The Art & Science of Seductive Interactions: So Right and Yet So Wrong

I came across this compelling, visual and manipulative presentation today.

If you’re building yet another social community site then this presentation is for you.  Stephen Anderson makes a good case for the use of human psychology in making your site attractive, viral, sticky and popular.  There’s no doubt that he knows what he’s doing.

What irks me about this presentation is how value is deprecated.  This isn’t about software that is valuable to the user.  It’s about teasing, cajoling, entertaining and seducing the user will help you meet your business goals.  Business goals of what?  Selling advertising to an arbitrarily segmented set of users?  Making the experience of buying shoes more fun?

When I think about the amount of investment and creativity that goes into sites that are ultimately specialized versions of some existing application I see a sad future for civilisation.

Even the slideshare site used to host the slideshow is an example of this.  They have dutifully implemented many of the seductive schemes he writes about.  The result is the slideshow equivalent of YouTube.  Why?  Why isn’t sharing a slideshow just a little widget and an export utility in Powerpoint or Keynote?  What about Why isn’t it an authoring tool for a standards based html slideshow?

It would be great to see Stephen Anderson’s skills in action on a more worthy purpose.  I think there is true value in scripting the user experience so that users aren’t overwhelmed, so they can immediately see the value your application provides and gradually learn how to use its full power.

To all the VCs out there: if the primary value add of a business is it’s slick marketing then please, look elsewhere.

2 thoughts on “The Art & Science of Seductive Interactions: So Right and Yet So Wrong

  1. Stephen P. Anderson

    (Hi Michael – I’m posting my response here and on my site!)

    Could you suggest some “real applications” for me? I’d love to test these ideas out in a really challenging context!

    On that note, I’ve been asked about whether these kinds of ideas would work inside an enterprise with something like accounting software or time sheets. My general answer is an emphatic “Yes!” What I’m discussing are essentially human behaviors. I believe if there is a human involved involved in the interaction, then these kinds of things would work (to different degrees or altered for context, of course!).

    As far as the perception that these are slick marketing techniques– yes and no. I’m a designer at heart, meaning I [heart] designing good experiences that are meaningful, useful, enjoyable, etc. (more here: ). I strongly oppose anything that smells of a bait and switch! In fact, when I use the “getting to first base” analogy, the end goal isn’t a home run (“Close the deal!”), the end goal is lasting love and devotion– which only happens with product/service experiences that deliver the goods day after day! The unfortunate part of this is that you can have a truly great product that no one will sit down to truly understand before they make up their mind. People in general are hit with too much noise all the time. I don’t think of the ideas I’m discussing as slick marketing– I think of this as optimizing for human behaviors. If we know our product is really, really good, but we’re having trouble communicating that– these ideas are intended to help good product designers/developers ease users into using a new product. When I talk about business goals, I talk about value centered design ( which is about business AND user value. I’m fond of quoting Peter Drucker who said “there is no business without customers.”

    You can have the most valuable product in the world, but if no one sticks around long enough to realize that– what do you do next? Just offering something of use to someone and gradually revealing features isn’t enough given what we know about attention and decision making.

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