The Devil Made Me Do It: how website UX influences information disclosure

Does viewing the graphic to the left make you more likely to disclose embarrassing information on a website? Improbably yes!
A CMU study recently found that the design and visual cues of website greatly impacted the level of disclosure people made. The more amateurish the website, the more willing they were to admit to bad behavior. 
For example when presented with the question on a simple looking website, 19.7% of students admitted to having covertly watched someone undressed. The same question on a more professional looking site? Only 4.7% admit to spying.
“The little devil face sort of winks at you, suggesting it’s okay to do bad stuff,” said one of the paper’s authors. 
Implications for product managers:
  • Formal looking design is not always superior choice when trying to get people to reveal about themselves.
  • Creating cues that make people feel a certain way and suggest the behavior you want from them can very much influence their actions (see Cialdini’s Influence for great examples)

4 thoughts on “The Devil Made Me Do It: how website UX influences information disclosure

  1. Wonder how this applies to Quora.

    The site's done a great job of encouraging people to open up (sometimes anonymously, sometimes publicly) even though it has a “formal-looking design”.

  2. Also – what's more important when it comes to influencing disclosures….site UX or seeing what other users are contributing?

    I like this argument re: user contributions:

    “The uses to which social media are put hang on the dynamics of actual users, not the architectural blueprints and feature specs of designers and engineers. Users look to other users for an indication of what a tool or service is good for. And what they notice first is neither design nor features, but the communication left behind by other users.” via:

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