Appealing to the Buyer Head and the User Head

Ashley McKee

April 25th, 2007

Lately, I’ve been getting really interested in the underlying psychology that drives people to buy. Are people interested in impressing others? Following a fad? Keeping their life simple? Obsessing over gadgets? Satisfying a need?

Jeff Patton has a really cool article outlining what he thinks are the two aspects of human behavior that surface when encountering new products, which he calls the buyer head and the user head.

The buyer head looks at the product objectively, considering how its features will help to achieve specific goals, address certain needs, and rectify various problems.

The user head looks at how effective the product actually is in achieving those specific goals, addressing those certain needs, and rectifying those various problems. The user head also evaluates ease of use and the emotional response the product generates.

Sometimes the buyer head and the user head agree on a purchase decision. The customer is satisfied with the value, features, and experience that the product provides. But other times, the buyer head and the user head end up in conflict, especially when the product does not provide a pleasant experience, even though it provided the best value.

By learning how to appeal to these two sides of potential buyers, design teams can create products that have great value in terms of money, time and goal achievement, are easy to use, and provide a delightful experience. While these aren’t the only two “heads” to consider, designing for the buyer and the user in all of us may prove to be an effective way to drive sales and create satisfied customers. I think you’ll find Jeff’s article extremely valuable.

You can read Jeff’s full article here: Designing Software for Two-Headed People

6 Responses to “Appealing to the Buyer Head and the User Head”

  1. Daniel Szuc Says:

    It would be great to have a web based tool where you can enter:

    1. Product – what you are interested in buying

    2. Goals – what you would like to achieve with the product

    3. Features – what you think it should have to meet your goals

    4. Price – how much you want to pay

    And a SHOW ME button.

    Recently went through a comparison of mobile phones and it still amazes me how functionally/specification driven the product information on the web. Which is fine if you understand the technical terms, not so good if you just want to know how the product can actually help.

  2. Ashley McKee Says:

    I’m in the market for a new cell phone, and I’m switching from Cingular/AT&T to Verizon (Verizon is the plan we use at work). Anyway, I decided on the LG enV…lots of features, looks pretty cool, not very expensive, and I’ve heard mostly good things about Verizon’s service. My buyer head is definitely working in full force. It’ll be interesting to see what my user head thinks of this decision.

    But what I really wanted to point out was Verizon’s new “30-day test drive” of their network. You try out their network for 30 days, and if you’re not completely satisfied, the calls you made are on them. Trials with limited or no liability are definitely an interesting way to see if you can get a potential customer’s buyer head and user head in agreement.

  3. angela Says:

    Buyer head seems male, user head seems female.

  4. Benjamin Ho Says:

    I’m currently in a tight spot where I have to decide whether or not to spend $300 on a GPS unit, or up to $20 worth on a good map book within a week. I’m thinking about the trade-offs, one of them being price, the other, programming time of the route.

    I know the GPS might take a little longer only because of adjusting the route, avoiding tool roads or majorly travelled arteries I’d like to forgo. I can do the same with the map book and it gives me a better, larger view, but the detail in certain spots might not be there if I needed it.

    The overall criteria will be, which device will enable me to get the most detail quickest. I know most GPS units can do this well despite the small screen. And if I go the mapbook route, I’d have to get a pretty darn good one!

    I’ll let you know the results!

  5. Benjamin Ho Says:

    Okay, so we’ve done our road trip and we decided to use the paper map (Rand McNally’s Road Atlas) instead of the GPS. Since I had a navigator (aka the wife), I thought the map was more beneficial instead of having to learn another piece of technology. The paper map has some advantages:

    1. You can see an overview in a larger format than a 3.5″ screen
    2. No batteries to run out.

    However, where the map lacked in features was:

    1. Intricate details of the city such as a lack of the ramp/exit markings.
    2. The need of a skilled person to read the map.

    Since I had a dedicated navigator in the passenger seat, she also used my Samsung Blackjack internet connection to run the Google Maps to get better details of the city and highways. Learning to use the Google Map was actually very easy and quick. So using the paper map and technology in tandem made the trip more efficient.

    So really, having to get another piece of technology – a dedicated GPS unit? Perhaps if I were driving alone, I’d consider it more, but for now, a somewhat skilled person might be better.

  6. Ashley McKee Says:

    Another thing the GPS system is good for is seeing where there are restaurants, gas stations, service stations, hospitals, and other points of interest, along with their phone numbers. Can you also see that with Google Maps through the cell phone?

    I’m partial to the GPS because of a recent incident in Florida. I was driving with my friend and our car broke down in the middle of a huge intersection. A state trooper helped push us to the side of the road. We asked if he knew any tow truck companies, he replied no, and left. The GPS allowed me to look up all of the towing and repair companies in our area, and we were rescued soon after.

    There’s also the issue of the passenger not wanting to deal with maps and directions. Sometimes they just want to see the sites. A GPS is your dedicated, no-nonsense navigator.

    It would be nice if the GPS system could project a larger map of the area.

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