Anticipate users’ anticipations

in Interaction design

Think about when you were anticipating the arrival of your new iPhone, or computer, or latest PSP: When will it be delivered? What will the packaging be like? Will I have to set it up? What if I can’t connect to the internet?

Before people buy or use a product, or visit a website they’ve been told about, they create anticipationsexpectations around its aesthetics and usage.

Anticipating is one of the first experiences people have with your product.

What sort of things do people anticipate?  Fortunately for us, two things. I’ll use recent research on the iPhone as an example:

  1. Imagining positive experiences, such as the quality of the iPhone’s screen, the user who thought about how the calendar would fit nicely into her life, friends’ and colleagues’ reactions, and so on.
  2. Imagining fears, such as the problems of battery endurance, learning to type on the virtual keyboard, its reliability, and so forth.

As user experience professionals, we’re trained to think about learnability. But this comes after the anticipation stage. We need to go back one step and explicitly consider people’s anticipations as well.

Here’s a technique to get you thinking about anticipations:

Think  about a new music-finding and sharing website. A friend has told you it’s great and you should check it out. With that in mind, imagine waiting for the website to load… finish these two sentences:

  1. I hope that I’ll be able to…
  2. I’ll be really delighted if…

And what things do you fear about the music website? Finish these two sentences:

  1. I hope that I won’t have to…
  2. I’ll be really disappointed if…

Of course, this is only a start. But food for thought maybe?

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