Gavin Wye

Independent User Experience consultant

The Peak End Rule

03 May 2013

I've just returned from a meal out with my girlfriend, Alex. We went out locally as we wanted to be quick. We are lucky to live in a place (Tynemouth) with an abundance of nice restaurants and bars literally five minutes walk from our house.

The meal itself was great. I had Lamb and alex had a Dahl and Dosa style bread. We eat, chatted and generally relaxed, putting the week behind us to bed.

Then it came to time for the bill. The resterant was filling up and getting noisy. We'd finished off our bottle of wine and asked for the bill. We waited, and waited. Eventually after ten minutes we washed again this time it came. We paid and there was an awkward silence as the waitress waited for the card machine to process our payment.

This is the bit where the staff can make what had been a very enjoyable and relaxing experience, something that can be disappointing and tense. We had no wine, no food and we had asked to go. But we had been left sitting there for ten minutes. Asking for the bill is the end of the transaction. It can be handled well or not. The latter was the case tonight.

It's the same for any kind of experience design when people say they have had enough and they want it to stop. It's best to get out of their way and help them exit in the best way possible. They will thank you for it, much more than they will if you keep them hanging around with nothing to do.

People remember their experiences almost entirely by the peaks and troughs and how the end. It's our job as designers to ensure that there are lots of peaks few troughs and a happy ending.

You can apply this to many things. Registration, checkout or un-subscription. While first impressions count a disappointing ending will override an impressive beginning or middle.

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