Category Archives: Uncategorized

Preventing User Errors

One of Jakob Nielsen’s 10 Usability Heuristics concerns user error prevention, and it is perhaps among the most important ones. Having a good design process in place, an understanding of the concept of mental models, and conducting usability tests can uncover potential areas of user error. These can then be addressed through design improvements targeting error prevention.

Two Categories of Errors

In The Design of Everyday Things, Don Norman categorizes errors into slips and mistakes. Slips take place at a subconscious level and occur when an action is not done correctly; you intend to do one thing and end up doing something else. Slips also occur during the execution of a plan or in the perception or interpretation of the outcome. Mistakes are conscious deliberations, they “occur when the wrong goal is established or wrong plan is formed”.

Norman further breaks down slips and mistakes into classes. Let’s look at each of these further. Continue reading

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Researchers identify features that make a message persuasive

Cornell researchers have developed an algorithm that predicts which version of a tweet will be retweeted more.  Here are a few of the things they found most likely to generate retweets (to read more or for the full list please click here):

  • Ask people to share. Words like ”please,” “pls,” “plz” and, of course, “retweet” were common in successful messages.

  • Imitate the style of newspaper headlines. (In their tests, the researchers used the New York Times as a model.)

  • Use words that appear often in other retweeted messages.

  • Use words that express positive or negative sentiment.

  • Refer to other people, not just yourself. Use third person pronouns.

To test your own tweets, visit their website.

Chemistry is why we remember negative comments longer than positive ones

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A recent HBR article notes negative comments result in our bodies producing higher levels of cortisol that can last for 26+ hours. Positive comments result in our bodies producing oxytocin but the effect doesn’t last as long so it isn’t as impactful. Unfortunately, managers are using both positive and negative comments thereby confusing their employees and creating more cortisol production.

When we face criticism, rejection or fear, when we feel marginalized or minimized, our bodies produce higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that shuts down the thinking center of our brains and activates conflict aversion and protection behaviors. We become more reactive and sensitive. We often perceive even greater judgment and negativity than actually exists. And these effects can last for 26 hours or more, imprinting the interaction on our memories and magnifying the impact it has on our future behavior. Cortisol functions like a sustained-release tablet – the more we ruminate about our fear, the longer the impact.

Positive comments and conversations produce a chemical reaction too. They spur the production of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that elevates our ability to communicate, collaborate and trust others by activating networks in our prefrontal cortex. But oxytocin metabolizes more quickly than cortisol, so its effects are less dramatic and long-lasting.