One thing I’ve been thinking about recently is when do I, as a user, expect to have a piece of information presented to me.

Take, as an example, driving along the freeway. I see signs for the different gas stations that I could use. What would be nice (my expectancy) is seeing how much they are selling their gas for on those signs. For me this is making my decision to leave the freeway now or wait until the next exit easier.

Now technically this is possible, but is it in the best interests of the gas station? No, obviously. They want you off the freeway because you are more likely to fill up, regardless of price, than get back on and try again.

It’s a balancing act that we online folks have to go through all the time when creating sites and experiences.

When paying bills online you generally receive an email reminder. Do I expect the amount to be shown in the email or when I log in? And if it is when I log in, should it be the first thing I am presented with?

For me, the expectancy is showing the amount in the email. For the company it could be after logging in. They may want to show/sell me something else or maybe they are not allowed to show that information in something as unsecure as email.

Instead of leaving it there though, I find I’m thinking about the next level of expectancy for the user – If you cannot show the amount due, are they expecting to be presented with a reason why?

Next time you’re designing something, think about your users “expectancy of information” one or two steps further along than normal.