What we can learn from the Defiant Dog

Ian Broyles‘ amusing one-page site Defiantdog.com features a photo of a dog, and a button containing the word “sit”. This is fabulously funny, considering that nothing (visible) happens when one clicks the button.

A photo of a dog standing, with a button labeled Sit.

I didn’t think much about it until Vasilis van Gemert posted about it and Ian published some stats; at that point in time visitors clicked an average of 23 times per visit. 23 times is a lot of clicking, which means some conditioning and expectation are at work.

As pattern-seeking beings, we tend to follow our conditioning. A button must be there for a reason—let’s click it. It says “sit”, therefore the dog will probably sit, won’t it? 23 clicks on average indicates to me that the average user is not considering whether this is just an image or instead some type of interactive movie. 23 clicks indicates bell/salivate. Button/action-expectation.

Let’s say you have javascript disabled, for whatever reason. You fill out a form. You click the submit button, not knowing that in this case the developer has made a javascript-dependent button (this is common). You might say you have encountered a Defiant Dog: something which doesn’t do as it’s told, or doesn’t react according to expectations.

Ian’s fun experiment confirms two things which many of us know but are always worth repeating:

  1. When users expect things to happen on our websites, it’s most likely that we have done something to trigger those expectations
  2. Users will almost always think it’s their own fault (and may even click 23 times before deciding it’s not)

It’s been said that without expectation, there is no disappointment. While not a new idea, this take-away from the Defiant Dog is still timely, as you’ll notice anytime you see something you think should be clickable but isn’t. Or when a relationship is falsely implied between multiple UI elements.

Managing expectations is a design problem. It’s up to us as web designers to find the defiant dogs in our websites and applications, and get them to sit.

1 thought on “What we can learn from the Defiant Dog

  1. That’s a great site/page!
    Must admit I clicked more than once myself, even though I already read your first paragraph. It’s just funny and for one reason or the other it’s funnier when you really click the button ;)

    The source code is wonderful too:

    var clicks = 0;
    function addClick() {
    	if (clicks == 20) {

    Not sure if that’s why the average is just above 20 though ;)

Comments are closed.