User strategies — designing for social
October 17, 2011 § Leave a comment
Interesting stuff in this article on designing for user strategies. And particularly interesting in light of my recent interest in Berne and Games People Play. I like to work with a concept of user interests, as opposed to user goals. This, because I believe that social interaction is as much irrational as it is rational; as much relational as it is self-centered, and as much about “social situations” as it is about completing tasks. User actions are then often not strategic according to any kind of directly manipulable reality. Rather, they are strategic by means of using others — their actions and reactions.
The interpersonal and social games described by Berne are just this: psychological strategies. Design for social requires us to include not only the directly achievable strategies but also those involving persons and social situations. For example, how to design a dating site such that the social etiquette and practices common to (online) dating support and do not thwart “strategies” of both dating and self image. If the social strategy is to “look interested” (in somebody) and there’s a personal strategy of “avoiding rejection”, then what browse and gesture/communicate actions and activities support them?
User strategies described in this article are interesting, and I have no trouble with them. But in social interaction design, user strategies may include others, and may be “satisfactory” only if others interact or respond in the way a user has hoped they will. In these cases, then, designing for user strategy involves an understanding of social strategies.
I’ll briefly note a few other characteristics of user strategies that are useful to bear in mind when analyzing them:
- Sometimes users can easily describe the strategy they are using, while, in other cases, they are not even aware they are using a particular strategy.
- Sometimes users’ stated strategy is at odds with their observable behavior.
- Sometimes users’ behavior is opportunistic. That is, once a user starts to perform an activity, some condition arises that causes the user to divert from the original goal or method to pursue a new course of action.
- Generally, it is possible to explain the choice of method or target outcome using one or more of the following types of selection criteria:
- what is most important to a person
- the person’s competencies or resources
- the level of difficulty or uncertainty in the situation
- It is sometimes useful to describe strategies in terms of general styles such as defensive versus offensive; conservative or safe versus risky. In other cases, it’s more useful to describe user strategies in terms of a specific method—for example, in air traffic control, the method of assigning a uniform speed and flight path to all aircraft.