June 12, 2005

sniff of scent

There's a concept in web design called (you guessed it) "sniff of scent".

It means that so long as a user feels/thinks that they are getting closer to the information they want, they will keep clicking through the site.

It replaced the previous dictum that all information should only be 3 clicks away from the homepage (which is practically impossible for any site with much content).

I recon you can extend that principle into a pretty wide range of human activity situations. For example: On Wednesday night, I (for want of anything better to do) started trying to kick a soccer ball at a set of rugby goal uprights. The idea was to bounce the ball back at myself so I did have to run around the field after myself.*

Funny thing was, the first kick hit the upright and bounced off to the side. I was so surprised i nearly fell over. But then I tried a couple more times and hit the goal post once. I then spend the better part of half and hour mostly missing (I think I was trying to hit it from further away).

I think the reason I could keep going to as long as I did, was the early success, a sniff of the scent of the game actually working out, if you like.

I also think that other activies, like asking people out, or singing in tune or answering mathmatics questions follow a similar dynamic. The aim has to match the experienced results enough that the player can see how they might succeed.

You think about it, and its a required part of human behaviour. Otherwise a substantial number of people would still be attempting to fly from their garage roofs with umbrellas. You gotta know when to let something go.

* Readers must bear in mind that the goal posts had the big padding sleves on, which made things somewhat easier.

Posted by carla at June 12, 2005 11:06 AM
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