At this year’s Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco there was a lot of talk about psychology. The word “psychology” was generally not used, they called it gamification or persuasion but really they were talking about psychology.
This is a good thing. We who have a psych background have been waiting for the software development community to pick up on well known psychological principles that they can use to better understand their users and make user friendlier software. But… (here’s that but again).
In many cases when people discuss for example gamification they mention tips and tricks that can be used to lead the user in some behavior. But since they are talking about gamification but not the psychological principles that are in play, i.e. behavioral modification they are really handing out tools to the audience without the manual (how is a topic for another post).
Being ever the optimist I still like the fact that we’re finally starting to talk psych in software development conferences. If we can change the way software product managers, designers, developers think of the user, that’s a huge step in the right direction. The attitude that you all to often hear is:
The user is stupid
This idea frees the makers of software from doing anything to improve their products. It’s the user that needs fixin’ not the product. If we get the software community (to begin with) to shift their attitude to:
The user is a pigeon
as gamification suggests
then at least we have opened their minds up to the fact that there is something that they can do in order to help the users in using the product. This is a huge shift.
The important part is that we continue talking about psychology and human behavior at software conferences. That we enhance the understanding of users but not deliver what psychology has discovered about people in sound bites. We need the software development community to understand the basic psychology behind these principles so that they can apply them to their production and improve on user experience and the success of software users everywhere.