Anticipation is a popular subject in user experience design. We usually mention anticipation together with the words error and problem. Based on a real life story, I describe why anticipation could be used not only to prevent errors and problems on the web, but also to make users happy.
Anticipation in real life stores
When I was in college, I used to work at my mother’s cafeteria, serving sweets, coffees, and drinks. The cafeteria used to be a very busy place, with many different faces passing by every day.
Based on my mother’s advice, I started to try to remember what regular clients buy. Was it always cafe con leche? Was that man always drinking white wine?
Remembering customer choices was making them happy. But even more effective was to anticipate and start serving that glass of wine as they were entering the cafeteria. I was always amazed to see clients smiling just because they did not even have to order.
I care about you
Anticipating wishes was rewarding, and it was creating expectation, excitement, and engagement on the part of our regular customers. These feelings and behaviors are not magic; researchers link such behaviors to dopamine, a neurotransmitter produced by our brain’s reward system.
Therefore, as these feelings are so natural to humans, they also apply to the design of websites.
Anticipation on the web
Anticipation can be applied to the design of websites not only to prevent problems, but also to deliver a message of trust by sending a message stating, “I care about you”.
Virb.com automatically suggests a URL for the new website based on the previously filled “website name” field.
Gmail anticipates the addressees that the user might want to include based on the first addressee typed (Notice: “Consider including…”).
To return items bought at Amazon, users have to print a form, cut it, and attach it to the box. Frontlineshop.com, a popular German shop, sends stickers with their return address to their customers so they do not have to print any form. They anticipate to the possibility of returning items.
Engage in anticipation not only to prevent problems, but also to make users’ lives easier, to get their smiles, excitement, expectation, and engagement, and to improve, little by little, the entire user experience.
Reward, emotion and consumer choice: from neuroeconomics to neurophilosophy, Gordon Foxall
Can I Trust You? How Anticipating Problems Can Help Your Brand, Jared M. Spool.
Reward anticipation – A powerful tool for game design, Lennart Nacke.
Coffee picture by Sachmanns.dk