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With this card – Distinction Error

This card makes the development of your design-system more effective and efficient. A design system is a collection of reusable components, guidelines and standards that work together to create a consistent and cohesive user experience across a product or suite of products. Key benefits of a design system include consistency of the resulting user interface, process efficiency, scalability and collaboration. Many organizations develop their own design systems. The introduction of psychological insights into design system development makes a huge difference to the content of design systems (components, rules, etc.) as well as to their evaluation. What is the “Distinction Error”? The “Distinction Error” has a crucial psychological impact on the quality of design systems. It describes the following behaviour:  People consider two options to be more different when they are presented simultaneously than when they are evaluated separately in time or space. When users compare things (systems, information, attitudes, etc.), they perceive them as more similar if they can be compared directly. They also notice smaller differences, so they can form a more sophisticated picture of things and compare features more easily. The further apart things are presented in time, the fewer differences people notice and the more similar they judge them to be. What does this mean for design systems? When designing components, it is crucial that users can distinguish between their different states (e.g. deactivated, unpressed, permanently pressed buttons, etc.). If the components are designed visually while the states are simultaneously visible, the visual distinction is stronger than in the real usage context. In the real context, users may not see different states at the same time and therefore may not recognize one state as different from another. The best way to address this potential pitfall is to assess the distinctiveness of component states by presenting the different states to users in a timely and visually separated manner and testing whether they perceive differences. This is particularly important when considering colour perception deficits. Approximately 10% of people have some form of colour perception deficiency. How will these people perceive differences in components? Are they distinct enough? If you only check for contrast (text on background), you are missing a critical step. Other UX Psychology Lens cards can also improve your design-system, the card on the Gestaltlaws for instance.

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With this card – Gestaltlaws

Our brain brings structure and order to visual perceptions according tofix, unalterable laws. These laws are not subject to conscious perception, theyare always at work and subconsciously.   The so-called Gestalt lawssummarize the most important of these mechanisms. Gestalt laws are the mostreliable method for ensuring that users perceive a content structure in apresentation, a design, as required. For example, elements can be conveyed asbelonging together or as explicitly not belonging together by taking theGestalt laws into account. Or the sequences, hierarchies or dependencies can bedesigned to be easily recognizable. Look at the example below: The Gestaltlaws can easily explain why users have problems to add an interim stop or a return journey.

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opinion versus science

Opinion or Science?

Annoyed by decisions based on opinions rather than facts? Are decisions in your organization based on the opinion of the highest ranked, the loudest or the easiest available person? Or by role based responsibilities? This often occur with e.g.  UI design decisions, such as colors or UI elements Decisions on information-architecture Decisions on wording and text Decisions about research activities, such as surveys or usability tests, Strategic decisions, such as workshop agendas or moderations  It is necessary that some person is responsible and accountable for the outcome of a decision. BUT that does not mean that this persons opinion is “correct”. It only means that this person should have the best available inputs (e.g. science, measurable facts) at hand when making decision. Only then can the person make the best possible decision based on that inputs. When it comes to human behaviour aspects, people are very often ignorant of the available science. But including scientific insights in respective decisions is an immense asset: It bases decisions on more valid grounds. Here are two examples: Uninstall a feature? You need to deside wether a new feature in your accounting system shall be uninstalled. You are considering this because  log files show that almost none of your empoyees use it – although it would make some crucial tasks more efficient.  No simple survey will explain you why that is so. You might come up with an opinion, but you cannot really tell. But if you consider psychological science on the Law of instrument, Confirmation and Consistency biasis or the Framing effects (to name a view) and thereby ask very differently, you will very likely learn what is going on. And then you can base you decision on better grounds. Unexpected, false survey results? The data that resulted from a survey amongst a well-defined user group is completely unexpected and you feel that something might have been wrong with the questioning. Looking at the questions you cannot detect anything wrong. You might come up with an opinion, but you cannot really tell. But if you consider psychological science on Mental models, Priming or Memory reconstruction (to name a view) you will very likely understand where the survey was methodologically incorrect.     

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Aesthetic Effect

Does the apple look sweet and delicious to you? Actually, it was bland… We all tend to attribute better characteristics to a product if it is aesthetically appealing – that is the so-called Aesthetic Effect.   For an apple, these characteristics might be taste, freshness, or sweetness – that depends on individual taste preferences. For digital systems or technical appliances, such mislead characteristics very often include its usability!  That means, people tend to rate the usability of a system or product better, if it is aesthetically appealing to them. No, this is not a good thing! Why is this so critical? The usability of a system depends on numerous details. Let me name just a few: the system must support user tasks and work-flows, must be perfectly consistent in order not to confuse users, must provide contents only when, where and in the appropriate detail that meets users needs and must be structured to match users mental models. And so much more… Can any of these usability details be assessed by only looking at the user interface? No, they can’t. You can only detect usability issues, if you carry out tasks and really “use” the system.  So here is the most crucial learning: Never ask people how usable they find a system, before they have carried out a number of serious tasks with the system. Otherwise people will rate the usability almost completely on its aesthetic appeal. That does not reflect the systems usability at all and the rating will mostly be better than reality. You get invalid and useless answers, which you better not rely important decisions on! So always have users carry out a set of real tasks before you ask anything concerning usability!

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Confirmation bias

You don’t search for the best answer! Neither do the rest of us … We all tend to search for answers that confirm what we already know! WHY? Our brain seeks to provide us with a stable, consistent picture of the world and ourselves. Only if this works properly are we able to function as individuals and in groups. To do so, our brain steers and alters our perception respectively. Here are some generic examples: And here are some everyday examples: So next time you talk and listen to people, seek an information source, or somehow perceive and process information, challenge yourself: Am I really trying to be as objective as possible? How am I biased by my personal viewpoint and experience?

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Verb versus Noun

Ben and Sam are twins. They are asked to donate blood for an initiative at a nearby hospital.    Ben says: Sure, I am a regular blood donor. I will go monday.   Sam says: Sure, I regularily donate blood. I will go monday. Who is more likely to donate blood on monday? Did you choose Ben? Then you are in good company – Most people choose Ben! Why is that so? We feel that people who are committed to something strongly, are more likely to act accordingly. And we feel that “being something” shows a stronger commitment than “doing something”. You might have heard this e.g. If you apply this difference between verbs and nouns it can make a huge difference! See these examples:

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Behavioral Science or UX Psychology?

The field of behavioral science is increasingly gaining awareness in experience design. With an economic background, the focus of this field is to better understand the (ir)rationality of people in an economic setting (e.g. online shop, sales negotiations). For a long time, it was assumed that people act in a logical way, that optimizes their own benefits. Now we know that this is not the case, people behave anything else but logically. UX Psychology takes a broader view. It introduces all relevant aspects of being human into the design for experience. The most relevant psychological disciplines that come to be applied in UX work are cognitive-, behavioral-, social- and neuropsychology. These encompass vast empirical knowledge about human perception, cognition, performance and failure, attention, memory, emotion, subjective experiences, motivation, and individual or group behaviors. It thereby includes conscious and subconscious phenomena. The implications of cognitive biases (focused on by behavioral science) as well as the understanding of context-dependent behavior variability are also highly relevant for UX Psychologists. UX Psychology is therefore a recognized asset in numerous contexts for numerous systems and problem settings, such as e.g.:

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The Peak End rule: crucial for experience-journeys

Look at the Experience Journey in the picture above. The most important problem can be detected at first glance! Look at it from a sheerly psychological perspective: The time the user spent satisfied excels the time spent unsatisfied. Fine. But not enough. You also have to design for the memory the person will have, thinking back at the journey. Why? Because this is what will make the person come back, recommend your product or increase the bounding to your brand! And our brain constructs this memory almost exclusively from the most intense and the last experience. In the case of the visualized experience journey, these two are unsatisfying / negative. So the person will think back at the experience negatively. So what do you have to do? Look at your experience journeys from the memory perspective! Make sure the most intense experience as well as the final one are enjoyable / positive!

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User involvement in card development

There are at least 300 well-described relevant influences on human behavior, that could be considered in UX. Well, that’s too many for most people in UX. But incorporating psychology is crucial for the efficiency of the process and the quality of the resulting UX! That’s why in 2020, I decided to develop a smart tool, that enables everybody who is interested in psychology to make the UX of their products and services  better with a set of carefully chosen psychological insights. And I knew I needed to develop it iteratively with future users, otherwise, it would not meet their needs. Step 1: Identifying the most relevant psychological influences and pitfalls I started to analyze a broad range of projects from my three decades of experience as a psychologist in tech, to identify the most often occurring problems, caused by tangible psychological issues. I structured and classified these causes, ranked them, and ended up with the most important 50 psychological influences. With these 50 insights, I assessed designs, journey maps, and questionnaires to see how they helped to identify the causes of problems. That went well. Step 2: Developing the first versions of the contents and designs of the cards Next came the development of the cards. What details about the psychological insights should be provided, what level of detail, what actionable recommendations, how much, what style, etc.? And the physical cards: what size and layout? My first cards described the psychological insights and their causes, but rapid user feedback on the first card prototypes found them not actionable enough. And my own card designs proved that I needed professional graphic design support. So, while I worked on the next versions of the content, I started working with Mandana (see https://schoener.digital) who designed new card layouts, including graphics, icons, etc. She was a very helpful sparring partner in lots of design discussions. This phase took another 3 months. Step 3: User trials with content and text iterations Finally, with a version of a full set of cards, I started with real user trials. A great group of approx. 20 people from companies volunteered to try out the cards, partly in workshops or in their daily work. They provided me with detailed feedback which iteratively led to changes in content and wording. There were also additional card types at that time, that should have helped users to choose and apply cards, but trials showed that they were too complex, so I eliminated them completely. Step 4: Finalizing the cards in 2 languages (English and German) From the start I wanted the tool to be available in English as well as German. German is my mother tongue. And English is important because on the one hand I see the need for applying psychology all around the globe. And on the other hand, because teams are increasingly becoming multicultural and English is the predominant working language. So I had the cards translated. At that time Klaus Hofer (see www.usabilitymapping.com) was wonderfully supportive with checking the English version. Being a psychologist himself, Klaus was also a great help with finalizing small details in terms and texts. Step 5: Designing supportive process materials The trial users had asked for supportive guidance on how to best apply the cards, a kind of process description for daily tasks – in addition to using them as learning materials in the first place. So I developed 2 process descriptions, one for evaluating designs and materials and one for analyzing behavior at hand. In three iterations with users, starting with a small folder, followed by a big map, I finally came up with the process cards. Parallel to everything else: the development of the box Parallel to the development of the cards I needed to work on the box for the cards. It was clear to me that I wanted everything to be produced locally, regarding the environmental impact of transport. After various iterations and trial productions, I finally decided upon the box as it is available now. Mandana developed an enjoyable design for the box. THE FINAL PRODUCT Finally, after more than 18 months of very intense development time, in October 2022 at the WUC World Usability Congress in Graz, I introduced the UX Psychology Lens® Toolset to the UX community. Wow, was I nervous! But the feedback was incredibly positive, and since then, people are buying the cards and sending me stories about how they use them, and how the cards help them! By now (End of 2022) the cards are already used on three continents and in +20 countries. What comes next? The book: The accompanying book, which provides in-depth descriptions, cases, examples, and arguments is almost ready. I had planned it to be available before Christmas, but I guess you understand that sometimes time plans do not work out as intended, Your feedback is important: The cards are produced locally, and in rather small batches, so that I have the chance to incorporate feedback that I get from you – the people using them! Specialized cards: In 2023 I will work on supplementary cards on special application areas such as safety, writing, or trust. Let me know which areas are most relevant to you!

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Diverse teams – psychological pitfalls and challenges

ARE YOU A MEMBER OR LEADER OF A DIVERSE TEAM? Well, there are a couple of inevitable psychological challenges that you are facing, whether you have yet to realize it or not! It is a well-established fact that diversity in teams or organizations is beneficial. Among other advantages, diverse teams produce better outcomes, they show a better working atmosphere and attitude. Diversity can encompass various characteristics, the most discussed are gender, ethnicity, age, or special needs. So far so good – but what’s the challenge? Just staffing teams with a diverse group of people is not enough to harvest that benefit, the opposite might even be the case. It is crucial that you explicitly address (subconscious) psychological influences that are very likely to cause problems for diverse teams if disregarded. Here are three such challenges and how they can be tackled. The FALSE CONSENSUS EFFECT A common problem lies in the false consensus effect. We tend to assume that other people think as we do and share our values and preferences. This leads to misunderstandings that are often not detected until a serious problem pops up. Within a diverse team, this effect can be very problematic, because the individual backgrounds vary more, and the misunderstandings are worse. A 3-step approach is well suited to tackle that challenge: Raise awareness of that effect –most people don’t know it and even if they are, they don’t consider it in their daily routines. Introduce regular not-task-oriented exchanges, e.g. joint lunch, and prepare to discuss “daily live topics”. These are topics for which you can expect diverse people to have diverse perspectives and insights, e.g. traditions, travel, or communities. Getting to know colleagues’ perspectives on daily life issues helps to grow mutual understanding. Start with weekly meetings for new teams and decrease to monthly as the team grows together. Introduce communication means by which team members can express their respective concerns in a safe way – create a psychologically safe environment where people dare to speak up! The IN-GROUP BIAS Another problem in diverse teams is in-group bias. It makes us really believe that our own group (sports team, clique, etc.) is better in many ways, is doing better, is more trustworthy, and as such. In a diverse team, it is crucial that you avoid this bias within the team. If your team is unnoticed split into groups (e.g., the vegans – the meat lovers or the ex-pats – the natives) this can cause severe conflicts within your team. Tackle that pitfall by watching out for such groups and provide the “opposite groups” with one strong common purpose and goal – seek to find commonalities and explicitly address those. The SOCIAL PROOF EFFECT A third example is the social proof effect. Briefly, it describes the behavior of people in uncertain situations: we look out for a person that seems to know what to do. Having found this person, we copy his or her behavior, hardly checking if that behavior is really a good idea. This effect leads to rapidly evolving group dynamics, which in diverse teams can tear apart a team within weeks. This is a tough one, to tackle it you must seek open communication with all team members to sense problems before they become critical. Therefore again: create a psychologically safe environment where people dare to speak up! ——————– Effects like these, and there are numerous more, will determine whether all people assigned to the team will feel as team members, acknowledged and welcome. Strong, diverse teams need time to bond and grow, if you look through the lens of psychology you can steer that process and avoid pitfalls right from the start. Who will benefit from a psychological approach? Everybody! Not only the team members, team leaders, and overall management. Your whole organization will strengthen its DE&I strategy.

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