The more you know about brain & behavior, the better the designer

Sara Doltz

What's the Future of Human Computer Interaction? The Brain Lady, Susan Weinschenk will give you a glimpse of what's in store with the behavioral science aspect of designing for the new technologies.

First of all, we are so happy to have you at From Business to Buttons in Stockholm! Let’s start this with you explaining your alias The Brain Lady – tell us the story!
– I have always loved studying brain research and how it relates to human behavior. When I was working on my Ph.D. in Psychology, my graduate research and thesis was on measuring brain activity in the left and right hemispheres. Later I kept up on reading brain research. One day I was setting up a classroom to teach a workshop for the clothing retailer in the US, Lands End. While I was setting up the room one of the workshop participants walked into the room. She couldn’t remember my name, so she said, “Ah, here she is, the Brain Lady”. I loved the name and so I kept it.

The future of the UX industry, how do you see it evolving?
– That’s kind of the subject of my keynote at the conference. I believe that UX professionals will be asked more and more to take on the role of behavioral scientist and to design the relationships we have with our technology. And I hope that our tools for design become so intuitive that we can focus more on design and less on how to use the latest tool!

What will you be talking about on FBTB?
– My keynote talk is on Robots, Virtual Reality, and Artificial Intelligence: The Future of Human Computer Interaction. I’m fascinated with the behavioral science aspect of designing these new technologies. We as designers will have to figure out the behavioral science of interacting with machines that we actually have relationships with.

How important is behavioral science in the UX field from your point of view? Can you make it without it?
– Well, I’m a behavioral scientist, so of course I’m going to say that behavioral science is critical to UX!  When you design a user experience you are by definition designing an experience for a person or a group of people. How people react to and interact with the experience that you have designed is based heavily on how people see, think, hear, decide, feel, and so on. So the more you know about brain and behavior science the better able you are to design useful, and engaging experiences.

I found this video by you that I love. How did you come up with this idea for the video and why did you do one?
– I love working in video. This was one of the earlier videos I created. I’m friends with the people at TruScribe who do the animated whiteboard videos, and I’m passionate about how to present in a way that engages your audience, so I thought we would partner on doing an animated video on engaging presentations.

A short introduction video about the workshop Design For Engagement: How to design so people take action that Susan will lead in while in Stockholm.

You have worked with so many companies, but which design are you most proud of? 
– I recently did some work for an online clothing retailer based in the US. This research was a psychographic exploration of potential new customers. We were testing hypotheses. For example: A huge part of their brand is that shipping is overnight and free. Is this important? Do people value that? Another hypothesis: People want the shopping experience to be efficient – the site should be usable so people can find what they need and buy it without having to spend a lot of time or go to a lot of screens. Is that hypothesis true? Is that the type of user experience people want from their online store? I had to figure out how to test these and other hypotheses. We created a structured interview protocol and I interviewed and observed people shopping at the site online as well as some of their other favorite sites. The research results were surprising and somewhat controversial for the client. For example, both of those hypotheses turned out to not be true. People wanted control over the shipping options more than they wanted it free and overnight and people wanted to have fun shopping for the clothing. They assumed it would be efficient and easy – what they really wanted was fun. They wanted it to be a longer, more fun experience.

Want to hear more from Susan? Get your tickets to the conference on April 15. Susan is also hosting a very popular workshop titled Design For Engagement: How to design so people take action. But hurry – there are, as we blog, less than 10 seats left!

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