The reading discusses the 6 principles of choice architecture that work to “nudge” or influence the choices people make for the better.
1. Default Options
The reading highlights two motives that products or companies can have for defaults: helpful and self-serving. Helpful examples of default options in products are dead man switches on chain saws and lawn mowers and screensavers on computers, which make the user’s life safer and easier. Self-serving default options are automatic subscription renewal and pre-checked email opt-ins, which are annoying and require an extra move from the user to unsubscribe with a phone call or opt-out by unchecking boxes on a form. However, though its favorable to allow users the freedom to make a “required” or “mandated” choice, it comes with two caveats: choices that are difficult or complicated might be eased by a helpful default and choices are easier made when making yes-no decisions.
2. Expect Error
A well-designed system expects user error and is forgiving. The reading highlights the Paris metro as a prime example. The New York City metro is the stark opposite, in which the process of buying a card, to swiping the card, to finding the right platform and taking the right train requires literally months of skills training to master. Other examples of an error-forgiving innovations from the reading are the piece of plastic attached to gas tank caps, the beeping sound when an ATM card is left in the machine. These address what is called “postcompletion error,” the idea of which is that people forget things related to previous steps when the main task is completed. Another strategy is called the “forcing function” in which one must first complete the task before receiving the reward. An interesting example in the reading is how decisions are made in regards to addressing noncompliance in drug usage. The easiest way to remember to take medication is if it is taken every day or every week as opposed to every other day or every other week. Birth control pills are an example of using placebos to facilitate compliance for users. Gmail’s “attachment” error-catching feature is also a good example of error expectation.
3. Give Feedback
A well-designed system tells users when they are doing well and when mistakes are made. Some personal examples: the beeping sound my fridge makes when I don’t close the doors properly or the panoramic camera app on my iPhone that won’t allow me to shoot photos until my phone is perfectly vertical. The feedback from the fridge is an example of a warning, which can often be ignored when the user is inundated with so many repeated messages that it becomes a nuisance and therefore ignored. The reading also highlights the Department of Homeland Security color-coded warning system as useless as it is unclear what actions a traveler needs to take as a result.
4. Understanding “Mappings”
This deals with making clear the relationship between choices and the welfare associated with its outcomes. A well-designed system helps people improve their ability to map and select the options that best meet their needs. To do this, information can be made more comprehensible and numerical information can be translated into units as understood in applied use. For instance, telling users the size of the largest photo they can print out with the image quality offered by a digital camera instead of the megapixel count. Other examples of long, complex and unintelligible pricing schemes are those of cell phone, mortgage, and auto insurance companies. Requiring a RECAP (Record, Evaluate, and Compare Alternative Prices) plan would allow the government to regulate the way prices are disclosed to the public and create a fair marketplace that will improve the way customers select products and services.
5. Structure Complex Choices
When decisions are numerous and complex, good choice architecture provides structure that simplifies the process of making good choices. “Collaborative filtering” is the method in which recommendations provided to a user is based on the preferences of others with similar tastes. Pandora, Amazon and Netflix use this well. In choice architecture, collaborative filtering makes the task of sorting through many options easier. As a caveat, the reading notes that surprise and serendipity can be fun and a good way to branch out and to learn.
Four questions: Who uses? Who chooses? Who pays? Who Profits? This deals with modifying salience in any situation that requires incentive analysis. Making costs more transparent can help sway a person to make more money-saving decisions.