This video goes over the ethical implications of persuasive design, and how to tell if your design falls into the realm of evil, or dark patterns.
- We typically care what our friends think about us and our activities. We're proud when our friends praise us for something we've done and upset if our friends disapprove. Much of our behavior is determined by our impressions of what's the correct thing to do, and our impressions are based on what we observe others doing. These others don't have to be our friends. In any new situation, you may well follow the cues of total strangers. Experts, celebrities, existing customers, even the wisdom of the crowd can all serve as drivers for how we behave. This influence is known as social proof, the idea that if other people are doing it, it must be right. If we see a tip jar full of bills, we're more likely to tip. If we see a nightclub with a line outside, we're more likely to think it's a popular venue. If we see a restaurant full of happy people, we're more likely to think that eating a meal there will be worthwhile. That's why baristas prime their tip jars in cafes, why nightclubs keep a slow-moving line outside even if the club's quiet inside, and why restaurants seat people at the window seats first. In 1969, Stanley Milgram was running studies looking at conformance. He had a paid helper stand on a busy sidewalk and look up at the empty sky. He noted that around 40% of people passing would also look up. With two people, that number rose to 60%. When he paid four people to stand together and look up, around 80% of people passing by would also look up. If more people are doing something, it lends additional credence to the activity. If you hear about the same product from several different sources, you tend to attribute more positive views to it than to a product you're unfamiliar with. In other words, familiarity doesn't breed contempt. It breeds reassurance. People rely on social proof more when they're unsure what to do. New users, people shopping for infrequent or unfamiliar purchases, or people seeking expertise are all likely candidates for social proof persuasion. So, give customers several different types of information that all point to the conclusion that you might want them to reach. You might want to provide white papers or case studies, recommendations for complementary products or accessories, and product reviews. Your product reviews should be placed in locations on the site where they'll be seen by new users, people shopping for infrequent or unfamiliar purchases, or people seeking expertise. You can also give indications of how popular a particular item is, such as number sold, number left in stock, or even a sold out label. Telling people that something is unavailable may seem crazy, but think about it for a second. What better social proof that an item is worth having than the fact that people are struggling to get hold of it? In fact, one of the earliest successful uses of social proof in persuasive design was when the TV shopping channels changed their pitch from the words "operators are standing by to take your call" to "if all our operators are busy, please try again soon." The social proof implication in that revised message was that the lines would be busy because the products were so popular, so you better call now if you wanted to get through. Testimonials are another type of social proof. If you offer testimonials, make sure they come from someone who appears qualified to make the statements and that you give enough details about the individual that a reader could validate that they really exist. Because the information from each of these sources complements the other sources, and because they appear in different places around the site, users tend not to notice that the same basic message is being repeated to them in different ways each time. Customers have started to get wary of some social proof indicators like stock numbers and review ratings. The best forms of social proof come from independent sources. Reading positive statements about a product or company on a supposedly neutral third-party site can have greater social proof outcomes than reading the same statements on the company's own site. For that reason, solicit reviews on third-party sites or get people to use social media to spread the word. One of the cleverest ways of ensuring that only good news gets spread is to ask people to tweet about their experiences if they feel good about the product, but promise them that you'll address their issues if they email or call you with any problems they have. That way, you can deal with the issues without them becoming public. With social proof, the idea isn't to beat people over the head with hundreds of examples, but instead to give them the impression that your product is well liked and well received by others just like them. I've given you several different ways to use social proof. You may be able to combine a couple of them, but using all of them might well be seen as overkill and could backfire on you.