Summary: What is sociability? Sociability describes social interaction and social behavior offline to online (Web, Web Apps, Mobile Apps, AR/VR, and communities as well as social media). According to research, it is a human default, as important as survival. Therefore it is critical to design for it and enhance UX with meaningful social interaction. It can help you differentiate too since most people miss it.
As the COVID-19 pandemic showed us all, social interaction is essential to well-being. Social interaction has taken center stage across various digital platforms, shaping how we communicate, exchange information, and share experiences. This transformation has given rise to the concept of sociability in user experience (UX) design, which leverages the power of social behavior to create more engaging, intuitive, and enjoyable interfaces.
Understanding Sociability in UX
Sociability is the essence of human interaction, whether in the physical world or in the vast digital landscape encompassing websites, web apps, mobile apps, AR/VR environments, online communities, and social media platforms.
Image: These shoes lined up with people waiting behind in Thailand illustrate real-world sociability or social behavior at play.
At its core, sociability involves exchanging information, communication, data, status, and more between two or more users. It bridges the gap between offline and online interactions, making it a crucial aspect of contemporary digital experiences.
The Human Brain: Analytical vs. Social
Delving into the realm of neuroscience and behavioral sciences, we see the intricate dynamics between two dominant brain functions: the analytical and the social. According to Matthew Lieberman, Ph.D (See his TedX talk on the Social Brain and Its Superpowers), the analytical brain focuses on problem-solving, critical thinking, and logical processing, while the social brain thrives on empathy, emotional connection, and understanding social cues. Striking a balance between these functions is essential for creating holistic and meaningful digital experiences.
Furthermore, all context of use is influenced by social interaction…
“Our interactions with technology are increasingly happening in a social context. It may be co-located with others (e.g., spectators) or include shared interface usage. This may in turn affect our social interactions and shape group dynamics. As a result, social acceptability, as a core quality of human-machine interactions, has become increasingly relevant with today’s interfaces and interaction paradigms.”
– Koelle, Ananthanarayan, Boll, (2020) Social Acceptability in HCI: A Survey of Methods, Measures, and Design Strategies (PDF)
Designing with Sociability in Mind
Designing with sociability in mind is about embracing the social brain’s capabilities to enhance user experiences, fostering genuine connections, and combatting the bias of analytical brain approaches that may overshadow the importance of social interaction. When incorporated effectively, it can open up a world of possibilities for better UX strategies, intangible value creation, and happier users.
Sociable UIs: Forging Connections and Enhancing Behavior
Sociable UIs play a pivotal role in either connecting users or enhancing their social behavior within digital environments. These interfaces cater to various aspects of human interaction, ranging from comparing, deciding, and judging to recommending, modeling best practices, and promoting collaborative behavior. Let’s explore some key ways in which sociable UIs influence digital experiences:
- Comparing and Deciding: Sociable UIs facilitate users in comparing products, services, or options, aiding them in making informed decisions. These interfaces empower users to evaluate choices effectively by presenting information in a socially appealing way.
- Judging and Recommending: Users often rely on recommendations from peers when making decisions. Sociability can leverage user-generated content, social status, reviews, and ratings to provide personalized recommendations, tapping into the social brain’s inclination to trust the experiences of others.
- Modeling Best Practices: Sociability UIs can showcase best practices by highlighting examples of successful interactions or outcomes. This educates users and encourages them to follow suit, fostering a sense of belonging and alignment with community norms.
- Enhancing Collaborative Behavior: Collaborative UI’s thrives on sociability, enabling users to interact, share, and collaborate seamlessly. Whether it’s co-creating content, brainstorming ideas, or working together on projects, these interfaces amplify the power of teamwork.
See The Fives Elements of Sociability for more…
How to improve Sociability in your UX work
- Emphasize emotional connection: Incorporating elements that trigger emotional value can establish a deeper connection between users and the platform. From social interactions to social navigation, these components resonate with the social brain, enhancing engagement and overall satisfaction.
- Encourage user-generated content: Providing opportunities for users to contribute their content, opinions, and experiences fosters a sense of ownership and community. This strengthens sociability and adds value to the platform by diversifying perspectives.
- Promote meaningful social interactions: Facilitate meaningful conversations, discussions, and collaborations that align with the group’s interests and goals, ensuring that every interaction adds value.
- Design for accessibility and Inclusivity: Sociability transcends boundaries, and your design should too. Ensure that your UI accommodates diverse user demographics, languages, and abilities, creating an environment where everyone can participate and feel included.
- Measure and iterate: Continuously monitor user interactions, engagement metrics, and feedback to refine and optimize sociability UIs. Regularly update the design to align with evolving social needs and technological advancements like AI. eg What would a multi-user generative AI collaboration look like?
Sociability bridges the gap between analytical and social brain functions to create meaningful user interactions, adoption, and engagement. UX designers and researchers can differentiate user experience by designing with sociability in mind.
Want to learn more? Check out this Differentiation your UX with Sociability Masterclass. This includes a Sociability Checklist for your design.