Over the past several years, psychology has attracted a lot of interest outside of academic circles. With one of its main sectors, economics, now influencing the strategies of the largest companies in the world, it is not surprising that many people pay attention to its supporters. Indeed, books such as Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational have caused changes to all business practices, changing retail products and reshaping financial strategies.
n the rapidly evolving world of online games, digital products and app development, psychology and its various facets are equally influential. For those who understand the concept and learn how to use multiple intelligences to thrive in the digital realm, psychology can truly improve the user experience and take user engagement to new heights.
In short, psychology suggests that all behavior is acquired through adaptation, and that behavior occurs through daily interactions with our environment. Another important and highly influential field, behavioral economics, studies psychological understanding of human behavior to explain economic decisions and predict economic conditions.
Unknown to most people, big companies and businesses have been using these insights for years to influence consumer behavior and establish healthy spending patterns.
Positive influence, positive returns
In South Africa, the leading insurance company Discovery Health has teamed up with Dan Ariely himself to develop an insurance plan that will encourage its members to engage in healthy behaviors (such as exercise, healthy eating, etc.). The ultimate goal is to create a ‘voluntary commitment system', so that Discovery Vitality members can put a 25% discount on groceries ‘online' by agreeing to increase the purchase of healthy food by 5 percentage points above the base their house. Ariely, who is the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University in the United States, wrote the results on his website:
“We found that 36% of members who were given this option agreed to participate, and these members continued to experience a 3.5% increase, on average, in healthy food purchases in each six-month period. These studies show that a part of consumers use the opportunity to create a limited environment for themselves to buy healthier products, even at the risk of losing money. “
In other words, by creating the right conditions – and establishing an ‘environment', so to speak – Gano was able to positively influence the behavior of its members.
For brands, the ultimate goal is naturally to combine positive changes in behavior with increased brand loyalty, and ultimately, profits.
Making space for creative freedom
In the digital realm, and more specifically, in online games and app development, we are beginning to see the effective application of behavioral understanding to design better user experiences. As developers, we tend to assume that people are highly intelligent, and will react based on assumptions (depth perception). These assumptions have led to the release of flawed products, games, and apps that fail to work their magic for the end user – often costing the developer, business or brand behind it a lot of money.
By applying a sound scientific understanding of human behavior to product design, however, developers can reduce the likelihood of missing the mark. With the knowledge and understanding provided by researchers like Ariely and other great thinkers, we can begin to rely less on guesswork in product design, and more on sound scientific methodology.
Essentially, this allows designers and developers to create and design interactions that (almost) guarantee certain behaviors. In this process, he is freed from the burden of wondering whether the interaction and the elements will work in the end, the developers have the necessary power to be bold and creative with the way they present us' amala and the essentials of art. This trend generally leads to a more compelling and creative product design, and to a far more rewarding experience for the user and/or consumer.
Indeed, the use of information derived from psychology and its fields is both an art and a science. As developers and designers, it has taken many years to understand exactly how these elements can shape and improve product design – and to master the art of weaving these skills into the user experience in games and online applications . For us, the key to success is always challenging our own assumptions – and relentlessly questioning the logic that has shaped product, app and game design in the past.
It is important to remember that as products and experiences in the digital environment evolve and change, so do the users and users of these products. This evolution requires a constant study of human behavior, and the efficiency and rigor of the factors that lead to design and development. In our view, such factors have already created a clear distinction between digital experiences that compel users to spend more time, and those that drive them away.