The dashboards we look at to monitor the health of our products are lagging the experiences our user communities are having.
Back and forth flame wars on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere register as “engagement” and high clickthrough on “new comment” mobile notifications. As cortisol levels spike and keyboards get punched and one or more users eventually abandon the service, or feel a little angrier, or radicalize into an identity at odds with where they started out, just because that’s what makes them feel like part of a tribe.
“Time on site” and “minutes of video watched” are up-and-to-the-right indicators. More is better, caveated that we also measure “short clicks” and other indications that the user can’t find something to do or isn’t getting the right answer. But so long as they’re watching more, reading more, going deeper down the rabbit hole, that’s fine. A user eating snacks engineered to take advantage of our sweet, salty urges. Diabetes and weight gain be damned.
How did our product make you feel? Measured infrequently with user research studies, pop-up surveys, NPS questions. Next wave of startups trying to use your phone’s camera and sensors to calculate emotional response. But ahead of that we’re still flying pretty blind as product designers to understand and process the realtime emotional impact of a user experience and factor that into the algorithm. This happens slowly, often as a derivative function, as personalization understands what you seem to like or dislike, but even that is too basic and behaves like a servant, not a guardian or instructor.
Maybe the most exciting roles right now at Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the like are about creating the metrics of 2018 and beyond. As Jack Dorsey said, defining what is a Healthy Conversation. I’m hopeful. I want to see these sorts of metrics show up on CEO Dashboards, in Board decks, as part of the default Chartbeat implementation.
Or maybe it will be the nonprofits like the Center for Humane Technology or Mozilla that can figure this out and layer their own tools over our internet experiences using browsers and plugins to alter, slow or block the mechanics of attention vacuuming. Even forward-thinking and scrupulous teams are going to need help understanding the tradeoffs inherent in *not* maximizing for a short-term exploitive growth hack or business goal.
Keep an eye on the dashboards and analytics tools because that’s where the durable truths about an organizations priorities are depicted. And we’re still using Web 2.0 hammers to build our Web 3.0 house.