Why Framing is so important when considering User Experience

There is an old saying about first impressions and how important they are, but there is more to it when you dig deeper. For example, if you go back to your first date, you would have, I’m sure, considered what to wear, but also where that first date should be…

The latter would be just as important as the former, as it would have been a mistake to dress up to the nines and then take your partner to the local chippy. The place you take them would be the ‘frame’ for the date, and I think you can imagine just how important it would be.

Having established that it is quite normal (and a really good idea) to try to make a good first impression when you meet an important person, you may find it surprising to know that in the case of user research, the question or problem you are presenting must also be ‘framed’ in the right way.

Framing information, products and questions in a complex way confuses customers and can make rational decision-making difficult. It can make for hasty and in many cases, bad decisions.

One famous Behavioural economist and author Richard Thaler, once said that “framing works because people tend to be somewhat mindless, passive decision makers.” The way information, whether on a food label or in a digital user experience, must be framed in such a way so that people can make smarter choices more easily, especially when they are not ready to invest enough time to figure it out for themselves.

Framing questions in the right way will ensure you get the right outcome.

That framing can help shape outcomes is not in doubt, but how do you use this in the concept of web design and user experience? The first part here is all about asking the right questions about what people want to see and how they like to move about a website. Here the framing of the question establishes focus as well as establishing the boundary between what is and is not relevant to a particular situation.

Without this frame it makes it difficult to understand the ‘problem space’ and participant’s responses will be fuzzy, vague and difficult to make any sense of.

Framing your questions in the right manner will make or break your results and ultimately, any affect the decisions made by the web development team.

So the next time you are looking at a problem or question, take a step back and ask yourself if the question was asked differently, would it yield a different result? Will the way the question is asked just give you the answer you want, a balanced and unbiased response, or, will it give you skewed results?

And besides this, on the matter of web design

Besides making sure you ask the right questions, the ones that help getting the design right, ‘Framing’ is also useful when creating the right ‘image’ on the web page. It helps make the website perform to a higher level by ensuring that any questions on the site are asked in the right manner and that the navigation is ‘framed’ so that it is easy to use.

At a more basic level, the ‘framing’ of a web page also includes how it looks (don’t get confused here with the old fashioned use of frames in HTML), as the design must make the user ‘happy’ and ‘sure that they are in the right place’, all the time looking great and thus putting the user in the right ‘Frame of mind’.