Observation and Design

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Action Prompting Voids (APV’s) in Web Design User Interface Design

November 15th, 2010 @ 14:22 GMT by Richard Stowey


The redesign I stumbled across when logging onto HSBC internet banking recently got me thinking about how we use the internet. I’ve coined the term Action Prompting Voids (APV’s) to describe what I found!.

In this particular case, HSBC have added to the usual current and savings account details with some additional categories of services and products which I might have with them. Except, I don’t have those services or products. I’ve blanked out the first two rows within the interface, but the bottom three areas are blank.


The first thought which runs through my head is, why are those boxes empty? “Do I need a loan and mortgage, a pension or some insurance?” And then, “wait, didn’t I have some insurance once with HSBC? Do I need it again?” It actually makes me feel like I’m missing out or that I have forgotten something, even though I may or may not have these items with other banks  / building societies or other financial institutions.

This method of displaying a void where possible purchases or investments can be made is actually rather clever. It is a  void, which prompts the action of the end user in which to fill it. On a basic level, the same approach it used with website shopping baskets. “Your basket is empty” is actually saying “Please buy something!” or “put something in here so that it’s not empty.”

I’m sure that this somehow relates to our intrinsic humanistic need to fill, fulfill or complete things. One of the reasons computer games are so addictive, and applications which involve gaming or rewards, such as foursquare, are pretty addictive.

Other simple uses are the watched items notification on eBay, baskets on ecommerce websites and goal / reward medals on foursquare.

So, can we use these blank areas, action prompting voids (APV’s), to encourage people to complete actions with the reward of filling in a bit of web real estate?

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