How Priming Influences UX

Once I said tiny pig with purple booties, you couldn’t help but think about it. That is an example of priming. OK, fine. Maybe that is a little unfair. So let’s try something else.

Say aloud what word pops into your head when I ask you to finish spelling this word. Let me guess t now you could have easily picked one of many different words. Top toe 10 tap try. The list goes on, but I’m still going to place my money on you spelling out t and my psychic. Did I read your mind. No. I primed you how with this priming is a psychological principle where if a person is exposed to one stimulus, the subsequent response to a different stimulus will be influenced. So why should we care about it? Priming, for better or worse, influences behavior. So let’s look at the ways it can influence you. Design and testing. We can leverage our understanding of priming and apply it in a design. Priming, by definition relies on that initial stimulus. So we need to think about what those initial stimuli are. If you work in content creation, maybe that’s creating a headline or a title that clearly communicates your offering. Whenever you’re about to describe something, lead with key terms rather than putting the key term at the end. So, for example, if we look at the phrase questions raised about the committee, the leading phrase is questions. So that sets the expectation that what follows will be a list of questions. Now, if we look at the phrase committee raises questions that might lead one to expect an explanation about the committee itself. What about the committee raises questions. People will also use images to determine what kind of organization they’re dealing with, maybe even determine what the offerings are, the relevance, and in some cases, a sense of urgency for their transaction.

So make sure to use relevant imagery and don’t just use filler images just because it looks pretty. If you’re not sure what the first impressions are considered. Doing a screenshot timeout test, check out Cady’s video on that. That can give you a good sense of whether you’re communicating your organization and offerings properly. While we’re on the topic, let’s talk about testing, specifically usability testing. If we plan to facilitate a usability test, we also need to be cautious about how we word our tasks to our users. Remember when I asked you not to think about the tiny pig with purple booties and you did anyway? Well, when we ask users to do something to specific or if we use internal or branded terms, we might give them more information than they would have had if they were just using our design in the wild. Now, if I asked you, what do you think this button does and you didn’t initially think it was a button, you now have information that not only is this a button, but it does something. Our usability test now makes our design look more successful than it actually would have been in the wild. So instead, we need to avoid the temptation to talk and use good facilitation techniques instead. By the way, Kara has a good video on that, too. Priming is a reality of being human. We can fight it or we can use it to understand people a bit better and design better solutions. If you’ve got the time, say, for a cup of tea, feel free to check out our free article on priming on our site and ingroup group Dotcom. Enjoy.

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