AI

Why is conscious friction in AI important?
facebooklinkedintwittermail

AI has critically improved a host of technologies, making them smarter, better, and faster. Algolia’s AI Search is no exception. The integration of AI has opened up a host of new possibilities for our clients and their end users. These advancements ultimately improve the user experience (UX) by creating seamless and more personalized shopping journeys and interactions.

But when is seamless and smooth not the best approach? For UX designers, frictionless interaction has long been tagged as the north star vision.

Now, however, it’s becoming clear that friction can add value to AI-driven experiences. Some degree of friction in an online interaction can help users feel more engaged, learn more about products and make more effective and meaningful buying decisions. Friction can be used to help users slow down and pay attention, and as a consequence help turn occasional shoppers into more knowledgeable and committed customers.

Friction can be good. UX designers and merchandisers can harness cognitive principles that we all share to shape the customer journey and craft meaningful shopping experiences. This has given rise to the concept of conscious friction — the intentional introduction of carefully crafted obstacles, engagement points, and interactions that enhance, rather than hinder, the user experience.

Myth of frictionless interactions

Creating experiences that are so intuitive and automated that users barely notice the transition between one action and another have become increasingly easy to implement in the era of smart AI-driven technology. Ironically, AI has also illuminated many of the drawbacks of the frictionless approach and our need to address key cognitive principles that drive human decision-making and behavior.

Studies suggest that customers faced with fewer choices are more likely to make a purchase. In contrast, customers faced with too many choices experience frustration and struggle to choose between different options. Alleviating the paradox of choice means that merchandisers and UX experts have to strike a critical balance when it comes to the amount of mental effort or ‘cognitive lift’ asked of users to process information and ultimately make a buying decision.

Too much ‘cognitive lift’ can lead to anxiety, while too little leaves the user uninformed and disengaged. What is increasingly clear is that a one-size-fits-all approach to UX does not effectively address the different needs, preferences, and contexts of a diverse array of customers.

Today’s clients expect more nuanced, subtle, and personalized online interactions. The power and insights that data-rich AI-based technology provides make it easier for businesses to deliver meaningful solutions with just the right amount of engagement, interaction, and friction.

Consequently, injecting elements like providing insights into AI-driven recommendations or presenting choices that encourage user input maintains a level of transparency and empowers users. Engaging the customer through conscious friction creates experiences that acknowledge the user’s intellect, provides a sense of control over the online journey, and ultimately helps foster a sense of trust in the product and company.

Designing for action bias, spacing effects, and choice overload

Bringing conscious friction into the design of online interactions restores a user’s sense of control, particularly as people become increasingly concerned about the immense power and potential loss of influence that AI technology can bring. As we build new user experiences and implement conscious friction in our designs, we also need to better understand key cognitive principles and their implications for AI-driven user interactions.

The human desire to participate, engage, and be an active agent is innate. It is based on cognitive principles linked to human learning that researchers call action bias. Anxiety about AI makes the human desire to learn and act even stronger, which is why it is so important to design AI experiences that promote learning and therefore restore the user’s trust.

Testing your conscious friction elements is the key to generating positive AI-driven experiences for the end-user.

Algolia’s AI Search allows designers and merchandisers to transform the intangibles of an AI model into measurable results and metrics that empower, enhance, and elevate the overall UX. Through tiered and A/B tests, designers can create mock queries to better understand the results of an AI model and see the impact at scale of AI-based design choices on the user journey and experience.

Tools like Algolia’s Dynamic Re-Ranking also help designers restore learning by slowing down the interaction with the user through spacing effects. Spacing effects are based on the idea that retaining and learning skills and concepts like user interactions (UI) requires repetitive and regular action.

By using progressive disclosure to understand predicted scores, Algolia encourages users to be more engaged in the ranking process. For example, a straightforward display of product rankings may generate less friction, but by including an info icon with personalized criteria for attractiveness based on shopping history and click conversions, Algolia’s AI Search algorithm is able to deliver a more meaningful and engaging shopping experience. As a result, AI-driven outcomes become more comprehensible to the end user.

The sense of restoring control is also important when users lack the expertise to swiftly navigate through all available options. Conscious friction can encourage them to pause and carefully consider their choices, leading to informed decision-making.

One of the ways that designers and merchandisers can alleviate choice overload is by using wizards. Tools like Algolia’s AI Recommendations can help you break down complexity into smaller and more manageable steps. It also helps you control the cognitive overload that can lead to too much lift, resulting in a discouraging and frustrating online experience.

Navigating the future

AI continues to evolve and shape the customer journey. Design and merchandising teams that incorporate conscious friction can craft interfaces that both better address our fundamental and innate human needs and generate more meaningful and powerful solutions.

While AI-powered interactions may be relatively easy to create, incorporating intentional points of friction empowers users and helps foster engagement, transparency, and trust. This creates a more delightful user experience that ultimately drives both conversions and sales.

To learn more about UX and how Algolia’s AI Search can help, check out our eBook, Conscious friction in artificial intelligence.

About the authorTariq Khan

Tariq Khan

Director of Content Marketing

Recommended Articles

Powered by Algolia AI Recommendations

The death of traditional shopping: How AI-powered conversational commerce changes everything
AI

The death of traditional shopping: How AI-powered conversational commerce changes everything

Aayush Iyer

Aayush Iyer

Director, User Experience & UI Platform
Debunking the most common AI myths
AI

Debunking the most common AI myths

Vincent Caruana

Vincent Caruana

Senior Digital Marketing Manager, SEO
How AI can help improve your user experience
UX

How AI can help improve your user experience

Jon Silvers

Jon Silvers

Director, Digital Marketing