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This is Your Brain On Online Shopping

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Look at the headline on this page. See the little square above it that says "Note to Self," with the words "published in" on top? That, according to our in-house User Experience (UX) team, was the product of a whole lot of surveys, interviews, research, and testing. They realized that people who made it to the story page (like you!) couldn't tell it was part of a podcast. They added those words, and boom — you are now fully aware of what you’re looking at.  

Or at least... more aware.* Because UX research — one of the most explosive areas of growth over the past decade, and one of the most sought-after new tech industry jobs — is still in its infancy, and it's based on herding a really frustrating, ever-shifting, not at all generalize-able data set: People.

To learn what's going through these mind-analyzers' minds, Manoush volunteered herself as a guinea pig in Etsy's Usability Testing Lab for a story about online seduction — how designers create an immersive experience that makes you relaxed or happy or excited, and makes you feel like spending your time and money.

Here she is in the top right hand corner, getting excited about a scarf:


Etsy UX researchers watching Manoush shop "for a gift." (Jackie Snow) Techies know that it can get emotional, frustrating, and personal when an app crashes, or you can’t figure out where to pay your damn credit card balance online, or you’re shopping and the links on the website don’t take you to where you think that they’re going to take you. They know they have a lot to lose and a lot to gain from your feelings about their products, and they are turning to people with degrees in the social sciences to help them analyze what's going through our collective minds. Basically: there are more and more jobs for "feelings specialists" that have (almost) nothing to do with therapy.


For the record, she didn't buy it. Yet. (Shovava/  

So this week, we're taking a look at the people who tell the developers that a confused user might need an extra text bubble to guide them through a frustrating moment... 


(Note to Self)  

...make sure every icon makes sense...


(Note to Self) ...and decide how many menus, exactly, their users can handle at once...


(Note to Self)  

Here's what some of the big — and often opaque — tech companies say about their own UX research: Apple, Facebook, Twitter. We're curious to hear about your experience as users of these sites. Let’s go meta?

*Marine Boudeau and Fiona Carswell, our UX specialists at WNYC, are actually in the process of redesigning the site right now -- and they would love your input on your, er, user experience here. Meta, right?

In this week's episode:

  • Mark Hurst, Founder and CEO of UX Consulting firm Creative Good
  • Jill Fruchter, UX Research Manager at Etsy
  • Alex Wright, Director of Research at Etsy

For more good background reading on UX/UI, Marine suggests:

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