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Attitudes vs behaviours

by Olivier Laude

I’m not a psychologist by any means, but understanding the nuances of human attitudes and behaviours – and how they impact our work as digital designers – is an important part of my job.

Attitudes (feelings, beliefs or opinions of approval or disapproval, to use the encyclopedic definition) and behaviours (actions or reactions in response to something) are closely related. All behaviours are caused by an attitude, whether in the form of a thought, opinion or feeling that triggers action.

Human-first digital solutions

In human-centred design, we seek to understand users’ attitudes and behaviours. Using exploratory research to gather their thoughts and emotional contexts, we can understand the actions they seek to complete. We categorise our research findings by audience groups, by stages of the journey or steps of the funnel, and create artefacts of various shapes and forms (journey maps, service blueprints, empathy maps). Doing this helps us make sense of diverse user information and shape a tangible, strategic framework that guides us in designing a digital solution.

Designers today have progressed immensely in their understanding of human needs and their ability to design effective digital solutions to meet those needs. But for many organisations, this work seems to stop as soon as their brand new digital solution is released. Human attitude can be highly volatile, so the process doesn’t end there.

Designing once vs. continuous design

As we know by now, human behaviours are triggered by attitudes. This means that often a digital platform is designed based on the behaviours of users at a specific point in time – behaviours that can change.

While there are multiple techniques available to optimise a website in a continuous design model, there is often a strong focus on analysis and optimisation through user testing, SEO analysis and analytics reporting. But this only explores the user’s behaviour in relation to the functionality of the website itself, when brands should also be evaluating attitudes and behaviours of users outside of their existing website environment.

It’s akin to designing a monkey enclosure in a zoo in the 1920’s, and then improving the design over time solely based on the monkeys’ behaviours in the enclosure, while ignoring their attitude and behaviours in the wild.

I’m a client. What can I do?

There are multiple low-cost activities that should be part of an “always on” operational model to rapidly validate how a website is serving the in-the-wild behaviours of its users. Most of these activities can be performed by your in-house team. After all, your team should know what and how your users think and feel better than anyone else.

Here are a few examples of activities we recommend feeding into a feature or enhancement stream of your operational model:

  • Conduct a one-day intercept of your customers. Talk to them and understand their emotions, context and intentions toward considering your product or service.
  • Hold co-design workshops with your customers to come up with new unrestricted concepts that meet their needs.
  • Use our Black Mirror application to gather instant thoughts and opinions from users in any location where your service or product is relevant.

Of course, these activities must be fit-for-purpose to your organisation. CHEP often custom designs new ways of capturing user attitudes and behaviours for our clients, so that their enhancement stream fully adapts to their users’ ever-evolving behaviours.

We live in an era of headless architecture, where UX design is interchangeable with infrastructure design. This means it’s more affordable than ever to adapt the user experience to the ever-evolving attitudes and behaviours of users. An organisation’s ability to implement an effective continuous design model has true potential to deliver long-lasting competitive advantage.

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