When pain is a good thing

When pain is a good thing

There are plenty of occasions where pain is actually a good thing, and I’m not talking about BDSM. There are times when you want to put your user in pain. Yes, pain. Most user experience people talk about the importance of making things simple. Even I talk about how we’re all trained monkeys and we don’t want to be making decisions. Don’t make me think. Don’t put me in any pain. Yet greater pain leads to greater appreciation, and the feeling of accomplishment. It all depends on the motivation of the user and your end goal.

My friend Itamar and I were talking about LinkedIn, making things simple, and user experience. Specifically, we were discussing Who’s Viewed Your Profile. Itamar couldn’t understand why LinkedIn would make you work and do an extra click to be able to view this. Why wasn’t it on the homepage?

I don’t work at LinkedIn and I haven’t asked this to anyone I know who works at or worked at LinkedIn – but I have a good idea why LinkedIn doesn’t have the Who’s Viewed Your Profile list on the homepage. They want you to experience a bit of pain to see it. It primes you to go deeper into the site.

Let’s think about BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits:
B= MAT or Behavior = Motivation Ability Trigger

The behavior is you going to see who’s viewed your profile. Your motivation is high. I look almost daily so I can see if there are potential leads there or anyone interesting that I should know is checking up on my profile. It’s a mixture of need for work and vanity, which means that the pain to play can be higher (i.e. a click in instead of on the homepage). My ability is still there – I can click from the homepage. My trigger is going to LinkedIn.

We can also look at it from Nir Eyal’s Hooked Model:

It started with an External Trigger – I can’t remember if it was the Who’s Viewed Your Profile link on the homepage or an email with that information. Most likely it was the email which led me back to the site. Originally this link was on the right side, below something – but its since moved to be top and center of the page.

The Action was me clicking through to see who’s viewed my profile. The Variable Reward? Some people were really cool and some were important. But not all were, and as such the reward was variable. My body rewarded me with a dopamine rush whenever I saw someone who impressed me viewed my profile. Some of the viewers were anonymous, which always sucks. The Investment is my time looking. Eventually I would keep going back until the external trigger became an internal one, where I check it daily when I take a writing break.

Why create the pain? A few reasons:

  1. Because by clicking through you are now primed. Priming is “Priming is an implicit memory effect in which exposure to one stimulus influences a response to another stimulus.” – wikipedia Which basically means once you’ve clicked on a link to go deeper inside the site you are more likely to dive deep and click on more links inside said site. More pages viewed means more ads viewed and more money for LinkedIn.
  2. Working harder for something means we appreciate it more. Ever hear the phrase, “Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?” This is the internet business version of that. By working harder to see the stuff you’re interested in you actually end up liking the site more and taking it more seriously.
  3. It increases your commitment to the product. The fact that you are willing to work for something inside a product gives your subconscious a signal that this product is importance and by working inside it your commitment is now higher – that raises Customer Lifetime Value and raises switching costs.

The important thing is to make sure whatever feature you’re putting a level of pain behind is something that the user actually wants. Don’t worry, their actions will make it clear on whether they find it important or not, watch your analytics.

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