Getting all emotional

Bipolar Emotional Response Tests, or BERTs (not to be confused with other Berts) are a method for measuring people’s subjective emotional opinions about websites – or anything else for that matter – along a range different dimensions. For example, you might ask someone to rate a site on a scale from Professional to Amateur. Or Friendly to Impersonal. Or any paired responses that you might be interested in. If you do this for a number of different pairs, you can effectively create an “emotional fingerprint” of how your users or clients perceive a site. I first became aware of BERTs a few years ago when I saw them used in the The Glass Wall, the BBC’s fantastic document about how they redesigned bbc.co.uk. Unfortunately, this document isn’t officially available on the web (although it is out there if you know where to look for it). On the few occasions I’ve used them, I’ve found BERTs to be extremely useful, yet for some unfathomable reason they don’t seem to be used very often in web development projects.

BERTs for users & clients/stakeholders.

BERTs are a surprisingly good tool to use as part of a stakeholder analysis. You can get stakeholders to rate competitor sites, or even come up with a hypothetical “desired” emotional fingerprint for the site that you intend to design. In this way, BERTs can contribute to the overal design strategy for the site. This is very much a “big picture” approach, and doesn’t consider specific bits of functionality, but it complements other approaches (e.g. questionnaires/interviews) extremely well. You’re also collecting quantitative data, so if you get a broad range of BERTs it’s easy to see what the central tendencies are for each bipolar combination and where there is consensus or disagreement among the stakeholders.

As well as contributing to a design vision, BERTs also provide invaluable baseline data. It’s possible to plot the clients’ desired emotional fingerprint for the site against their (or the users) actual responses to the finished (or prototype) site. I did this for the first time recently and was staggered to get a correlation of 0.93. In other words, the project delivered pretty much exactly what they asked for in terms of the emotional perception of the site. Lots of client brownie points!

You can also use BERTs track user perceptions of your prototypes as they iterate. In this way, you can potentially plot a trajectory for your emotional design, or compare your results to those obtained from testing competitor sites.

Additional benefits.

There are also additional benefits. These include:

Aim to standardize them as best you can.

Everyone who is tested needs to have some familiarity with the site. For naive users (in the sense of those never having seen the site before) it’s important to do some sort of basic test or walkthrough to expose them to the site’s content and functionality and design in a standardized way. In the case of stakeholders, you’d hope that they’d all be pretty familiar with the site, but in my experience people tend to only be concerned with one or two aspects of the site. It never hurts to encourage them to refresh their memories of the whole site.

In short, BERTs have the potential to be a really useful and relatively inexpensive tool in web development projects. I’ll certainly be using them more in the future, and it’ll be interesting to see whether they become more widely adopted in the user experience community in the future.

Comments

6 Responses to “Getting all emotional”

  1. How to Objectively Measure Emotional Response to Your Web Site’s Design | WebWolf Blog on January 26th, 2008 10:17 pm

    [...] much has been written about the application of the Repertory Grid or bipolar emotional response testing to web design, [...]

  2. Web Development 2.0 » Blog Archive » How to Objectively Measure Emotional Response to Your Web Site’s Design on February 9th, 2008 9:54 am

    [...] much has been written about the application of the Repertory Grid or bipolar emotional response testing to web design, [...]

  3. How to Objectively Measure Emotional Response to Your Web Site’s Design · LastBlog.net on February 10th, 2008 8:34 pm

    [...] much has been written about the application of the Repertory Grid or bipolar emotional response testing to web design, [...]

  4. UX for the masses | Getting all emotional with BERT on June 30th, 2010 12:51 pm

    [...] (PDF, 8Mb), which details a project to redesign the BBC homepage. Also checkout Stuart Church’s Getting all emotional which discusses BERT and it’s uses for web design projects. Oh and don’t let people try to tell [...]

  5. Marco on September 15th, 2011 10:18 am

    You might also want to check out LEMtool (www.lemtool.com), a visual self-report method to evaluate emotional impact of websites and interfaces.

  6. Getting all emotional with BERT - UX for the masses on December 14th, 2013 10:12 pm

    [...] (PDF, 8Mb), which details a project to redesign the BBC homepage. Also checkout Stuart Church’s Getting all emotional which discusses BERT and it’s uses for web design projects. Oh and don’t let people try to tell [...]

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About

I'm Stuart Church, a user experience consultant with Pure Usability in Bristol, UK. Sensorydrive is my personal blog and covers user experience design, information architecture, product design, psychology, research methods, perception and pretty much anything else that takes my fancy! You can find out a bit more about me if you want...

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