Removing one question doubled our audience — how you can do the same

Our impetus to act is a precious thing that needs to be nurtured carefully.

Duncan Anderson
Jan 3 · 4 min read
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Those moments when we have the impetus to do something are precious and fleeting. When 69.57% of online shopping carts are abandoned, it’s safe to assume that we’re all easily distracted.

🚧 Friction kills engagement

At Humanise.AI we built a conversational system that could be accessed through either Facebook Messenger or our own Web Chat system. We thought that choice was good for people and so we added a very simple chooser that allowed them to select Facebook or Web Chat. It was the simplest possible screen — just two buttons. Easy! Who would think this was friction… but it was and we found usage rates were much lower than we expected

As an experiment, we removed the chooser and just sent people straight to Web Chat, eliminating Facebook as an option. The result? We doubled usage overnight.

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Here’s the shocking lessons from this experience:

  1. Firstly, that friction can be literally anything that gets in the way of the reason a person came to our system.

This is just one example, but we’ve observed the effect multiple times and it’s consistent. Anything that gets in the way of people getting to “the meat” of what they want to do, risks the loss of up to a half of the audience.

But it can be even worse… if we insert an element of friction in a buying process, we only sell half the things we might otherwise have sold. And if we add two elements of friction, we only sell one quarter of our potential (because we lose half our potential buyers at each step).

Whenever we’re asked to decide something, remember something or do something, that’s an element of friction and friction kills engagement.

🎓 The lessons are clear: Choice = Friction, Friction = lost audience.

🛋️ We’re all casual now

But why is it that we are so fickle, giving up as soon as we’re asked to make a simple choice?

The truth is that more often than not, our impetus to do something is fleeting. We’ll do it if it’s easy, but the smallest of interruptions means we lose that impetus.

Unlike in the past, we’re probably not sat at a desk to do something with purpose. Instead, we might be lounging on the sofa, the tv in the background and our iPad on our knees to surf. Or we might be using our iPhone in the pub. Or any other myriad of casual environments in which we can easily lose attention. We may even be competing with some distractions 💩 we’ve never previously considered. As a result, we often have a very casual impetus to do that thing and can be easily distracted if the experience isn’t ridiculously simple and engaging.

Google calls these fleeting moments ‘micro-moments’ — when we’re in the mood to do something or buy something. Micro-moments are just that — micro. If we want to exploit them, we need to be conscious of the fickle nature of that moment. Just like that dewy spider’s web, they are delicate things that need to be handled with care.

💡 Simplify

It stands to reason that we need to simplify, but that can be tough as Steve Jobs eloquently stated.

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

I’ve found that assuming…

  • We can’t remember things

…is a good place to start — it helps us to challenge if a question is really necessary.

But simplifying is more than just removing a couple of options. Sometimes we need a more creative approach that completely reinvents how a process works. It’s such creativity that caused dating apps to evolve into ‘swipe right, swipe left’ experiences. The best answer often requires a radically new way of looking at things. This takes time, space and a willingness to indulge crazy ideas.

💬 Do things differently with chat

Every business on the planet already has a general-purpose website. It has to address everyone’s needs and it has to do that in one way — so it tends to be quite “generic” in nature. It’s also probably quite slow to change, with lots of people willing to contribute (read: slow everything down).

In contrast, a conversational experience is a golden opportunity to simplify and do things differently. It’s an excuse to think the unthinkable and challenge why things need to be a certain way.

  • Do we really need to force people to login?

I’ll be writing more about how Conversational systems can be an impetus for new types of User Experiences in future posts. We named our company Humanise.AI because we believe in the art of humanising technology – the right answers are so often dependent on thinking about people and how they behave. Suffice to say: the success or failure of a Conversational system is down to how much we design the user experience and challenge the status-quo.


Chat. Bots. Voice.

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