Desire for order

Capitalize on people’s compulsion to be tidy. Make them “tidy up” by giving you the information you want or completing the tasks you require.

Examples

  • Some prototype light switches that exploit people’s desire for order to communicate that “on” isn’t necessarily “good.”
Puzzle Switch by Loove Broms and Karin Ehrnberger

Puzzle Switch by Loove Broms and Karin Ehrnberger

  • Social networking sites such as LinkedIn need your data to create the connections that make a useful network. However, it normally takes a bit of convincing to get users to do something as personal as sharing an address book. To add encouragement, LinkedIn uses language that makes it clear that you are currently in a disorderly state. Claiming “your profile is 25% complete” creates enough disharmony to convince people to hand over their e-mail address book, add more connections, and start recommending others in the network.

Principles

Desire for order is definitely not a universal human trait (looking at my desk as I write this), but by appealing to people’s sense of closure it’s possible to encourage them towards your goals.

How to leverage desire for order

  • Show users the disorder associated with their account. Give them easy ways to resolve the disorder into harmony.
  • Create a sense of progression by providing a set of logical steps toward order.
  • Show gaps where data is missing—if possible make these gaps public to shame users into completing the empty pieces.
  • Reward “tidiness.” Give users more access, power, points, or whatever other unit of currency you use as they complete more of the actions you want.

Blog posts about this pattern