How Much Is a Good User-Interface Experience Worth? NYU Tandon Experts Have Some Idea

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) is generally considered the most prestigious such event in the field of human-computer interaction. Hosted by ACM Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction, CHI has been held annually since 1982 and attracts thousands of international attendees. In 2018, the high-profile proceedings are taking place in Montreal, and among the papers awarded CHI Honorable Mention is one by Associate Professor of Technology Management and Innovation Oded Nov and his student Han Su.

The paper, “Eliciting Users’ Demand for Interface Features,” examines a fundamental user-interface question concerning the value users place on the interface features available to them: what are the properties of users’ demand for features, viewed from the user’s perspective rather than the designer’s or the website being used.

The authors conducted their study in the context of personal finance, eliciting the users’ demand curve for the sorting feature in a controlled experiment. Users were asked to make ten rounds of investment allocation across up to 77 possible funds, thus encountering the choice overload typical of many online environments. Users — who were rewarded for positive investment returns — could overcome choice overload by sorting the alternatives based on product attributes such as fees, category, fund name, or past performance. To elicit their demand for sorting, the experimental design enabled them to forgo a small percentage of their reward in return for activating the sorting interface feature.

The demand curve revealed in the experiment suggests a curvilinear relationship between feature use and cost. By identifying the points at which demand for a feature flattens, the results offer researchers and designers of user interfaces a novel way to compare features and optimize the allocation of scarce user resources — such as time and attention.