Be provocative

“The secret is to be more provocative and interesting than anything else in their environment.”

* Be Visual
* Be Different–Break Patterns and Expectations
* Be Daring
* Change Things Regularly
* Inspire Curiosity
* Pose a Challenge
* Be Fun
* Be Controversial and Committed
* Be Stimulating. Be Exciting. Be Seductive

HT @Kathy Sierra for the inspiration from her blog posting, “Creating Passionate Users”

One Reply to “Be provocative”

  1. Provocation is in the eye of the provoked, obviously, so there’s no clear formula. But there’s plenty we can try, depending on the circumstances, including:

    * Be Visual
    Pictures are more important to the brain than words, and unless you’ve already got their attention and are a good enough writer to paint pictures in their head, you’ll do better with visuals. The more stimulating the better. Even graphs and charts are a huge help… it doesn’t have to be pictures of naked women (although that would work, of course. Just try to get past a rack of men’s magazines (without the “protective covers”) without at least a glance. Your brain can’t help it, so let yourself off the hook ; )

    * Be Different–Break Patterns and Expectations
    As long as we’re doing what everyone else is doing (or what we have always done), the brain can relax and think, “Nothing new here… whew… what a relief, that means I can now go back to scanning for something that is”. Ways to be different include doing the opposite of what you normally do, or doing something expected in a different domain, but which is wildly unique in yours.

    * Be Daring
    You know the story on this one–being safe is often incompatible with being provocative.

    * Change Things Regularly
    This is about continually breaking your own patterns. Consistently shaking things up whether it’s look and feel of your website to the product itself. (Obviously the definition of “regularly” and “things” varies dramatically depending on the type of product or service. MySpace can change daily to the delight of its core audience, while a financial app better keep its UI stable for a much longer time and find something else to change regularly (like the website, tutorial style, or online forums).

    * Inspire Curiosity
    Humans often find puzzles and even questions irresistible. Just try to walk by a TV playing a quiz show and not think about the answer to the question you heard walking by. How many times have you watched to the end of a movie you didn’t particularly like, just because you had to find out how the story ends? Our legacy brains love curiosity because it usually means more learning. (FYI – my horse finds orange traffic cones irresistible)

    * Pose a Challenge
    The level and nature of the challenge work only if they’re within boundaries that work for your audience, of course. Ask me to solve a calculus problem and I’ll keep on walking. Ask my co-author Bert, and he’ll find it impossible to do anything else but work on it.

    * Be Controversial and Committed
    Take a stand. Mediocrity is not a formula for holding attention.

    * Be Fun
    Remember, brains love fun because fun=play, and play=practicing-to-survive. (And as we’ve said many times here, fun does not have to mean funny. Chess can be fun but isn’t funny. Except when I play.)

    * Be Stimulating. Be Exciting. Be Seductive
    Keep in mind that seduction does not have to mean sexual. A good storyteller can seduce me into sticking with the story. A good teacher can seduce me into learning. A good software app can seduce me into getting better and better.

    * Help them have Hi-Res Experiences
    This gets back to the notion of being-better-is-better. The more your users know and can do, the higher resolution experience they have. Whatever you can do to give them more expertise will help keep them interested in wanting to know and do more. But they need to be up the skill curve a ways before this really kicks in, so we must do whatever we can to help get new users past the rough spots (i.e. the “suck threshold”).

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