A psychologists thoughts on Spritz and the future of digital reading

How do you read these days? Do you read physical or digital books? Have you heard of Spritzing? Here, Lisa Duddington, Digital Psychologist at Keep It Usable, looks at how reading has changed and what the digital future holds.

UX Books“I’m an avid reader, in fact my nickname is ‘the bookinator’. You can normally find me hanging out in the psychology section at Waterstones. For a long time, I just couldn’t see myself ever replacing phsyical books with digital versions. To me, part of the ‘user experience’ is looking through a book case of pretty, colourful covers, picking each one up in turn and leafing through the sheets, breathing in the smell of the paper. Each book is in itself unique, it has character. However, this all changed when I jumped onboard the Kindle revolution. I can now carry hundreds of books with me in my handbag and that’s pretty amazing! However, there’s a new player about to come onto the market called Spritz that will radically change how we all read and could see an end to current eReaders.”

What is Spritz?

Spritz uses a very small interface to present just one word at a time. One letter in each word is coloured red and this is representative of the ORP (Optimal Recognition Point). It’s basically the point within the word that you’re most likely to recognise and therefore read the word optimally.

Have a go for yourself. Focus on the red letter and try to relax, using your peripheral vision to read each word. If you feel like you can go faster, try adjusting the wpm.

spritz 250wpm
spritz 500wpm

How does it work?

With Spritz, your eyes focus in one position, as opposed to having to move to read the rest next words. This is where Spritz makes a huge difference to the speed at which you read. 80% of your reading time is actually spent moving your eyes from one word to the next. Without this movement, you can achieve hugely increased WPM (word per minute) reading times.

80% of your reading time is actually spent moving your eyes.

Although this sounds incredible and I’m sure you’re already thinking about how many books and emails you could now get through in a day, what is questionable is the ability of the brain to process and store this information as deeply.

Information processing

How many times have you had to read and re-read a paragraph of text because you were distracted or you simply needed further understanding? Do you ever pause when reading a book to reflect on what you’ve just read? Does you’re reading slow down and speed up in reaction to the content? All of these things show the limits of Spritzing.

The appeal of Spritzing for many will be in reading easy to digest fiction books. However, non-fiction books are less suited. Our pace of reading is naturally slower when we’re learning, digesting and questioning, making sense of and understanding anything new. We’re also more likely to re-read paragraphs so Spritz wouldn’t really be suitable.

CEO of Spritz, Frank Walden says “If you’re reading Shakespeare, you’re not going to want to do it with Spritz, but with a romance novel, for example, people skim like crazy anyway. They just rip through a book, reading for plot. Are they savoring every word? Probably not.”

Spritz Mobile

Less emotion

One of the downsides of Spritzing is a lack of emotion in the words due to the speed. When we read we naturally tend to subvocalise (we hear the characters voice in our heads). However, when we read at speed we lose the ability to subvocalise, giving less emotion to the words.

More concentration, less control

As Spritz requires the user to look in one place and the words flash quickly, it can feel like it requires increased concentration and focus. There’s a feeling of ‘I can’t look away or I’ll miss a word’. With the constant movement we wonder if there will be any physical side effects, such as motion sickness. Will there be a tendency for users to blink less?

What’s unanswered right now is how the user controls the Spritz. If you’re interrupted, how do you get back to where you were? Whereas in a book you may recall you were about halfway down the page and relocate your position fairly quickly, with Spritz’s one word at a time presentation, this may be time consuming and difficult.

The future of digital

How would you like to read 50 emails in 7 minutes?

This will have some really interesting effects on future digital devices and interfaces. It adds a whole new world of possibility for showing lots of information, quickly, on very small screens. We’re now going through a phase of larger screens but Spritzing could change all of this. Imagine being able to read a whole novel on a bracelet, or check your emails on your ring. It could also be the perfect pairing for Google Glass. Imagine Spritzing within adverts – marketers would be able to show a lot more information within a much smaller space and people would in theory read more of it in a single glance.

Smart watches have struggled to gain mainstream popularity. They’re bulky and don’t really offer anything over and above the smartphone. The small screen poses difficult interaction with the interface, and makes reading things like emails a rather more painful process. Spritz could well be the trigger the smart watch needs to gain mass market popularity.

Spritz on Smartwatch

The possibilities of how this could effect future technology are really exciting! Let’s Spritz!

10 psychology techniques to drive behaviour

If you want to increase your engagement metrics, increase page views, increase the amount of enquiries and much more then follow these simple techniques.

1. Know your audience

Know your users

If you don’t know who your audience is then you won’t know what makes them tickYou can’t persuade people if you don’t know much about them. Knowing your audience helps you to shape your message in a way that’s most likely to gain their acceptance. That’s all the more important when your goal is to persuade, and not simply to inform.

2. Speak the same language

Speak the same language

Once you know who your audience is, you need to make sure you communicate with them in an effective manner. This involves speaking their language, using phrases and expressions they’re familiar with, limiting unfamiliar words where possible. The tone of voice and content should match the level and knowledge of your audience. If it’s too technical or not technical enough you will lose the user.

3. Stay concise

Stay concise

People will actually read more your text, the less text you write. Why? People are busy, they’re bombarded by text and adverts all day every day and there’s an internet full of content for them to sift through for answers. Long paragraphs of text drive people away so make sure you keep your content short and snappy, full of content, not waffle.

4. Use good layout

Eye tracking

People scan content for things that stand out to them. If nothing interests them they’ll head off somewhere else. To make sure they’re able to get a good overview of your content within a few seconds, make sure that content is sectioned with good headings, that key words visually stand out (i.e. bold them or use colour), make use of bullets, use white space to draw attention to things and let content breathe, and of course use good imagery leads us nicely to our next point.

5. Use engaging imagery

Whirlpool toaster

People are drawn to imagery over text. In eye tracking studies, people are instantly drawn to photographs on a page. Our brains are wired to prefer visuals, they are processed faster and enable us to draw quicker conclusions. In short, people prefer them. However, it isn’t quite as simple as that. You need to ensure any images you use appeal to your target audience. They also need to feel real so don’t be tempted to use stock imagery (unless it’s really good). People see through stock imagery, they know you’ve paid for the images and they aren’t authentic, this reflects on you as a business. Where possible, use real photos that do a great job of appealing to your audience and reflecting your purpose for the imagery.

6. Make use of video

If you want to get your message across and have it remembered, video has the advantage (over just reading text) of communicating social and emotional information, not just facts. If the video shows your company, products, testimonials… it can give your business instant credibility and authenticity. The human brain is drawn to moving imagery, sounds, emotion which is why video can be a powerful tool for increasing audience engagement.

7. Cats

Keep It Usable Cats

The Keep It Usable cats! Bowie and Ramos.

Cats are one of the most searched terms on the internet right now. We’re not really suggesting you use cats (unless your target audience enjoy them) but it can be a clever technique to make use of trends, what’s fashionable and popular right now. You need to use content that engages with your end users. You’ve heard of the Harlem Shake? You’ve seen all the youtube memes? If your business appeals to that audience then why not jump onboard and produce your own version!

8. Use stories

Once upon a time

From as far back as history takes us, humans have used stories to pass on knowledge. Why did they do this? We remember stories. When stories are told, the recipient recreates the feelings inside themselves. We can’t help it. Inside all of our brains we have mirror neurons and these literally mirror what we’re seeing or hearing. This is why when we watch a sad film, we feel sad too, the brain lives it it for the first time, as if it’s our own experience. Because stories use so many of our senses, we are also able to remember them easily.

 

9. Use real people

UX books

This is me. You’ll make instant judgements within milliseconds of looking at this photo. A picture really does speak a thousand words.

Do you know what fascinates people? People. Do you know who people trust the most? People like them. Use content and imagery that is yours. This could be testimonials from your customers or photographs of real people (not models or stock imagery) using your product. Show images of you, your employees, your workplace, etc too. The more real your company feels, the more honest and trustworthy it will appear to be. In the photo above you’ll see me pointing at our vast collection of UX related books. What instant judgements did you make? Have another look and see if you were right.

You’d be right if you thought that I… love reading, I love learning, I prefer physical books as opposed to digital. You will also have made assumptions about me as a person and my lifestyle. There’s a lot you will gather from a photo or image that is subconscious and conscious. An image really does speak a thousand words.

 

10. Clear call-to-action

Clear call to action

FileShare HQ have a clear call-to-action. They know what they want users to do.

Give the user a place to go next. Too often, we see website pages and software that doesn’t clearly guide the user to the next step you wish them to take. For every page, decide what you want the user to do next and make sure there is a clear path to take them there. If you want them to call you then show your telephone number and tell them to call you. If you want them to buy from you then ensure your call-to-action is a nice visual button that stands out on the page.

A day of eye tracking at the Expo

Eye tracking is amazing, insightful, state of the art technology that enables you to literally see through people’s eyes. It’s most often used to increase sales on e-commerce websites, software or products but can also be used to measure the effectiveness of marketing campaigns before they launch.

If you’ve never used eye tracking to gain insights into consumer behaviour then you really are missing a whole section of vital information to improve your user experience and conversion.

We recently exhibited at Salford Business Expo where we held live, interactive eye tracking demos using our website eye tracking unit. The unit looks like a standard computer monitor however inside are hidden cameras that track the users’ eye movements, mapping them onto what’s being tested so we can see in real time precisely where they’re looking.

One of our live eye tracking demos

Website eye tracking demo

 

We have several types of eye tracking units from a portable pair of glasses to large Monitors, that we use to test a whole range of things:

Digital – Websites, software, touch interfaces, mobile apps, tablet apps

Products and hardware ergonomics – Mobile phones, machinery, remote controls

Marketing – Adverts in magazines, digital adverts online, billboards

Packaging / out of the box experience – Does your packaging attract the customer? Measure and compare your out-of-the box experience.

Shopping customer experience – How do customers shop in your store? What draws their attention? Does your product / brand stand out against competitor products?

On a very basic level we’re observing and analysing human behaviour with digital and product platforms, our aim being to improve the interaction by making it feel intuitive, easy and enjoyable. If you can achieve this people are 87% more likely to buy from you, they’ll buy more, come back more frequently and will be 3 times more likely to recommend you.

We were impressed by their focus on what actually works, rather than just what looks nice on a mock up

Visitors to our stand at the expo were clearly fascinated and amazed when we replayed their eye tracking videos back to them, discussing with them why certain elements of the website being tested caught their attention and why other things that should have in theory caught their attention didn’t. User behaviour is unpredictable and differs between types of people, so for design to work to sell your product or service and not just look pretty, it needs to be user centred.

Just like a shop front, if people aren’t drawn in through the door by seeing something that appeals to them or if they can’t work out how to get through the door, they’ll walk on by and stop at your competitor instead.

We run and analyse all our eye tracking research so we do all the hard work for you, delivering the insights you need to sell more of your products or services.

We had a brilliant day at the expo, educating the people of Salford and Manchester to the benefits of user experience and eye tracking and we hope at the very least that they start to think more about the people using their website or product. As opposed to designing something that just looks nice, our designs actually work to bring you more sales (as well as looking nice too of course!).

An example of our mobile and tablet eye tracking unit setup

Mobile and tablet eye tracking setup