Is “Predictive UX” a thing? I think so.

This article was originally posted in early 2014

In 2009, author Steve Krugg introduced the concept of creating highly intuitive web experiences in his book, Don’t make me think. We were to guide users down digital pathways by adhering to some common psychological behaviors . I believe his message is even more poignant now as we work to bring great customer experiences to mobile users.

To summarize Mr. Krugg in another way, he basically told us that we needed to start developing predictive user experiences (predictive ux) — anticipating customer needs before they become aware of it and providing the information they need at the time it’s needed.

The interruptive nature of mobile is forcing us into an interesting place. We are bombarded with steady streams of interruptive information through persistent communication channels like push notification, text and email. What’s more, we're always sifting that info to quickly determine which of it is important. As if this constant state of analysis isn’t enough for our brains to handle (I can’t be the only one whose overheats from time to time), we have even more to process through as our contexts continuously change. What may have been important to me during my morning cup of coffee, may not be on my way to work, waiting for the train or running laps at the gym. Still more, I'm having to skim this incoming stream of data while I try to block out the jackhammer pounding the pavement a few feet from me or trying to decide how I'm going to find a birthday present for my sister in a store I've never been in before. You get the point. Our brains our constantly being hit with stimulus and it seems they're more taxed than ever before. Wouldn't it be great to stop thinking about basic tasks for just a second? Herein lies the basis of my point. We have a unique opportunity to invite our users to relax while we help them accomplish their goals at the times they need to get them done.

Don't make me think so much!

By creating experiences that decrease the amount of necessary focus (working / active memory), we can help increase user efficiency, user satisfaction and, ultimately, loyalty and rapport. Predictive UX focuses on thinking for our users and helping them to determine the importance of our messages by pushing it to them at times and places that make sense.

For example, if you’re in retail, it might not make a lot of sense to notify your users of a promotion in the middle of their workday. They’re often too busy to focus on it and take action (a main goal of push messaging on our mobile devices). At best they may remember seeing our message when they have some free time and visit our site. Worst case is that the user puts us in the “unimportant” category, dismisses the notification and gets annoyed with the interruption. You just became part of the daily “noise” that we all have to filter through.

One question to ask yourself

Instead, ask yourself this question: “When is my user most likely to make a purchase”? If the answer is on Saturday afternoon, you message users on the Saturday morning closest to payday and closest to the bill due date when they’re at home. This solution helps users by hitting them before the bill is due (you remembered for them) and at a time when they’re most likely to have funds available to pay, when they’re in an environment that they can take the time to make the payment (the most meaningful time). This type of interaction is much more meaningful. That’s predictive UX. That’s helpful, not annoying.


Big players are already seeing the need to anticipate customer needs and create experiences that anticipate wants and quickly get meaningful information for them. This seems to be the very nature of helpful products like Google Now. These types of tools are revolutionary because they think for us. They minimize our need to remember by doing the remembering for us. They give us one less thing to worry about because we know that they’ll help us when and where we need it most. Businesses can introduce predictive UX to our customers and provide greater value by helping them simplify their lives.

Originally published at

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