Fascinating Insights into Perception & Reality in Website UI Design

For one of our larger and more innovative clients we have recently been finishing up a larger project that will go live in the next couple of weeks.   After building out what will be a truly revolutionary website for the industry we did focus groups on the website to get user feedback so we could make adjustments to get the website perfect.  We gained a lot of great feedback.  Most of it was what was to be expected but some insights were pretty interesting.

As a side project for the same website we were challenged to come up with a new form that was different than anything the industry had seen before as a test.  I can't go into the specifics of it at this time, but think of a quoter form being meshed with an instant messaging user interface and you would have a ballpark idea of what I'm talking about.  There are websites that currently have something similar to this, but I'm not aware of any website in this same space that has something as unique as this.  In the interface it appears like you are talking with someone at the company, but you obviously are not.   A series of questions, like you would have in a form, appear and the user simply answers the questions.  


After completing a test form we had a small group of users do testing on the new form without prompts and afterwords we asked the users a series of questions.   I wondered if users would like this interface.  It was a little slower to use than the standard form we have on the new website.   The interface was unique and I could forsee some users getting confused by it.  

The response however, with the test users, were pretty much universally, but conditionally, in favor of the new form.   Most of the users favored it over the standard form, which they also tested on.  When asked why, they had a hard time putting their finger on it until we really started asking deeper questions.  All the users knew that there wasn't anyone on the other end typing back responses, even though they weren't told that and the user interface looks like someone is interacting with them.   However, there was a perception, in the back of their minds, that someone was holding their hand through the process, even though they 100% knew that was not the case.  That warm fuzzy perception gave them some level of comfort that they had some helping them as they filled out the form and the end result was they liked it better, but conditionally.

The reason it was conditional was that it depended on the scenario that they were in.  As users who were just testing a form they valued the perception that someone was watching out for them, even if that someone they knew wasn't real.  However, when asked if they would prefer that same form if they were someone who wasn't quite ready to buy and were just doing research, their answers started to change.  They felt that the perception that someone was watching over them in that scenario was a downside because they were concerned that they might start having someone try to hard sell them and they didn't want that.

These insights I found fascinating.  In the original website form we had consciously put some things into the user interface design that we knew would do similar types of things that would encourage the users to complete the form, but I really didn't expect that a form that is slower and outside of what users would be used to using would in most cases be considered better because the perception, that the user knew wasn't real, that someone was watching out for them was better.   Really gives some interesting insights into how some types of visual ques have value beyond anything that is measurable.  

If you need help with user interface design on your website, give Pixo Web Design & Strategy a call:  720-334-7496.


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