatically given time and changing circumstances. By updating the keyword research data you hold you are validating whether your keyword strategy is still suitable for the traffic you are trying to capture.

    You also need to review the trends within your market; are new products and services on offer that make yours less appealing? Question whether related markets are diversifying and beginning to eat up some of your organic traffic. Also review whether there has been any breaking news related to your industry; major/significant news events can often shake up the organic search market, increasing the importance of ‘fresh’ content. Google Trends is a great place to review movement in your market, and setting up Google Alerts can be a good way to monitor changes in the future.

    Q4 - Competitors

    What have your competitors been up to?

    What happens if you conclude that nothing on your website has changed, Google has changed nothing (unlikely, by the way), and your market is as solid as it has ever been?

    Sometimes the absence of change is as significant as its presence. In The Adventure of Silver Blaze, Sherlock Holmes draws the attention of Gregory (the detective) to the “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time”:

    Gregory – “The dog did nothing in the night-time”

    Holmes – “That was the curious incident”

    Investigating the disappearance of Silver Blaze, a famous race horse, Holmes fixes his gaze on the fact that the family dog did not bark during the night of the horse’s disappearance. Knowing that dogs are infamous for their ability to make noise when a stranger is present, Holmes was able to confirm that the thief must have been known to the dog for it to stay silent. The absence of something proving to be the most significant clue.

    And so it is with your website. When all else remains the same, often the best place to look is at your competition. You probably have a long list of competitors; go to this list and look into what each of them has been doing recently. Note down new content they have added, look at where new websites/features have been launched and see if they have moved into a new space within your market.

    Also look to see whether anyone new has moved into the market. Look at whether a previously weak competitor has suddenly found momentum. SEMrush is a great tool to use when reviewing competitor changes and can be enough to highlight a change in fortunes for your competitor’s websites.

    Your website, Google and the market may have stood still, but if your competitors have carried on moving forwards chances are you are going to lose out as a result. After all, in a world that is constantly changing, standing still is as good as moving backwards!


    Having carried out your investigations you should have a list that covers:

    • Everything that has (or hasn’t) changed on your website
    • Everything that Google has updated recently
    • How your market is changing
    • What your competitors have been up to

    Now all you need to do is look through all of the facts and come to a conclusion. Focus on the significant facts, line them up in order and then run through the scenario. Like a good detective, keeping to this process will help you uncover everything that matters in your quest to uncover what happened to your missing organic traffic. After all, organic traffic does not simply disappear!

    Credit – Sherlock Holmes icon by James Keuning on The Noun Project.

    By Paul Wood Google Analytics
  • 24 Feb

    UK Digital Events 2015

    The digital industry is thriving and the rate of change can seem overwhelming, that is why a good event or conference is a great way to stay in touch with the industry and the diverse mix of people who make it.

    White has a proud history of event attendance, with a number of decorated speakers in our midst. It will come as no surprise that we like to keep an eye on what events are taking place throughout the year.

    With that in mind, we’ve compiled a handy list of digital events running throughout the UK over the next 12 months, and picked out the key events we recommend you attend.

    [timeline src=”https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0Ai6hF7H3D4DjdGo5UWZYWnJOUEptNnpZdjVMeU02dVE&output=html” width=”100%” height=”650″ font=”Bevan-PotanoSans” maptype=”toner” lang=”en” ]


    Digital Media Strategies – 3rd March 2015

    MeasureCamp VI – 14th March 2015

    Digital Cream – 26th March 2015

    Top pick – MeasureCamp VI

    The fact that it focuses on web analytics makes MeasureCamp a unique prospect among the list of digital events held in the UK this year. It comes highly recommended with the team at White confirming that if you want to spend a Saturday in March learning about web tracking, this is almost certainly the best place to do it!

    Last September’s MeasureCamp was great. I found the sessions both challenging and enlightening, and met a really varied bunch of people. It’s a great way to discover new ways of doing things and inspires you to have a go at using data in a way you’ve never considered before.

    Alex – Specialist at White


    BrightonSEO – 9th April 2015

    Marketing Week Live – 29th April 2015

    Adobe Summit London – 29th April 2015

    Top pick – BrightonSEO

    BrightonSEO is a two-a-year event that has become something of a pilgrimage for White, and the rest of the SEO community. It started a few years ago in a pub and has become a firm favourite for SEO fans and digital marketers alike. Not only is the event jam-packed with talks and roundtables (one of which we run), it also boasts a great pre-and-post-night atmosphere, with drinks and chats book-ending the main event.


    Figaro Digital – 14th May 2015

    Thinking Digital – 19th May 2015

    International Search Summit – 19th May 2015

    SMX London – 20th May 2015

    Top pick – SMX London

    SMX, or Search Marketing Expo, is a truly international affair. Held within 11 cities around the globe, when it stops in London in May it is well worth checking out. The event programme is managed by the team from SearchEngineLand.com and MarketingLand.com, more than enough evidence to suggest that the caliber of content at this event will be well worth the journey.


    Digital Analytics Hub – 6th June 2015

    Social Media World Forum – 8th June 2015

    SAScon – 11th June 2015

    Data IQ Summit – 16th June 2015

    Interop 2015 – 16th June 2015

    Top pick – SAScon

    Some might say SAScon is the most significant search and digital conference held in the North. Hosted in Manchester, SAScon always boasts an enviable lineup of speakers and 2015 is expected to be no exception.


    *Is everyone on holiday?*


    *Still on holiday?*


    BrightonSEO – TBC

    White Exchange – TBC

    Top pick – White Exchange

    OK, so it’s a shameless bit of self promotion but White Exchange is worth the plug. First off, it is held at the Ashmolean Museum which is the world’s first university museum, no-less. Secondly, 2014’s White Exchange was a huge success with speakers from White, Marin and Linkdex sharing the stage and chatting over a free lunch. At the end of the day you get the mooch around the museum, on a Monday, when it is closed to the public.


    Ad:tech – 13th October 2015

    SearchLove – 19th October 2015

    eMetrics – 28th October 2015

    Conversion Conference – 28th October 2015

    Top pick – SearchLove

    If your only wish in the world is to go and hear from the celebrities of the search and digital world, SearchLove is probably your safest bet. With a list of previous speakers that would make most marketers grab frantically for their autograph books, SearchLove draws a crowd for a reason. It’s usually expensive, but if you can justify it you are bound to love it!


    Crunch (Festival of Marketing) – TBC

    Digital Marketing Show – 18th November 2015


    *Early Christmas?*

    By Paul Wood Events
  • 19 Aug

    The Six Principles of Good Choice Architecture

    “If anything you do influences the way people choose, then you are a choice architect”.

    These are the words of Richard Thaler, a behavioural economist who is one of the authors of Nudge, a book about choice architecture and the role it can play in improving how people make choices.

    Choice architecture applies to all aspects of life but combines particularly well with marketing. Websites enjoy a unique position within marketing and form the centrepiece for many brands’ communication efforts.

    By applying the core principles of choice architecture you can improve the effectiveness of your website in simple but powerful ways.

    There are six core principles of choice architecture that I outline below. Each one is accompanied by some real life examples, some from the web and some from other walks of life, to give you a feel for each principle.

    Understanding these principles can make you look at communication in a new way and help you to improve overall user experience online; something that Google is increasingly keen on!


    1. Incentives

    The first principle of effective choice architecture is concerned with answering the question, “what’s in it for me?”

    When someone is presented with a choice they will need some form of incentive to encourage them to make the correct / desired choice.

    This is easier to explain by using some examples.

    Selling your car

    Before the days of the internet, selling your car used to come down to two options: sell it privately or part-exchange.

    Both options were accompanied with a heavy cost in terms of hassle, so not much incentive there.

    We Buy Any Car has used the internet to make the incentive to sell your car to them much more enticing.

    The We Buy Any Car website does a fantastic job of giving the customer an incentive to try their service.

    The personal cost of finding out how much they will pay for your car is very low – there is little hassle involved in entering your registration number.

    The website also does a good job of communicating the advantage of selling with them; 80% of customers say they get a better deal than part exchange.

    This is clearly a good example of where the incentive of removing hassle has resulted in a behaviour change for people selling their car.

    Washing your hands

    Rory Sutherland (of Ogilvy Change) has a novel way of changing behaviour with a simple nudge. The video below describes how using a simple system can show people that making a small change at low cost can come together to make a big impact.

    The incentive: save the environment, the cost: change your behaviour in a very small way.


    2. Mappings

    Effective mapping is all about making it easy for your customer to understand what they are going to experience when they purchase your product or service.

    Mapping is a particularly important principle for websites because a website does not enjoy the luxury of being able to hold a face-to-face conversation with a customer. Instead, the experience of purchasing your product or service needs to be communicated through content.

    Below are examples of where I think two websites could make improvements in this area.


    When buying a new camera, one of the most prominent features advertised is the number of megapixels the camera uses.

    Here is a screenshot of how the Jessops website sells cameras:

    Notice the navigation on the left, which allows the customer to filter search results by the number of megapixels the camera has.

    The problem is that megapixels as a measurement is a pretty useless number; not many customers truly understand what it means when purchasing and using a camera.

    Customers don’t really need to know how many megapixels they get, instead they need to know what size photos they can print.

    Jessops could improve the choice architecture on their website by allowing customers to filter results by photo print size instead of megapixels, as shown in the table below:

    Mobile data contracts

    Another confusing choice that consumers face is how much mobile data they will need with a new phone contract.

    The screenshot above is taken from the Three.co.uk website displaying three mobile phone options including data.

    Notice how the data is sold in gigabyte (GB) units.

    All very well except what on earth is a GB?

    All a consumer wants to do is check their emails, login to Facebook, send a tweet, check the news and find a restaurant.

    How many GBs would that require?

    I work with websites every day and I have never taken the time to truly understand how much data I use on a daily basis.

    Perhaps a better way to sell mobile data could be to sell it in units of time; 5 hours of data, 10 hours of data and so on.

    Time is something everybody understands and as a result will be able to ‘map’ what they are purchasing to the experience they will have after making the purchase.

    This is a simple change that phone providers could make to their websites that would remove an unnecessary layer of confusion from the customer journey.


    3. Defaults

    The simple truth that makes the defaults principle work is that people take the action that requires the least amount of effort.

    Based on this understanding, a good piece of choice architecture will set the correct default options from the start in order to guide the consumer in the correct direction with the least amount of action.

    Take note of this principle when building a form on your website, or putting together a product offering that requires making lots of decisions in terms of specific features.

    Saving for retirement

    The UK government recently made use of the defaults principle when coming up with a new approach to pension choices.

    Before 2012, pensions were something that workers were required to opt-into. The default position was that workers were not enrolled into a pension scheme unless they specifically chose to do so.

    Following the introduction of auto-enrolment, where employers are required to automatically opt staff into a pension scheme, being a member of a pension scheme is now the default choice.

    The result is that a lot more workers will be opted-into a pension scheme and will be saving for retirement.

    Software updates

    In 2013 Apple launched iOS7 for its mobile phones and tablets.

    With it came automatic app updates; the default position was that apps would now automatically update themselves unless the user actively asked them not to.

    The result is that fewer Apple device users are using apps that are out of date and at risk of being hacked, attacked by malicious software, or failing.

    A simple change that shows how a default position can be used for the good of your customers.

    By setting the correct defaults you can prompt your customers to make the correct choices and ensure that they end up with the experience that they are looking for, without having to jump through hoops to get it.


    4. Give Feedback

    The best way to improve your performance at something is to receive feedback. This is what the feedback principle is all about.

    When you throw a ball at a target and miss you get immediate feedback (via your eyes) that can help you to improve your next throw.

    Imagine if you could not see the result of your throw. Chances are you would never improve because the lack of feedback would hinder your ability to learn and make adjustments.

    A good piece of choice architecture should work in exactly the same way.

    A website that does not provide feedback when an action is taken can lead to a negative user experience; I know a panda who is very keen on user experience by the way…

    Form validation

    An example of good feedback is seen when using Google’s insurance comparison tool.

    Whenever you reach a new field in the form and then move on without completing it, the page immediately tells you that you have missed a required field (as shown above).

    This is in contrast to websites that wait for you to complete the entire page before telling you that something is wrong (or even worse, not telling you at all).

    Google does a good job of providing immediate feedback allowing you to move through the fields quickly, completing them correctly straight away. No wasted time and no frustration.

    E.on energy comparison

    E.on has come up with a clever way to use the feedback principle to help its customers to change how they use energy.

    The service allows customers to compare their energy use with similar customers who live nearby, using the company website.

    Customers can tell if they are using too much energy and find out ways to reduce their energy costs based on the information they receive.

    The feedback this piece of content marketing provides is that it allows customers to make choices based on information they had previously not had access to.


    5. Expect Error

    All websites should expect their users to make mistakes. Whether it is clicking on the wrong link, using an out of date web browser, or misunderstanding a complicated idea.

    Working on solutions for websites, I often come across situations where we must change a feature to cater for all types of mistake.

    How customers use the website

    A recent example was seen when implementing a new method of conversion tracking on an ecommerce website. The method required the customer to return to the client’s website from PayPal (where the transaction was completed) and this process would register as a sale.

    Although the path back to the website from PayPal was the obvious route, the problem was that there was a chance some users might not follow the conventional path to the website and, as such, a more robust system had to be developed in order to avoid an error.

    The error in this example would have been rare, but the ‘expecting error’ principle meant that we looked at all angles and created a solution that avoided the potential for the customer to get lost between PayPal and the website.

    Forgotten attachment

    A clever way email clients expect error is when you forget to add an attachment to your email:

    Microsoft Outlook (pictured above) and Gmail both have a feature which looks for words like ‘attached’ or ‘attachment’ within emails.

    If the word is found, the email client will then check to see if a file has been attached to the email. If not, a reminder pops up to ask if you intended to add an attachment before you send it.

    This simple piece of choice architecture has saved more than a few blushes; it is one my personal favourite features of Gmail and Outlook.


    6. Structure Complex Ideas

    When faced with a small number of choices, consumers are pretty good at reviewing each option and then making a choice based on their own preferences.

    However, the comparison process is not as easy when there are lots of complex options.

    Amos Tversky, a cognitive psychologist, described the process of dealing with a complex set of choices as ‘elimination by aspects’.

    The process Tversky described involves a person deciding on the most important features of the available options and then setting a minimum requirement to make a decision.

    The example used in Nudge is when you are searching for a new flat to rent. Because it would not be realistic to go and view all of the flats in the city, you are forced to make some cut-off points:

    • Flat is no more than 30 minutes from work
    • Flat has no fewer than two double bedrooms
    • Flat costs no more than £X per month

    Although this approach greatly reduces the number of flats you must consider, it can prove costly if the perfect flat to rent happens to be 31 minutes away from work.

    The principle of structuring complex ideas is all about reducing the opportunity to miss out on the correct choice because of complexity.

    Finding a new car

    Finding a new car to buy can be a pretty complex process.

    Motors.co.uk does a good job of offering its customers choices based on real-life scenarios, in order to filter down to suitable cars:

    The smart search feature lets the customer rank different features in order of importance to make the process of purchasing a car less reliant on budget only.

    Finding a film to watch

    One of the appeals of Netflix is that it includes a lot of films. So many that finding one to watch can be a bit of a nightmare.

    To make this complex process simple, Netflix has made use of ‘collaborative filtering’; a process where your previous behaviour matches up with that of similar people, which in turn allows the service to recommend what to watch next.

    Please ignore the fact that I have been watching Jonathan Creek, but above is a screenshot from my Netflix account.

    Netflix uses a feature that monitors what I have watched and rated highly, and then recommends new films and programmes to watch based on what it knows about me.

    Ok, so it doesn’t always get it right, I can’t say that Stargate SG-1 is my cup of tea, but Utopia is right up my street, so well done Netflix!


    There you have it, the six principles of good choice architecture.

    If you think about these principles when working on your website you can make the user experience a thing of beauty.

    For me, choice architecture boils down to one key element: simplicity. If your website and associated services are easy to use and easy to understand, then you should have no issues.

    By Paul Wood Content
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