What is Anticipatory Design?
Arguably one of the best features of the internet is the freedom of choice it provides its users with. Want to watch a movie? Choose from a variety of streaming services, each with their impressive lists of titles to choose from. Need to buy a new pair of shoes? Just visit any store’s website and select the exact ones you’d like. Searching for a restaurant in your area? You can get a comprehensive list within seconds.
But sometimes all these choices are overwhelming, and that’s where anticipatory design comes in. Although it is not a new concept, it is becoming more and more common, and customers expect it rather than considering it an added bonus. Anticipatory design does exactly what the name suggests: it anticipates the user’s next move, creating an easier decision-making process for the user.
Why Anticipatory Design?
As people are more and more used to the internet making their lives more efficient, they expect to spend less time finding exactly what they want. Anticipatory design takes out the unnecessary steps and creates a more streamlined process.
Apple has incorporated anticipatory design into their calendar/maps features on iPhone. If a calendar event has a location, it will analyze current travel conditions and tell you when you need to leave your current location in order to reach your destination on time.
Cognitive Load and Anticipatory Design
Cognitive load, or the amount of mental effort used at any given moment, is a crucial element to be considered in design. Good design minimizes this, and makes a streamlined, efficient process for the user. Principles such as “Don’t Repeat Yourself” and “Keep It Simple, Stupid” have long encouraged this optimization, ensuring that users put in minimal effort to reach their desired result.
Peapod, an online grocer, recently released a mobile app that is based on anticipatory design. Their “Order Genius” function allows you to quickly fill your cart based on previous orders you’ve made with them. The more this function is used, the more it learns about a user’s behavior patterns and how they vary through the seasons, and thus, the more efficient it becomes.
Peapod is also integrated with Gatheredtable, a website that will convert a menu type into a grocery list that is imported into Peapod. This is a great example of anticipating a user’s needs and desires, and optimizing the process they have to go through to achieve them.
Empathy and Anticipatory Design
Successful anticipatory design requires the designer to truly understand the customer. To do this properly, one must investigate how people solve problems; oftentimes, this leads to a much simpler solution than expected.
Waze, a navigation app, uses these ideas in their anticipatory design. The app allows drivers to communicate with one another about road conditions, traffic, accidents, etc. Its most successful anticipatory feature is that it constantly searches for a faster route based on feedback it receives from its users.
Examples Of Great Anticipatory Design
FACEBOOK: GEOLOCATION AND EVENTS
Recently, Facebook began alerting users with location services enabled if they had friends attending an event in the area on a given day. Facebook anticipates users’ interest in what their friends are up to and notifies them preemptively. This marks a step towards Facebook dominating in-person interactions as well as just virtual ones.
PANDORA: MUSIC RECOMMENDATIONS
Though it’s been around for a while, Pandora is a key example of anticipatory design. Once a user creates a radio station based on a specific song or artist, Pandora will play more music with similarities to what the user selects. Additionally, users can give a thumbs up or down to music recommendations they receive, and Pandora will continue to optimize playlists based on this feedback.
Similarly, online marketplaces such as Amazon and Ebay provide great recommendations based on recent purchases, and the purchases of other people who have purchased similar products.
BRITA: FILTER REPLACEMENTS
Brita, a leading water filter company, created a unique solution to the issue of filter replacements. They allow users to scan a filter’s ID and receive updates when it should be replaced. These updates also make it easier to order a replacement, anticipating the fact that most people wouldn’t go out of the way for a filter replacement otherwise.
A Checklist For Anticipatory Design
In short, there’s a huge variety of services implementing anticipatory design to make their users’ lives easier. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to determine whether or not your design could be more streamlined for efficiency.
- Is there a way to make this task simpler for users?
- Are we giving users too much information that might be confusing?
- Is there a way to avoid asking this question and pre-fill it with existing data? Consider sign-up forms that could pre-populate with OpenID credentials, for example.
- Can we suggest a course of action based on previous preferences?
- Can we save the user some time by using templates that have been created before?
- Is there any extra value that we could add given the user’s action in this step?
- How can we prevent the user from making a mistake here, or provide alternative options before the mistake is made?
- Which medium would be most effective to share the instructions related to this task? Should we create text-based instructions, audio guides or a video?