Avoiding the Halo Effect in User Research

First impressions can often turn out to be more critical for a brand than you might think in converting users, and the Halo Effect plays a very nuanced but effective part in it. Read on to understand what the Halo Effect is and its implications on user research.

Author

Kham Chakhap

Date

November 24, 2023

Introduction

By design, product and UI/UX teams want to create a product that is impactful and resonates with all stakeholders. More often than not, products fail not because of usability issues but because they cannot make a favorable first impression. This is why understanding a user and designing according to user expectations becomes crucial in research. In user research, websites and apps are one of the easiest ways to interact with and judge your brand. According to a study by PwC, 32% of users leave a brand because of one bad experience.

One of the more intricate aspects of understanding why this happens is the Halo Effect- a cognitive bias users might have concerning your product. In this article, we will delve into the significance of the Halo effect, its influence on user research, and how its impact can be minimized.

What is the Halo Effect?

Halo effect refers to how one positive or negative trait about a person or product can influence their opinion about all the other aspects of the person or product. In user research, time is of the essence, and first impressions with your website/apps can usually decide if your user will stay or leave based on a brief interaction. These impressions tend to leave a subtle opinion regarding your product or brand in the user’s mind. Hence, researchers should aim to minimize the Halo effect to ensure favorable product development and brand perception.

Impact of Halo Effect in User Research

Aesthetic and Functionality

The aesthetic of a website or an app is the first thing users notice and can shape user opinion regarding your product. A visually appealing design can positively impact user experience- regardless of overall experience on the site. They are more willing to accept usability flaws in this case since they assume the site functionality would be equally good. The opposite also holds where a poorly designed website may lead users to assume that the functionality might also be poor. Users attributing the same quality to the functionality based on aesthetics alone is how the Halo Effect comes into play in this case.

To minimize this bias in user research, getting separate user feedback on both aesthetics and functionality is the key to gaining a deeper understanding of user perceptions and preferences.

Brand Perception

Halo Effect from one product can extend to the entire brand and vice versa. Branding is a major aspect of how users react to your product. Outdated or inconsistent branding might make users skeptical about the product, even if it is well made. On the other hand, a positive brand engagement can make users think of the product in a more favorable light.

Research for products and their features should be conducted separately from users' perceptions about the brand to uncover unbiased insights. 

Customer Support

Customer support can significantly impact the overall user experience. For any product or service, prompt and helpful support can create a Halo Effect and give users a positive perception of the brand or product.

Surveys or interviews incorporating feedback on customer support help in minimizing this bias. A separate study helps researchers find improvement areas that are primarily unbiased and not related to the first impressions.

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Strategies to Minimize the Halo Effect

Diversify Respondents

To counteract the Halo Effect, it's crucial to take feedback from a diverse group of participants. Including individuals with varying levels of familiarity with the product or brand ensures a more comprehensive understanding of user perceptions. Diverse perspectives help uncover potential blind spots and provide a well-rounded view of the user experience.

When recruiting participants for user research, consider factors such as age, gender, cultural background, and prior exposure to the brand or product. This diversity not only enhances the reliability of findings but also minimizes the risk of the Halo Effect skewing results.

Implement Double-Blind Studies

Double-blind studies are a powerful tool to minimize biases, including the Halo Effect. In a double-blind study, both participants and researchers are unaware of certain aspects of the study, such as which version of a product they are using or testing. This eliminates the potential for preconceived notions to influence participants' responses and allows for a more objective evaluation of the user experience.

While not always feasible, implementing double-blind elements in user research, such as concealing brand identities or design origins, can help mitigate the impact of the Halo Effect and deliver more reliable insights.

Separate Aesthetic and Functional Evaluation

As mentioned earlier, separating aesthetic and functional evaluations is crucial in mitigating the Halo Effect. Research studies should be designed specifically in a way that addresses the visual aspects of a product separately from its functionality. This approach allows researchers to identify whether positive or negative perceptions are rooted in design aesthetics or actual user experience.

By dissecting these elements, researchers can provide actionable insights to improve both the visual appeal and functionality of a product, addressing potential issues highlighted by the Halo Effect.

Continuous Studies

The Halo Effect is often linked to initial impressions, making continuous studies a valuable tool for researchers. By tracking user perceptions over time, researchers can observe how the Halo Effect evolves and whether it persists or diminishes with prolonged exposure to a product.

These studies provide a more comprehensive understanding of the user journey, allowing researchers to identify patterns and trends beyond the immediate impact of the Halo Effect. With products and users evolving over time, this approach is one way to understand needs and preferences that might be overlooked in a one-time study.

Conclusion

We see how the Halo effect should not be overlooked and requires a nuanced approach since the bias forms subconsciously in users' minds. Technologies like Facial Coding and Eye Tracking provide a way to gain insights that are more unbiased by uncovering subconscious needs and preferences and minimizing the Halo Effect.

In a process like user research, your strategy should be continuously refined to account for biases created by Halo Effect to provide richer and more reliable insights and also to include the diverse perspectives of an ever-evolving user base. Hence, due attention to Halo Effect should be given and acted upon for superior insights that subsequently lead to successful decision-making.

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Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
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With lots of unique blocks, you can easily build a page without coding.

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Author Bio

As an intrepid explorer of both physical and intellectual realms, Kham seeks to unravel the intricacies of the human experience and merge them with the transformative power of AI. On odd days, she can be found wandering around trying to find that elusive scenic and quiet café where she can sip on matchas and get lost in the written word.

Kham Chakhap

Product Marketing Specialist

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