Designing for sloths

Designing for sloths

Humans are micro-lazy

When we think of laziness, we tend to picture the classic couch potato, slouched with a remote in his hands, jowl-faced and armed with little ambition to do anything else. This is a generalization and a misrepresentation of laziness. I think humans suffer more from being “micro-lazy”. There’s something holding us back, making us unable to do very easy, almost effortless tasks that we’re designing around this passiveness. Traffic lights on walkways are just the latest design solution to address this epidemic of idleness.

I can relate

Every morning I leave the empty packages for my contact lenses on the bathroom counter. I consciously know what I’m doing. I know very well that the garbage is to my left, yet my body almost refuses to spend the extra .5 joules to move my arm over 18” inches, across the counter and properly dispose of it. If I were left handed, maybe. Though I can’t underestimate my laziness.

We work hard, so you don’t have to

As UX professionals, we’re always challenged to make software perform better. “Better” to our department usually means converting users to engage in a call to action. Whether it means to buy, download, contact, comment, log in, engage, or share, it’s a continual struggle to make the experience flawless and increase the chances of a conversion. People in our industry go to great lengths to increase these conversions. We study human behaviour patterns, profile and target users, track paths, A/B test, heat map and so on, all in an effort to make your fingers click or tap that one cluster of pixels. Sound exhausting? It is, but it’s well worth it.

There’s a point in time where users are faced with the decision to either click or tap to complete the conversion, yet we don’t zoom in enough to these events. I’m calling this the Last Effort Gap; the last stop between doing it or not doing it - and though it appears to be a small crack, it couldn’t be more important to the success of your digital asset. Your users have rounded the bases, but for some reason, they’re not stepping on home plate. Frequently you will see analytics that indicate high visitation to a page, but low conversion (i.e., lots of visits to the contact form, yet very few actual submitted inquiries). We may have worked extra hard getting them there, but it’s all for naught if they didn’t engage in the call to action (unless having them read the content was the ultimate goal).

Eliminate friction

In the case of my contact lenses, the garbage being slightly out of the way is apparently a major inconvenience for my heavy arms. Our goal, as designers, is to eliminate this type of friction that jeopardizes the chance for conversion. Friction could be the little annoyances, such as illegible security questions, or bigger deterrents such as broken links. Traditionally, we tend to focus more on major points of friction, while ignoring ones that are less obvious. We need to take a closer look at these micro-frictions that cause a widening of the Last Effort Gap. We need to ask Why. Why aren’t people clicking, downloading, rating, filling out, logging in? Why am I not putting my contact lens containers garbage? The solution may run deeper than the interaction design.

We need to examine this last step in the process that blocks users from following through, and understand why that last effort gap exists and what can we control. This should be a part of your “Life after Launch” strategy. Accept that not every page of your site is going to perform how you’d like, but with some analytics and user engagement, you could narrow down the issues and design higher converting solutions.

Trying is better than not

For now, to address my own laziness (without self-help books) I’m experimenting by leaving no room on the counter to put my lense cases. I’ve crowded that space with other bathroom obstacles in hopes of giving me no option but the garbage. My counter may be cluttered now, but at least it won’t be caused by used lense cases anymore.