Individual browsing, but shared decision making

App and website design best practices always tell us to design for a single user, even if implicitly. The only thought process to account for is one person looking and using the tool, and the only information the user sees is what we lay down for them.

But, sales processes have taught us that every sale of a product, involves different stakeholders, at least, but not limited to the economic buyer and the user. The user could also be two separate individuals. We also know from our understanding of sales processes, that every decision-making cycle, which leads into the service/product usage cycle has an influencer involved, somehow. Why then, do we not take this into account, or design for it, when we construct websites and apps? Every screen we visualize, we build under the assumption of the single user, with no one else vying for attention or trying to influence the usage process.

There are a few subtle acknowledgements made, of the app having multiple users in different scenarios. This comes in the form of websites and apps having a “share” button. e-commerce websites have this as the “wish list” feature, which we assume is sharable (not all e-commerce websites allow a sharing of wish lists!). Even the “share” button on websites or apps is added with the intention that the user could bring in more users, by way of sharing on a social media platform. We rarely take into consideration a decision-making process encompassing the entire family, with each user being an individual digital native.

I’d like to illustrate an example of this, by playing out the scenario in the digital world, and the analogous scenario in the real world. Let’s say we have a husband and wife, looking to move to a new home, and hence faced with the dreary task of apartment hunting. Husband gets to the office, gets a bunch of work done, and uses his lunch break to browse apartment listings. Let’s assume he uses his laptop, with a chrome browser for this. He finds some interesting properties he wants him and his wife to take a look at, and depending on the property listing website he uses, he can either “star” or “favorite” or “shortlist” or the properties he wants to look at further. Now, the next step, is for his wife to take a look at the same properties, to perhaps veto any if she needs to, or maybe draw up a schedule, or ask friends for feedback about these locations, or some other task as per the delightful arrangements between most married couples. What are the husband’s options here? He either “shares” or copies a link to each of these properties, and sends his wife an email (or over a messaging platform), or he shares his login information with her, and she can login as him, and just go straight to the favorites section. Now what if among the shortlists, the husband has some commentary to make? (First one looks a bit old and rundown, but good location, seems like a great deal/ Second one looks great but pricey/ Third one is within our budget, not too ostentatious, but the landlord sounds creepy in the ad/ etc.). Either the husband loses this commentary he wants to pass on, or he has to resort to good old email or messaging platforms. Most paths to make this a fruitful endeavour between the husband and the wife have friction points, and almost always take them away from the property listing website, making it that much easier to go to another listing website. It’s something we’ve been accustomed to doing as users, and so it might not sound like a big problem, but we can certainly think of a better way to do things.

Our traditional way of doing this with the classifieds section of the newspaper doesn’t seem to have carried to the digital realm; relevant listings in the newspaper would be highlighted, quick notations could be made on the side of the listings, and they could be cut out and handed to the other person, as a way of passing on the information.

Since this is a concept note, let me also paint a picture of the scenario I want you to visualize. You’re on a listing website, you “highlight” a couple of properties, but there’s also a quick option now for you to add commentary by way of “notes”, a la Kindle and Medium.com. We’ve all seen the notes taken on the side on medium posts, it typically doesn’t distract from the browsing experience. From what I’ve seen, it only adds to it. The other change needed to support this feature would be a cleaner listings page, and some changes to the way access control is managed.

Access control options:

1. The primary user could “add” or “invite” a secondary user to the “workspace”, and the secondary user then gets an option to see fresh ads, or just the selections marked up by the primary user.
2. Instead of “user” accounts, there could be “family” accounts, with different members signing in as different entities, and the tool saving the context differently for the different entities, akin to how Netflix saves viewing progress differently for different registered users within the same family.

Aside from television viewing, and realty listings, what other scenarios call for a family’s view on a topic, and where is such collaboration well-suited?

1. Travel and vacation planning
2. Big ticket purchases like furniture, electronics, electrical appliances, jewelry, and in some situations, potentially even wardrobe choices, especially for occasions where outfits need to be coordinated.
3. Job hunting, just to name a few

I can see 9gag being a lot more fun if I could posts that my husband upvoted or liked, and I see only such similar posts. There could be a whole lot of other scenarios, if the users’ browsing experience is treated or viewed as a “preference filter” for the entire family.

This “family” browsing experience would be expected to increase user satisfaction, increase session time, increase pages visited, and ultimately lower the churn rate.

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