Paul Crimi Product Design

Paul Crimi Product Design

How to Use Cognitive Bias to Improve User Registration

06/16/20225 min

Understanding how your potential customers think will enable you to create an optimal online experience that seamlessly moves users from point A to point B.

Today, we will be analyzing practices around user registration, and how cognitive biases could come into play.

How might cognitive biases hinder the process of user registration?

More importantly, how can we turn the tables in order to use these biases to our advantage?

5 Cognitive Biases You Should Know

This post will delve into the specifics of the following five cognitive biases: analysis paralysis, fluency heuristic, foot-in-the-door technique, Von Restorff technique, and reciprocity effect.

1) Analysis Paralysis

Have you ever sat on your couch endlessly scrolling Netflix? Or spent an hour going through your Uber Eats app, conflicted by the many culinary offerings in your area? If so, you’re well-acquainted with the concept of analysis paralysis.

Analysis paralysis occurs when the road towards a decision is “paralyzed,” due to overthinking and overanalyzing. In short, no decision is made.

Analysis paralysis is especially prevalent in society today. We live in a world of endless possibilities and choices, particularly when it comes to the internet. Want to buy a yoga mat? The decision isn’t as simple as it may seem. There are probably thousands of yoga mats on the market, making it that much more difficult to make a decision.

At the heart of this bias is the inherent fear of making the wrong decision. Which can stunt an individual from making a clear choice or moving forward with an action. It makes them unsure. Naturally, analysis paralysis can be death for conversions, particularly for user registration.

Looking at user registration, this is the opposite reaction we want users to experience.

Overwhelming users with too many options or too much information all at once can hinder their ability to make a decision. As such, a great way to mitigate the issue of analysis paralysis is to break the registration process down into small, digestible steps. Users need to feel comfortable every step of the way, otherwise, they may second-guess their desire to go through with the process. Keep the information simple, and keep the overall flow – from the first step to the last step – simple.

2) Fluency Heuristic

A fluency heuristic is a mental heuristic that causes an individual to associate a higher value on an object they are able to process more fluently than another.

Before we dive into this one, let’s talk about heuristics. Essentially, it’s a fancy term for mental shortcuts. As human beings, we’re wired to take mental shortcuts whenever we can. We’re dealing with a lot of information every single day – to lessen this mental overload, we often make decisions without thinking – it’s easier and faster.

Thinking about eCommerce practices, this cognitive bias can directly inform the user experience design of a site, speaking to usability and ease of navigation.

When it comes to user registration flows, take the time to design the registration process in a way that makes it easy for users to navigate. Fluency impacts the decisions a user makes online – information that is easier to digest (and requires the least amount of thought) is more likely to spur action (in this case, conversion via user registration).

This can also impact the way you think about the development of your site, accounting for things like page speed and load time. If something takes too long, it’s very likely a user will abandon the entire process.

3) Foot-in-the-Door Technique

The foot-in-the-door technique (FITD) is a behavioural tactic that aims to get an individual to agree to a large request by getting them to agree to a more modest request initially.

As far as social tactics are concerned, the FITD technique is widely used. It’s reaching for that low-hanging fruit in order to later strive for more. It’s a compliance strategy at its core, best used for persuasive purposes. It creates a relationship between both parties, also creating trust.

Why does it work? Well, once an individual is already engaged in a particular action, it’s far easier to continue down the same path, and build upon it.

When creating an effective user registration flow, you can and should think about the FITD technique. If there are a variety of pieces of information that you require from a user in order for them to complete the registration process, lead with a smaller request. From there, you can request more information as the user continues along the flow.

This will gently draw the user in, enticing them to take action.

4) Von Restorff Effect

This next cognitive bias plays to our sense of memory.

If you’re presented with a bag of apples filled with a dozen red delicious apples and one granny smith apple, your eye will undeniably be drawn to that one granny smith apple. This is due to the Von Restorff effect, a cognitive bias known as the “isolation effect.”

When multiple objects are presented to an individual, the item with the most distinctive feature (the one that is unlike the others) will be perceived as the most memorable.

User registration flows often present a user with choices. And thinking about this particular cognitive bias will allow you to make specific online actions stand out (i.e. the ones you want your users to make).

If you wish to influence the decision-making process of your users, use design to spotlight the option or action you want your users to take. If, for example, you’re presenting your users with different tiers in a SaaS product, design each option accordingly. This is also an example of nudge theory at work, which was detailed in the last cognitive bias post.

5) Reciprocity Effect

I think we can all agree that positive affirmation feels pretty great. The reciprocity effect plays to this inherent human desire – it’s the social norm of responding to a positive action with another positive action. It’s rewarding kindness with even more kindness. We love it.

Understanding this social phenomenon can help us understand the way users seek to feel when they interact with an online site. Users feel good when we reward them for doing the things you ask of them; whether they complete a section of the registration, or complete the registration as a whole, find ways to reward your users.

This doesn’t have to be complex. Rewards can be as simple as a warm, personalized piece of copy delivered to their inbox. After all, who doesn’t love a good welcome email?

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