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Why User Engagement Matters, Even for Enterprise Applications

What are the ingredients of engagement?

Think back to the last engaging experience you had: What are some of the characteristics of that interaction that made it engaging? For me, it’s ease, relevance, and a degree of unexpectedness. I had an engaging experience with Google Photos recently. If you’ve used it, you’ve probably seen their photo books. The app will group a series of your photos by subject, location, or date, and then assemble a book for you. You can add or remove photos, select a title for the book, and then with a few clicks (and about $20), Google will create and ship you a printed, bound version of your digital masterpiece. It’s simple, quick, and gives you something that you might not have expected – a nicely bound hardcover book of your photography.

In my case, the engagement it produced has resulted in increased usage of the app, assembling and purchasing more books to give away as gifts, and I’ve talked with friends about it for weeks. Never underestimate the power of such word-of-mouth marketing.

The challenge of measuring engagement

Creating engaging experiences is one thing, but measuring the level of engagement is another altogether. It’s not easy to get people to tell you how they’re feeling in a consistent way that can be compared with other users and against other experiences. But engagement can be reflected in other (non-verbal) ways; emotional arousal causes us to sweat, and this can be measured by monitoring the conductivity of the skin. Determining whether the arousal is positive or negative can be done by measuring blood flow at the fingertips; negative arousal causes the capillaries in the fingertips to contract, and the change in blood volume can be measured.

This field is known as “psychophysiometrics,” and I’ve been using it recently to help me understand if my designs will engage. I sometimes combine this with eye tracking so I can focus in on the elements of a design that are working well, or those that need improvement.

My personal design goal is to create designs that make users feel understood through conducting fresh, innovative research. Using psychophysiometrics is just one of the ways I do that. Next month I’ll give you a glimpse into the value that we’re creating through unique partnerships that we’ve forged with many of our customers.

ACI’s Universal Online Banker delivers integrated, enterprise digital banking with multi-channel accessibility and best-in-class UI.

Principal User Experience Designer

Shmuel's current research and design interests include measuring and designing for emotional engagement. He believes that this is the key to making the retail banking experience more than another commodity. In Shmuel's words;Companies and their customers don't just have a deal with each other, they have a relationship. Just like in a human relationship, there are expectations, and the relationship is built on the fulfillment of these expectations. But that's just a starting point. ACI's User Experience Team knows that you expect ACI software to work as advertised. But when our research-driven designs make your users and customers feel understood, when they become engaged emotionally, that deepens and strengthens the relationship they have with you in a way that simply meeting expectations cannot.”  Shmuel joined ACI in 2011, and works primarily on ACI's Payments Risk Management portfolio. He teaches in Bentley University's User Experience Certificate Program.