Category Archives: marketing


Hook Model

Word: Hook Model

Definition: The cycle a successful product follows in order to reach the goal of unprompted user engagement, where in users return to the product consistently and often.

Reference: The Hook Model comes from Nir Eyal’s book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.

Thoughts: In Eyal’s book, he describes the Hook Model process as a cycle, consisting of a trigger (external and/or internal), an action, a variable reward, and then an investment. Rinse and repeat.

Let’s break down each step a bit for a better understanding: The trigger is the actuator of the behavior, like an alert or notification. The action comes next, which is essentially, the behavior a user performs in anticipation of a reward. The next step is the variable reward, which is the Hook Model’s way of creating user craving by initiating intrigue. Finally,  investment is when the user takes the step to input some work into the product or service. By investing time and energy, the odds increase dramatically that a user will pass through the Hook cycle again.

The Hook Model is an important tool to not only understand as a designer, but to build habit-forming products as well.


Social Proof

Word: Social Proof

Definition:  People are influenced and guided by the behaviors, actions, and beliefs of others.

Thoughts: Social proof can be used in design to influence users’ thoughts and actions. Take a moment and think about Amazon’s review section. Would you really buy a microwave that was reviewed by 300 people and had 1 out of 5 stars. Most likely, not. Why is that? Because the crowd has a strong influence on your decision in this situation, that’s why.

Dr. Robert Cialdini’s book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion details how social proof plays into human insecurities and the innate desire to do the right thing.

Social proof can be utilized in user experience design in a multitude of ways like demonstrating product credibility (through reviews and ratings) and encouraging adaption and acceptance (like following a Twitter account because you see many others follow the account as well).

Question: How, if at all, has social proof influenced the development of social media services? Is social media even comparable to the definition of social proof outlined above?



Foot in the Door Technique

Word: Foot in the door technique

Definition: The persuasion tactic of asking for something small from someone and then following up with a larger ask if they comply to the first.

Reference: The sales technique is named for that literal practice of physically putting a foot between a door and a door-frame in order to stop the door from being closed closed, or slammed for that matter, in one’s face.

The foot in the door phenomenon was first studied in 1966 by Stanford University psychologists Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser. That year Freeman and Fraser published a landmark study titled “Compliance Without Pressure: The Foot-in-the-Door Technique” in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (1966, Vol. 4, No. 2, 195-202). The study asked participants a question about household cleaners over the phone and then later followed up with a second ask on the same topic in person. Freeman and Fraser found that participants were 135% more likely to respond positively to the second request if they had responded positively to the first smaller ask over the phone.

Thought: Such a technique can be utilized in user experience. For example, a site could start by asking visitors for a very small piece of information about themselves, like an email or a zip code. This figuratively allows the site to put their foot in the door and set themselves up for a larger ask shortly there after. The user is much more likely to give up more information if they have already given up a little bit previously, and perhaps already gained some value from that first ask.

So stick your foot in that door people and then do your best to crack it wide open!


Status Quo Bias

Word: Status quo bias

Definition: The cognitive bias that says people typically prefer consistency over change. The tendency to like things to stay relatively the same, which forms a baseline in the mind. Any change from this consistent baseline is perceived as a loss.

Thought: This psychological principle plays into the theory of loss aversion. Status quo bias can be reduced however, by exposing users to other choices (assuming, somewhat obviously, that those choices were equivalent or better than the current option). The lesson here is that change is best accepted by users when introduced incrementally.

In Chris Nodder’s book Evil By Design he uses an amazing metaphor to describe illustrate this cognitive principle,

“If you place a frog in hot water, it does its best to hop straight out. However, if you place it in cold water and then heat the water up slowly enough, the frog won’t attempt to jump out.”

Essentially, Nodder wants us all to think of our users as frogs, and I’m down with that!

Question: Can you think of a good example that refutes this? How can we make the frog stay in the hot water from the beginning?



Word: Sloth

Definition: The avoidance of work and that feeling of “I don’t care.” Essentially, the idea that people only want to put in the most minimal amount of effort in order to achieve desired outcomes online.

Thoughts: The discussion here does not revolve around whether people are inherently lazy and instead speaks to how users feel about online tasks. Users are becoming more accustomed to great user experiences and are demanding easy-to-use, intuitive interfaces as a result. Steve Krug hit the nail on the head in his classic UX book  Don’t Make Me Think. If there is an established way of completing certain tasks online, users will likely become agitated or simply not complete the task if it is made to seem too difficult. It all comes back to the user experience! When unnecessary effort is exhorted, putting laziness aside, the user is now in a new headset and this new frame of mind can negatively impact the experience as a whole.

Question: In what situations is it okay to push the user to exhort more effort? In these cases, what, if any, are the positive effects this can have on the user experience?


Conversion Rate

Word: Conversion Rate

Definition: The percentage of users who take a desired action.

Thought: A frequently used example of conversion rate when it comes to UX is e-commerce. This would be the percentage of website visitors who buy something on the site. The Neilson Norman Group sums up the power of UX perfectly by stating, “Increased conversion is one of the strongest ROI arguments for better user experience and more user research.”

Conversion rate is an important and qualitative way to measure performance over time and put an understandable and quantifiable statistic on the influence of UX practices. There is power in numbers, and strength in research. But remember, with great power comes great responsibility.

Question:  While e-commerce is the typical example of conversion rate, what other types of interactions are easily and effectively measured with this?


Loss Aversion

Word: Loss aversion

Definition: The idea that loss is felt more acutely than gain and as a result, people overwhelmingly choose to avoid loss over acquiring gain. This principle contends with the theory of rational choice.

Reference: The term comes from economics and decision theory and was brought to light by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. They demonstrated that even something as simple as a coin toss can evoke aversion to loss. Kahneman discussed this concept in recent interviews describing, “In my classes, I say: ‘I’m going to toss a coin, and if it’s tails, you lose $10. How much would you have to gain on winning in order for this gamble to be acceptable to you? People want more than $20 before it is acceptable. And now I’ve been doing the same thing with executives or very rich people, asking about tossing a coin and losing $10,000 if it’s tails. And they want $20,000 before they’ll take the gamble.”

Essentially, people are willing to forego winning large amounts of money because the fear of losing, even when the amount is considerably less, is too consuming.

Thoughts/Questions: Designers use loss aversion in a variety of ways to evoke such feelings on their users. A great example is canceling subscriptions or services. If a users tries to delete her Facebook account she is shown images of her friends with the words “[Friend’s name] will miss you!” Here, Facebook is trying to play into loss aversion by showing the user what she will be missing by leaving the service.

Everyone wants to be win, but we would much rather just not lose!


Tom Sawyer Effect

Word: Tom Sawyer Effect

Definition: The Tom Sayer effect plays into two areas of user experience design. Firstly, it is the idea that scarcity breeds desire. If something is difficult to attain, people will covet it more strongly. Secondly, desire can often breed fun and delight, at which time, work no longer feels like work and transforms into enjoyment.

Reference: If it has been a while since you cracked Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, let’s refresh. At the beginning of the book Tom is tasked with white washing a huge fence, which quite obviously, is not how Tom wanted to spend his day. Instead of painting, he works his charm to convince neighborhood boys to do the job for him, and as an added bonus, even gets the boys to pay him for the privilege. So how did he do this?

When he offers the first boy the opportunity to paint the fence, Tom says, “Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?” Here, Tom sets up a scarce opportunity. He then makes that scarce opportunity difficult to attain by telling the boy that there is no way he will be able to do a good enough job. “I reckon there ain’t one boy in a thousand, maybe two thousand, that can do it in the way it’s got to be done.” So not only is the job scarce, but when presented the opportunity, it is still difficult to attain. Now Tom has the boy right where he wants him.

Tom finally allows the boy to white wash the fence, but in exchange for compensation! Here, Tom demonstrates the other principle of the effect, turning work into enjoyment. If Tom were to have paid the boy, the task would have turned right back into work.

Twain writes, “[Tom] discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it – namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain.”

Thoughts: UX Designers can learn from young Tom Sawyer. Think about a website selling a product. Even if the product is not actually scarce, you can create that feeling of scarcity by limiting the time frame for purchase or even noting how many units of the item are sill in stock to evoke a fear of loss (more on loss aversion later).

We also see sites that rely heavily on user generated content. The user is typically not paid to post but excitement generated by the activity is enjoyable nonetheless. Especially, if you are specifically chosen to participate or receive a status that is difficult to attain (like ranking high up-votes on Reddit).


Waterfall Approach

Word:  Waterfall approach

Definition: A sequential design process that involves treating the steps of a project as separate, distinct phases, where approval of one phase is needed before the next phase can begin.

Thoughts: In this development approach the design phase does not typically begin until all requirements are approved by business stakeholders. However, a pure waterfall approach is not usually the best approach for UX work because it does not leave much wiggle room for any changes or iterations along the way. Each step is seen, for the most part, as final and completed. Think assembly-line style. The strict nature of this approach leads most designers and developers to work together in an agile approach instead (more on agile tomorrow).

Questions: What’s an example of a project that would lend itself to a waterfall approach?


waterfall chart credit



Word:  Door-in-the-face

Definition: The notion that refusing a large request (figuratively getting the door slammed in your face) increases the likelihood of agreeing to a second, smaller request, shortly thereafter.

Reference:  A compliance method from social psychology, this technique works because of the principle of reciprocity (Cialdini et al, 1975). Saying “no” to a large request creates a feeling of guilt towards the asker, and in turn, the person being asked now feels as if she owes something. This manipulation strategy is often used in marketing.

The concept plays into design when dealing with  subscription fees or add-on purchases, for example. Think about a time when you bought an online subscription. There is often multiple packages to choose from. Once you’ve looked over the choices and deiced the expensive option is outrageous, you are more inclined to see the less expensive option as more reasonable in comparison. Hence, your guilty conscious may lead you to buy yet another unwanted and unneeded steaming music service!

Thoughts/Questions: As a user experience designer, where does your job end and the marketing department’s job begin? Should a line be drawn between marketing tactics and what’s best for the user?