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Driven to distraction: Giles Colborne

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Driven to distraction: Giles Colborne

The interfaces we're building need to work in distracting environments. And we need to figure out how to cope with users' tendency to get distracted. This presentation looks at how we might achieve that. And why, I think, it's the most serious problem facing interaction designers today.

The interfaces we're building need to work in distracting environments. And we need to figure out how to cope with users' tendency to get distracted. This presentation looks at how we might achieve that. And why, I think, it's the most serious problem facing interaction designers today.

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Driven to distraction: Giles Colborne

  1. 1. Driven to distraction @gilescolborne http://www.flickr.com/photos/bartvandijk/4362990052/ 1
  2. 2. On 10 October 2011, BlackBerry’s messenger services went offline for 3 days. During that period, Dubai police reported a 20% drop in road traffic accidents. Abu Dabi police reported a 40% drop. This opens a window onto a hidden problem: The interfaces we create are killing our users. http://www.flickr.com/photos/stepnout/2550739848/ 2
  3. 3. Distraction is a problem for our users. So it should be a problem for us. Part of the problem is the shift from desktops to mobile. http://www.flickr.com/photos/yourdon/ 3
  4. 4. The number of smartphones and Worldwide sales (millions) tablets sold now exceeds desktop and notebook sales. Expect mobile traffic to exceed desktop 800 traffic within three years. You are here The design problem isn’t just screen size and input methods. 600 It’s also distracting contexts (even when we’re using smartphones at home). But there’s another kind of 400 distraction... 200 0 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011E 2012E 2013E Desktops & Notebooks Smartphones & Tablets Source: Morgan Stanley 4
  5. 5. Even when we’re 4168 concentrating fully on our devices, the constant ping of email, Twitter and Facebook stops us from concentrating. Office workers typically check email 30-40 times an hour. We proudly call this ‘multitasking’. And each generation seems more prone to multitasking. 5
  6. 6. People in their 20s are twice as likely to have large numbers of items open on their desktops as people over 50. 50+ Does this mean there’s a generation of elite multitaskers coming through? Should we 40-49 reflect this in the personas we write? 30-39 20-29 0% 25% 50% 75% 100% 5 or fewer items 6 or more items 6
  7. 7. Well... no. Stanford Psychology Professor Clifford Nass studied the performance of high mutlitaskers and low multitaskers. He discovered that people who regularly multitask tend to be worse at it than people who don’t. And people who mutlitask seem to experience side effects long after they stop. They’re less able to concentrate, less able to learn, less able to discriminate relevant and irrelevant information. Multitasking, it seems, is Clifford Nass bad for your brain. 7
  8. 8. Sure, you can walk and chew gum at the same time. But for complex decision making, there’s no such thing as multitasking. Your prefrontal cortex can handle one task at a time. If you interrupt that, it has to file away an (imperfect) memory of your task and pick it up again later – an inefficient process. 8
  9. 9. Interfaces like email are addictive. When you see a new message in your inbox, your brain gets a little hit of dopamine. Frequent, random rewards like this are the most powerful way to train people. And that’s what we get in email, Twitter... and the interfaces interaction designers admire the most. 9
  10. 10. It’s what makes Tetris so addictive. Random items needing a simple response (nothing complex that would make you want to put the game down). And repeat. For hours. 10
  11. 11. This game has been doing my head in. Random characters arrive asking to be taken to random floors giving random rewards. Insanely addictive. And as for Twitter... Tiny Tower Do not download 11
  12. 12. OMFG No wonder people are addicted to these interfaces. Little nuggets of information randomly updating. Users don’t stand a chance. Yet it’s damaging their minds, causing accidents and stops them from living in the moment. We design this stuff. What should our response be? 12
  13. 13. We just could tell users to deal with it. Leave the problem to self- help movements like ‘Getting Things Done’ (GTD). Which is like saying Alcoholics Anonymous should fix society’s drink and drugs culture. Or saying we can fix usability problems by getting users to read the manual. As an industry, we’re better than that. 13
  14. 14. It strikes me that the problems users face are similar to those of people suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. I’ve spoken to educators and experts in ADHD about the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy strategies they deploy. Maybe we can take some design lessons from them. 14
  15. 15. 1. Minimise distraction If you’re coping with ADHD, some key advice is to create spaces where you can operate without distraction. Can we help people to do this? 15
  16. 16. Educators encourage people with ADHD to use timers to break tasks into 15 minute sprints and focus for that period. Kind of like the pomodoro method for time management. 16
  17. 17. Software like Vitimin R puts this on your computer’s taskbar. But this is an add-on solution. It’s GTD for your computer. As designers, we need to think about what we can do to improve the user’s work environment. 17
  18. 18. We could stop our software from interrupting people unnecessarily. Skype plays a noise every time that one of my contacts on the other side of the world shuts down Skype. Does it need to do this? I think not. 18
  19. 19. Does iCal need to jump to the front of my windows to tell me that someone responded to a meeting request? No, it does not. We need to design more thoughtful alert systems. 19
  20. 20. 2. Focus 20
  21. 21. This is a reading overlay used by some people with dyslexia. The ruler helps them focus on one line of text. The coloured overlay seems to improve their focus, too. I often see something like this in user tests when participants highlight chunks of on-screen text that they’re trying to read. You can imagine how you might design an online form so that the text under the user’s focus is highlighted. 21
  22. 22. 3. Increase motivation For too many people, ‘motivating users’ means giving them prizes or points for completing tasks. But there’s lots of research to show those ‘extrinsic rewards’ aren’t great motivators. Is there a deeper solution? 22
  23. 23. Educational psychologist Carol Dweck has written about how changing people’s mindset increases motivation. People who focus on their ‘ability’ become demotivated - because each task has a chance of failure and possible proof that they lack ability. People who focus on learning, irrespective of success, see tasks as an opportunity for ‘growth’. Maybe taking the win/lose out of our interfaces will motivate users and stop their attention from wandering. Carol Dweck 23
  24. 24. Years ago I designed this car configurator. It replaced a ‘wizard’ style interface where the user had to complete a number of steps in sequence to see their finished car. Instead I gave users a default configuration and a tabbed interface. They could tweak things in any order they liked. The configuration was always ‘complete’. When it launched, we found users were twice as likely to complete all the configuration tasks. It’s an example of exploration and ‘growth’ beating ‘pass/fail’. 24
  25. 25. Clifford Nass ran an experiment where he gave participants blue wrist bands and asked them to complete tasks a computer. For half the participants he put a blue border on the computer screen and said ‘you and the computer are the blue team’. For the other half, he gave the computer a green border and said ‘you’re the blue guy working on the green computer’. When the colours matched, people tried harder and thought the computer was smarter. Motivating users can be as simple as making them feel the computer is on the same side as them. 25
  26. 26. 4. Decrease pressure When we’re under pressure, we tend to give in to our addictions – like our addiction to petty distractions. How can we reduce pressure? 26
  27. 27. Game designers spend a lot of time tuning the learning curve of their games to make it engaging without being stressful. They aim for a smooth learning curve. When was the last time you analysed the learning curve for your app or website? 27
  28. 28. Add this option You can remove it later When faced with high-risk choices, users are likely to give in to distraction. One way to reduce pressure is to let people know there’s an ‘undo’ option. 28
  29. 29. 5. Facilitate recovery If all else fails – and it will – what can you do to help your users recover from distraction? 29
  30. 30. Again, video games provide a clue. If you pause some racing games during a high-speed manoeuvre, when you un-pause you’re not dumped back into the game (because you’d always spin out of control). Instead, you’re shown a couple of seconds’ replay before you regain control of the car. It helps you re-orient yourself. Something similar happens when I pause my iPod during a podcast: it rewinds slightly when I un-pause. You can see how you might use this in an app. When the user returns, the area of focus could be highlighted and the rest of the app could slowly build in. I imagine it would take some fine-tuning, but it’s worth exploring. 30
  31. 31. A simple plan? • Minimise distractions • Focus So people with ADHD can suggest some interesting strategies and • Increase motivation design patterns that we can use to tackle the problem of distraction. But you can see more work is needed. • Decrease pressure And if we’re going to plan for distraction we need bigger tools than design patterns. • Facilitate recovery 31
  32. 32. And: understand context We need to be able to model users’ context in more detail so we can predict where distraction may occur and target our design efforts. 32
  33. 33. I’m not talking about adding a line to a persona. ‘Dave likes to check websites on his iPhone,’ Big deal. I mean proper analytic tools. But current tools to model context seem cumbersome and hard to implement. Can you imagine using OWL-DL (a context modelling language) in a stakeholder workshop? 33
  34. 34. Our tools for task analysis are well developed. I want something as powerful and engaging as Indy Young’s ‘mental modelling’ with post-its to help me pinpoint problems of user distraction. 34
  35. 35. The task analysis tool GOMS-KLM helps us predict how interfaces will perform. And it recognises that cognitive load is important. Maybe we should be using this kind of analysis more. K Press a key on the keyboard 0.20 seconds P Point the mouse to an object 1.10 seconds B Button press (mouse) 0.10 seconds H Hand from keyboard to mouse 0.40 seconds M Mental preparation 1.20 seconds W User waiting for the system to respond I’m struck by the fact that we lack tools and methods that will enable us take a strategic approach to managing and tackling distraction. 35
  36. 36. We’re designing products that are killing our customers. We have widespread evidence for this. Yet we’re not addressing the problem. In fact, we spend our time thinking about how to make our interfaces more addictive. I’m reminded of the tobacco industry in the 1960’s and 1970s trying to avoid mounting evidence that its products were dangerous. http://www.flickr.com/photos/visioplanet/4760316376/ 36
  37. 37. During that same period, the computer industry was facing the problem of usability. And it developed the design patterns and analysis tools that we’ve used ever since. The pioneers of that age are remembered as giants in usability. Today, we find we have a new challenge. Distraction. Xerox Alto 37
  38. 38. I think we’re at the start of a new era You? in human computer interaction – one in which the design patterns and analysis tools we need have yet to be developed. These are problems that need solving. And if someone’s going to solve them, and enter the hall of fame, why shouldn’t it be you? 38
  39. 39. Thank you. @gilescolborne 39

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