It’s your first date. Behave …

Reading Time: 5 minutes

We’ve been experimenting with mood maps to record customers’ emotions while they use the prototypes we test with them. The results are revealing …

Mood maps are pretty simple graphs of emotion over time. You just observe someone interacting with the app or content you are developing and plot how positive or negative their emotions are for the duration of the test.

But they allow you to tell a story.

Here’s what a mood map looks like.

Mood map
So, how was it for you?

It’s simple stuff. Anything above the horizontal axis is positive. Anything below is negative. Think “Amazing” right at the top, and “Awful” right at the bottom. The middle is just kind of “meh”. The horizontal axis represents time.

This graph represents one customer’s experience of a prototype exporting diagnostic we tested. We had 2 variations: one asks a few questions, then gives you a report. At which point, we ask if you’d like one of our export advisers to get in touch to talk you through the results, and what steps you need to do next, who to talk to, people you can contact, templates you can fill in …

The second version we tested was almost identical except for one thing: we put a form in front of the report.

We made it clear that you didn’t have to provide us with these details, with a skip option so users could just move on. Nevertheless, the reaction was overwhelmingly negative.

People hated it. One person we tested with refused to go any further, even though it is just a prototype – we’re not actually collecting data from it.

The person whose experience the mood map represents was forthright.

I don’t like having to fill in my details before getting the report … Far, far rather, immensely prefer the other [earlier] version [with no up-front form] … I’d rather just call when I’m ready and when I’ve got my head in the right place.

The point where the graph above plunges off a cliff is where we show the form. Where we start to require more information before we’ll even continue the conversation. This person’s mood only recovers when she realises – almost without noticing, certainly without saying, interestingly – that she can skip this.

As soon as she does, we’re heading for the sunlit uplands.

I can see the report … I can choose, if I want, to have it emailed to me or speak to an expert …That’s better, yes. That’s much better.

Immediately, she feels in control of the conversation. Support is there if she wants it … but she decides when to ask.

We get out of her way.

Later on she says more:

Oh and there’s some templates and forecast and things, ah excellent! … If I had queries at this point I probably would call you

So she has moved from an emotional state where she is abhorrently disinclined to give us her contact details to on where she actively wants to talk to us.

Just by saying: there you go. You take control. You’re the boss. Go away, read this stuff, and get back to us when you’re ready.

And when she does get back in touch with us, she’ll be ready.

She’ll be clued up. Armed to the teeth with facts.

And questions.

We can have a really meaningful conversation with this person. We can really get to the bottom of their problems, and work with them to solve them.

That preparation, that priming, that readiness … these are the things we are told over and over are a huge source of waste.

So, let’s cut that waste by assuring that our customers are equipped with everything they need before they talk to us.

We’ve been testing this prototype over several weeks, developing content as we go, steered by the results of these tests.

Up to now, much of it has been lorem ipsum or other dummy content. This test participants’s response to a first draft of real content was revelatory. Delight is not too strong a word.

And who doesn’t want to delight their customers?

In summary, when asked to compare the 2 versions. Here’s what she said.

I don’t like the flash-up of that webpage saying do you want it emailed because it makes you think I’m not going to get the report until I fill in my personal details. I really dislike that … Intensly dislike the pop-up screen

And finally:

I think having the option of export readiness and talking to an expert on the final page is good because if you want to do it you can do it.

You can watch edited highlights of this session on an earlier post.

Converting new customers is like going on a first date

It occurred to me tonight, on my way home, that converting a new customer has very close analogies to a first date.

Think about it. Our objective here is to establish a relationship and a means to sustain it.

We want a phone number

How much more likely are we to achieve this if we play the dating game?

The “conversation” outlined earlier went like this:

Hi, good to see you again. How are you? That’s great. Want a drink? OK – Waiter, 2 glasses of sauvignon blanc please, thanks. So, what are you into? Music and poetry? That’s great, I love Andrew Greig too, whatever. What do you do? You make cushions? You hand make them? Wow! Oh here’s our wine … thank you waiter.

So, let’s go to bed.

This is why the mood map plummeted at this point. We asked a totally inappropriate question. Without having taken the time and care to establish a relationship, we jump straight to the payoff.

This causes a total cognitive overload. It’s almost like our customers can’t quite believe what just happened; they have to stop to figure out what just happened there? Did you really say that?

In our testing session, our customer persevered. Eventually, we regained her trust. In the real world we’d have received a metaphorical slap in the face and she’d have gone.

In this scenario, we demand consummation upfront. But slow seduction is much more successful.

We’ve just spent a couple of hours in each other’s company. What if I say:

That was nice, I really enjoyed that. Can we get together again next week? Here’s my number. Call me.


  1. Establish a relationship
  2. Demonstrate trust; give more than you ask for (you will be rewarded long-term)
  3. Offer encouragement; just be there and provide support when you’re needed
  4. Get out of the way, let your date establish their priorities, don’t impose yours on them
  5. Follow through on your promises
  6. Be human (you can be human digitally too)

Online or offline, them’s the rules we’ve found.

We now have plenty of evidence that demonstrates this approach is much more successful.

Let’s do that.

… a final note

When I was presenting this recently, I brought up the idea that ideas have sex, only to be met with blank stares.

This is what I meant, though my interest was sparked by this post on the Opera developers’ blog.

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I'm a service designer in Scottish Enterprise's unsurprisingly-named service design team. I've been a content designer, editor, UX designer and giant haystacks developer on the web for (gulp) over 25 years.

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