Behavioural economics

“Behavioural economics” attempts to predict the way that humans behave when taking choices that have a measurable impact on them – for example, whether to put the washing machine on at 5pm when electricity is expensive, or at 11pm when it is cheap.

We can take insight from Behavioural Economics and other techniques for analysing human behaviour in order to create appropriate strategies, policies and environments that encourage the right outcomes in cities; but none of them can be relied on to give definitive solutions to any individual person or situation. They can inform decision-making, but are always associated with some degree of uncertainty. In some cases, the uncertainty will be so small as to be negligible, and the predictions can be treated as deterministic rules for achieving the desired outcome. But in many cases, the uncertainty will be so great that predictions can only be treated as general indications of what might happen; whilst individual actions and outcomes will vary greatly.

Rick Robinson: 11 reasons computers can’t understand or solve our problems without human judgement


Responsive design

Responsive design (in the most “purist” sense of the term, that insists that the identically same functionality and content will be available on all devices) solves the capacity problem by chopping up the site into cells on a fluid grid and rearranging those cells on the smaller screen in a way that takes into account the relative priorities of the cells. Basically, it delivers the same content piece by piece through a narrower communication channel. As a result, all the content is available on smaller screens.


Homepage customisation

(…) This is consistent with other research that found that users typically don’t use customization tools; they leave the default setting as is. Users don’t like to spend their time figuring out how part of a website works or what the benefit to them is. They very rarely interact with fancy widgets or elaborate tools, because they want to get their information or complete their task as quickly and possible, and be done.


Search as navigation

With the trend of minimalist and clutter-free design, sometimes it is assumed that users prefer to search above all else. But often that’s not the case. Typically, people use search if they know exactly what they’re looking for, or if they cannot find something through browsing.

Search should only be the primary navigation for a website if the site’s main function is to be a search engine. For example, Google, Bing, and job search boards can all use this approach. But in the context of an information-heavy site like a university, browsing is essential for increasing discoverability of content.