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Change the interface, change the world.


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PandaWhale user @NirEyal writes:

Whenever a massive change occurs in the way people interact with technology, expect to find plenty of secrets ripe for harvesting. Changes in interface suddenly make all sorts of behaviors easier. Subsequently, when the effort required to accomplish an action decreases, usage tends to explode.

A long history of technology businesses made their fortunes discovering behavioral secrets made visible because of a change in the interface. Apple and Microsoft succeeded by turning DOS terminals into graphical user interfaces accessible by mainstream consumers. Google simplified the search interface, as compared to those of ad-heavy and difficult-to-use competitors like Yahoo. Facebook and Twitter turned new behavioral insights into interfaces that simplified social interactions online. In each case, a new interface made an action easier and uncovered surprising truths about the way users behave.

More recently, Instagram and Pinterest offer examples of companies which capitalized upon behavioral insights brought about from changes in interface. Pinterest’s ability to create a rich canvas of images — utilizing what was then cutting-edge interface changes — revealed new insights about the addictive nature of an online catalog. For Instagram, the interface change was cameras integrated into smart phones. Instagram discovered that its low-tech filters made relatively poor quality photos taken on phones look great. Suddenly taking good pictures on your phone was easier and Instagram used its newly discovered insights to recruit an army of rabidly snapping users. With both Pinterest and Instagram, tiny teams generated huge value, not by cracking hard technical challenges, but by solving interaction problems.

Slightly new interfaces dovetail brand new user behaviors.

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