Tuesday, August 11, 2015

For a while: Shifting to User Experience

I've written this blog for many years, though not recently. "Blogging is dead," they say. Most people seem to think microblogging and image-based networks have killed long-form blogs. They are right.

At this week's An Event Apart conference, the keynote speaker talked about "blogging like no one is reading" about a field you are interested in. I've got the blog already set up, so I'm going to try blogging about things in the realm of User-Centered Design that are interesting to me.

This blog will be a way to get these ideas down, explore them, and get back into the writing gig. I won't be writing for anyone else. And since all seven(ish) of my readers expected my old amusing banter on random things, this blog will probably not be interesting to you anymore. But if it is, power to you.

Behavioral Science vs. UX

Nothing is more impenetrable to me, and impenetrably boring, than statistics. I'm fairly good at math, but an avalanche of numbers and tables is usually boring unless I'm interested in the subject. I like data in a similar way. But I prefer people to numbers. I prefer to hear their stories, rather than looking at numbers and distilling stories from reams of data. So I've been a qualitative person, and I've left the quantitative to the bean counters, number crunchers and lab coaters.

But sometimes, what repulses is is also alluring. In grad school our Economics specification ("Econ") was said to have the power to transfer the most anti-number, anti-business person into an economics nerd. It usually succeeded to my surprise, but I never gave it a chance.

But perhaps there was something in this world after all for me. As I've learned more about Behavioral Science, I realize it's very similar to the world of User Experience. It's using data to understand human behavior. Often, it looks at hard data - web analytics, email open rates, the number of responses to a question or mail piece. Data, not people.

But there's more than that. They will look at the data - where people are dropping off from a registration process, how much electricity they use, how they respond to a survey - and they identify a "psychology." This is an explanation behind an action, and often fitting into a nice category of human behavior like being exhausted from having too many choices, or not wanting to deal with a difficulty problem. With this data, they propose a technique to change this behavior. And then the measure to see if the behavior was changed. Very interesting, and very similar to the goal-based UX field.

The "it's the same but different" nature of this really set a fire under me. Looking into it more.

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