While designing software for professional domains like engineering, urban planning, and architecture, interaction designers and developers use tools like personas, workflows, and detailed use cases help the designer capture the building blocks of UX.
However, these tools might fall short when introducing new emerging behaviors, or framing the changing technological and social paradigms. To understand and design experiences around the changing and the emerging, there is a need for more nuanced and developed perspectives than just capturing what's existing out there.
Behavioral design offers a rich set of tools that designers can use to tackle with domain specific work habit challenges. Here, I will present 5 of these tools. In a follow-up post, I will detail a design for how we might use them to stage a persuasive intervention based on a collaboration workflow.
1. Motivation-Ability Matrix
Figure 1: B.J. Fogg’s behavior model
Conceptual matrixes are useful for designers while framing their problem as well as their solution space. B.J. Fogg provides a simple matrix for his behavioral model, and suggests two dimensions to a behavior change; motivation and ability (see Figure 1).
Behavior change happens when the individual with the right motivation and ability threshold is nudged by external triggers over a designated time. Someone might have the motivation but not the ability, or vice versa. Contemplating domain experts, a designer can easily find graspable hooks for both. The sweet spot between the two defines where the triggers can intervene.
Figure 2: Hooked model, on triggers and rewards.
Nir Eyal developed an actionable framework on triggers called Hooked that follows a four step process, including trigger, action, variable reward, and investment (see Figure 2). He argues that to build a habit, designers need to introduce triggers, and reward the user in a dynamic manner (each time getting a variety of the former reward). Once the user begins investing in the product, she will come back and use the product more often.
Triggers might take different names, such as cues, signals, or nudges. These can be in the form of visual, haptic, and behavioral nudges. Mobile apps that push updates can be a good example of a trigger. Trigger design needs to be carefully crafted and shouldn’t overwhelm the user’s cognitive load. People are easily annoyed by triggers if they are too insistent, hard to bypass, and attention hungry. Trigger design should take subtleness and peripheral attention as its principles.
Figure 3: Ritual & Routine Maps
Contextual design emphasizes the importance of activities and situation in approaching habitual change. In a paper I have published, I’ve focused on situational dynamics, and mapped out individuals’ daily routines and rituals for habitual change. Routine maps provide the touch points of an existing habit and its potential potholes, whereas ritual maps unveil user emotions and value landscape. Ritual also shows the designer where a user prefers investing in their time, what their attention and awareness capital goes to. Using both, the designer can look for sweet spots where the user’s attention and awareness are more open to possible design interventions.
The idea of rewards goes far to reinforce the experiments of B.F. Skinner. He discovered that people’s behaviors are changed based on external reinforcements. Gamification is a variant of behavioral design, defined by Gabe Zichermann as “the process of using game thinking and game mechanics to engage users and solve problems.”
Zichermann uses a rewards model involving status, access, power, and stuff (SAPS). He states that status is what people really appreciate as reward. Eyal suggests using variety since people can easily be unmotivated and lose interest with fixed conditioning. Michael Wu mentions the importance of the timing and schedule of rewards. For instance, he suggests a fixed-interval schedule as an effective method when activity needs to increase near deadlines.
5. Flow Principle
Figure 4: Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow model
Rewards, however, may not lead to behavior change unless the designed interventions are challenging enough for the target audience. This brings us to the flow principle, developed by Csikszentmihalyi in his seminal book Flow. Flow happens when an individual is so immersed in an activity that she forgets the passing of time and feelings.
This happens when the individual has a challenge that’s both complex and doable within her given skillset. This aligns with the motivation ability matrix mentioned earlier. Triggers should lead to challenges that can balance a sense of control and mastery as well as the curiosity to pursue their habitual change.
- B.J. Fogg, A Behavior Model for Persuasive Design, Persuasive’09, April 26-29, Claremont, California, US
- Nir Eyal, Hooked
- F.Kursat Ozenc, Modes of Transitions, Designing Interactive Products for Harmony, and Wellbeing, Design Issues, 2013, (To appear April 2014)
- Gamifying The System To Create Better Behavior, NPR Staff,
- Gamification 101: The Psychology of Motivation, Michael Wu
- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow, the psychology of optimal experience, Harper Perennial Modern Classics; 1ST edition (July 1, 2008)