Bridge Design: The Right Way To Change Existing User Behaviour

#Habituation #BrainTrain #ChangingHabits #Product #UxDesign #BridgeDesign #BridgingHabits #ConversationIsTheNewSearch

We are what we repeatedly do. In simple terms it means, habits are mighty difficult to alter. If you’ve been habituated into doing something repeatedly, for a very long time, it’s not easy to unlearn and ‘re-learn’ a brand new way of doing the exact same thing.

For example, driving a car. Once we concretise the various steps and rules of driving a car and become adept at one, our brain does not manually think of the gears to be used, the pedals to be pressed, or the mirrors to be looked at. Scary, but true! Let’s suppose you’ve just bought a new car that places rearview mirrors at a different spot. Every time you look up from the steering, you will not find the rearview mirror at the location you’re accustomed to. Your brain then consciously tells you the new position you need to look at. Things are definitely easier when done via our subconscious as compared to our conscious mind putting in the effort to find the new alternative. Clearly we don’t credit our subconscious enough for running us on autopilot!

Bridge design is a concept that talks about making this exact transition to future habits simpler. It’s something like bridging the gap between the present and the future.

As an example, in this blog we’re going to talk about “SEARCH”. One of the most common user habits in the tech product space, let’s see how product managers and designers can help users transition smoothly into something better.

What happens when you’re on a website or a mobile application and you want to search?

You start looking for a search box at the top of the screen. Right? Of course.

This happens because our brain is trained to look for the search bar at the top, since — needless to say — we’ve all been searching like this for years. However, times are changing now. Today we have Artificially Intelligent (AI) assistants and chat bots who can search and do more for you in a few lines of conversation than was previously possible.

Let’s analyse first the traditional search, followed by AI powered conversational search and consequently find a way to change a strongly rooted habit in the product design space, for the better.

Traditional Search:

Within a website or a mobile application, if there’s something that you want to search, the first thing your subconscious mind is going to do is look for the search bar at the top of the screen, and start typing within it. You will see relevant search results on the screen and you will then perform your desired action. Done and dusted!

New Conversational (Chat) Search:

On the other hand, imagine searching and sending a file to someone in just one command. Or, searching for multiple things such as ‘identity proof’, ‘my photo’, ‘my passport’ etc, and seeing all the results at one place. You can then simply select them and send them to your travel agent. Easy peasy! Because, isn’t search > search > search > send more convenient than search > send > search > send > search > send?

If that does not convince you, here are some more advantages of the conversational search:

  1. The context is never lost.
  2. Multiple actions can be performed in just a single statement.
  3. One screen fits all requirements.

Bridge Design:

Cue, drumrolls! Bridge design is a relatively new concept that bridges the gap between the existing habit and the new habit you want to form. This is done by using the essence of the existing habit to build the new one.

For a better understanding of bridge design for search, it is important to first list down the steps for traditional and the new conversational search.

Traditional Search:

  1. You’re using a mobile app and there’s a need to search something.
  2. The subconscious brain will make you look for a search box at the top most section of the screen. This is an already existing habit.
  3. You touch the search box and type your query.
  4. After a little wait , you see the search results.
Traditional Search

AI Powered Conversational Search:

  1. You’re using a mobile app and there’s a need to search something.
  2. You look for the chat button assist so you can ask the assistant to search. This is the new habit to be formed.
  3. You tap on it and a chat screen appears where you enter your query.
  4. After a little wait , you see the search results.
AI powered conversational search

The second step is the most critical one in both the flows. In the traditional search flow, the user’s mind is trained to look for the search box at the top. So, step 2 is easy to execute. However, in the new AI powered conversational search, step 2 is new and the user needs to be trained.

What if we replace step 2 of the AI conversational search with step 2 of traditional search. The new process will look a little like this:

The AI powered conversational search with bridge design:

  1. You’re using a mobile app and there’s a need to search something.
  2. The subconscious brain will ask your eyes to look for a search box at the top most section of the screen. This is an already existing habit.
  3. You tap on it and a chat screen appears where you enter your query. The search text box becomes a chat text box.
  4. After a little wait , you see the search results.
Bridge design for AI powered documents management app

Conclusion:

For those of us working in the product-design-tech space, we need to understand that giving something new to our users comes with the cost of building new habits. This is an activity and a transition that may not always be easy for the users.

The bridge design may not revolutionise the future of design. But, it will absolutely make the present and the transition to the future easier. With all the innovation happening in technology and design, it’s very important to not throw new interactions and communication formats at the users. Our goal should instead be to aid and guide them into building new habits, while using existing habits (if possible). That is exactly what Bridge Design helps you achieve.