User Design and Habits in Content Marketing Strategies

By Stephanie Diamond

Two issues to be aware of when you are constructing your content marketing plan are the user experience (UX) and your customer’s habits. Both are related to content in a very specific way:

  • The UX: The UX is not about the buyer’s journey that the user takes on the road to making a purchase. The UX is the experience the user has while navigating your sites and reading your content. It’s about the design elements you employ to communicate your content marketing strategy.

  • Habits: Your customer’s habits impact the adoption of your product. When you know how to attach the use of your product to customers’ habits, you’re more likely to persuade them to buy. The content you create to get your customers on board with your products will have a big effect and must be part of your strategy.

Recognizing the importance of user experience (UX) design in your strategy

When you think of developing a strategy, issues about design probably don’t immediately come to mind. Yet when you look at conducting business online, you can find evidence of design choices in everything you do. Not only is the product itself impacted by design, but the way you have customers interact with the brand is completely driven by design.

This point in driven home by John Moore Williams in his article, “The New Design Process: Why Designers Should Be Shaping Business Strategy,” in the InVision blog.

Williams makes a very important point that’s worth quoting in full:

“Designers understand the business landscape differently than the business guys. Where an exec sees lifts in conversion rates, a designer sees a more delightful user experience. Where an exec sees increased time on site, a designer might wonder if some interactions could produce less friction. Where the business guy sees users, designers see people.”

Are you guilty of the narrow vision that Williams describes? The key is to keep an eye on metrics and the UX at the same time. Your user experiences content visually, and design either impedes or enhances that experience — and enhancing it makes all the difference.

Observing product habits

Most habits develop without our realizing it. We find that we perform some of the same routines every day without much thought. In fact, stopping a habit is more difficult than starting one.

Having the topic of habits may seem strange in a chapter on strategy, but it really isn’t when you look at how habits impact your customers’ use of your product. Do you know whether using your product requires a habit change? If it does, you’re going to have an uphill battle luring customers. Conversely, if you can attach the use of your product to an existing habit, you will find fostering product adoption much easier.

An interesting perspective on the benefits of habits as they relate to products was discussed by Dina Chaiffetz in her article series on the InVision blog.

Chaiffetz points out two significant benefits of focusing on habits: (1) when your product establishes a habit, you establish a permanent relationship with a customer; and (2) if you know about a habit your customer already has, you can piggy-back on that to become part of the customer’s routine.

Doesn’t that sound good? Habits can help you develop an ongoing relationship with your customer that will be hard to break, plus you can become a part of your customers’ everyday life.

So how can you add habits to your strategy? Nir Eyal tackles this question in his book Hooked: How to Form Habit-Building Products, in which he presents the four steps to product habit formation.

You can find an example of this process in Nir Eyal’s SlideShare presentation that diagrams how a Pinterest habit is formed (see slide #110).

Here’s how the Pinterest habit is formed:

  • Trigger: First, you need to have both an external and internal trigger that cause you to use the product. An external trigger might be that you are reading your emails online, so going to another site is easy. The internal trigger could be your boredom or desire to socialize.

  • Action: You log in to a social platform and look around for something entertaining.

  • Variable Reward: While on the platform, you are rewarded by discovering something of interest, or sometimes you find nothing and you log off. The key to this reward is that it doesn’t happen every time; it’s on a variable interval schedule.

    A variable interval schedule is a concept borrowed from behavioral psychology. It refers to the fact that you are more likely to keep going back for a reward when your reward is given intermittently, rather than each time you do something. If you’re used to getting a reward every time and then you miss one or two, you will stop going back. If you are unsure when you will be rewarded because it’s variable, you keep trying again. Slot machines work on the same principle.

  • Investment: You make an investment in the product by personalizing it. In the case of Pinterest, you might pin things and share other pins. You are not only investing your time but also building a body of content, so you’re likely to return.

So now you see how easily a product habit can be formed if it has the right ingredients. It helps you understand why your friends play certain games until they drop. You can find more about habit formation by looking at Stanford Professor BJ Fogg’s work on changing behavior.