Sunday, August 24, 2008

Is "Nudge" Just Good User-Centered Design?

I still haven't read Nudge yet, but the more I learn about the concepts in the book the more I wonder if it's just a twist on user-centered design. This article, which uses the concepts presented in Nudge to analyze a DVD player, may as well have used the concepts presented in Norman's The Design Of Everyday Things (originally published under the name The Psychology of Everyday Things twenty years ago).

1) Feedback. Every input to a DVD player has no observable effect for four seconds. Simply ejecting a disk means pressing ‘eject’ then making a cup of tea while you wait for the machine to wrestle with its inner demons. ‘HAL, open the disk bay door!’ ‘I’m sorry, Dave, I can’t allow you to do that.’

2) Choice architecture. The standard DVD remote control is covered by 37 buttons all of an equally fiddly size, 32 of which perform no useful function whatsoever.

3) Defaults. When I load a disk, it’s because I want to watch the film. From the start. In bloody English. The remote is by now somewhere under the sofa, so the last thing I need is a menu screen asking whether to ‘a) play the main feature? or b) watch 17 minutes of unreleased footage with a spoken commentary and Flemish subtitles?’ Default to a), damn it!

Norman talked about four main principles: conceptual models, feedback, constraints, and affordances. Both Norman and Nudge talk about "feedback," so the similarity there is self-evident. But Nudge's "choice architecture" sounds like a combination of Norman's "constraints" and "affordances," while Nudge's "defaults" like a combination of Norman's "constraints" and "conceptual models."

As Tim Harford puts it:

Nudging is good architecture, good design or good marketing...

All this just makes me want to read Nudge more; is there a Nudge-like principle that describes how learning bits and pieces about something makes it all the more intriguing?

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