The digital head and heart test
by Matt Fisher, UX Consultant

The digital head and heart test

“Tell me your details and we’ll get you booked on…” – the words of an eager booking agent, after I’d resorted to picking up the phone because their website did not answer my question. I was trying to book long-haul flights for a family trip, yet the booking interface provided no option to book hold luggage and instead forced me to pick up the phone.

Something didn’t feel right… The fact that the booking agent was being pushy. The fact that I couldn’t add hold luggage as part of my online booking. The fact that completing the booking over the phone would mean I couldn’t visually check the specifics of my booking that could see were correct on my screen… thanks, but no thanks.

While the provider ticked the right boxes, and the price was competitive; the doubt in my mind caused me to hesitate, and ultimately, opt for a higher price from a competitor.

What’s your gut say?

This is a frequently asked question here within Experience UX. Learning to listen to your gut and intuitive feeling is an invaluable life skill. Here, making a significant spend, the facts were correct… yet something didn’t feel right.

Later that week, I noticed parallels to this whilst observing research. The participants were rapidly seeking head knowledge about the product offering and functionality, whilst simultaneously making a gut feel assessment. Head knowledge included facts, data and figures; the tangibles. Heart knowledge was absorbed subconsciously and spoke to softer emotions and feelings; the intangibles.

I also observed this in myself while attending school open evenings during which my spouse and I were building an ever-evolving picture of head and heart knowledge. It reminded us of previously choosing between two primary school options, one had all the data to suggest it was an outstanding school… while the other just felt like the better option for our children.

Competency and warmth

From choosing schools to purchasing cars, holidays, or insurance, who you choose to do business with is directly correlated with how you think and feel about a product or service.

Today, your not-yet customers meet your digital self, way in advance of your in-person self. They have access to multiple sources of data to assess the quality and experience of your products and services.

When meeting someone for the first time, we rapidly form a judgement based on the qualities of competency and warmth. Is this someone who is able? Is this someone I can trust? I suggest that it’s therefore no surprise that we apply this same judgement when ‘meeting’ brands and their digital products and services. Is this a brand I can trust? Is this a brand I would be happy to be seen with? This is our highly perceptive survival protection mechanism.

Two questions we ask when auditing digital products and services from the perspectives of users are ‘Can you help me?’ ‘How can you help me?’ But let’s add a third question to this combo; ‘can I trust you to help me?’

Question mark?

Within research, I often observe users’ unanswered questions leading to doubt, concern, and questions of trustworthiness. I suggest that the unspoken thoughts include ‘how does this make me look?’ ‘What will others think?’ ‘What does this decision say about me?’ ‘Are you safe?’ And within B2B contexts, ‘would I get fired for doing business with this brand?’

Doubts, hesitations, and unanswered questions lead to indecision or to competitors that don’t give cause for questions and concerns. The synthesised quote from B2B research participants: “I’ll always look at the website to get a feel for what they’re like and if these are people I want to do business with”.

Does your website pass the head and heart test?

The winners?

So, what does this mean for your digital products and services, and the judgements of warmth and competency users so readily place upon your brand? How can you inspire confidence by speaking to the head while connecting with the heart?

Seek first to understand, the wise and well-known words of Steven Covey serve us well. Understand the world through your users’ eyes to create effortless experiences that inspire confidence in their heads, and warmth in their hearts.

UX Consultant Emma Peters

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