Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

Are Users Angry on Your Website? You May Be Able to Find Out

It was only a matter of time before it happened, and the day has come: computer scientists are now programming websites that have the potential to know the user's feelings -- in real-time.

Researchers at Brigham Young University explained that "[u]sing this technology, website will no longer be dumb." Not only will they be able to understand what you're providing, "but what you're feeling."

Purposefully Upsetting Participants

Jeff Jenkin's the leady study author and several of his colleagues randomly frustrated 65 participants from Amazon's crowdsource marvel Mechanical Turk and asked them to perform a number-ordering task. They then tracked their cursor movements. They observed distance of mouse movement and speed increase when their participants were upset.

They later frustrated another 126 participants and tracked their performance on an E-Commerce site. By observing their cursor movements, researchers were able to identify which users were annoyed with about four out of five times.

In all the experiments conducted, the overall picture not only suggested that cursor movement not only could give away whether or not someone was calm or angry, but also their level of that respective emotion.

How Does That Help?

One theory is that such information could be coded into the software itself to make the experience of interacting with a website that much more pleasant -- or less unpleasant. It's too early to expect that soft music and calming voices will start emanating from your speaker as soon as you violently shake the mouse.

But Jenkins hopes that these findings will allow web designers to identify problematic features on the website that potentially drive many users crazy. When a user becomes frustrated with a site, he is less inclined to return. If the cause of the frustration can be pinpointed, it can be targeted and eliminated, thereby reducing stress for all. Companies will also lose one less potential customer.

Lawyers Should Get on This

Lawyers who have interactive websites that make potential clients scroll through long menus in order to get to who they want to call should take heed. This should hardly be an issue for most attorneys, even the large firms. We can't think of a single practitioner who has committed the unforgivable sin of omitting their contact information at the footer of their website.

For lawyers, the thing that is most likely to tick off clients is their lawyer's refusal to return their phone calls. Still, lawyer should be careful not to festoon their websites with annoying menus that suddenly dropdown and cover key click areas. If you don't plan to observe how visitors interact with your law firm's site, at least keep the site clean and simple.

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