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Persuasive Design or The Fine Art of Separating People from Their Bad Behaviours - Online



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Persuasive Design or The Fine Art of Separating People from Their Bad Behaviours - Online

  1. ❦ Persuasive Design Or: The Fine Art of Separating People from their Bad Behaviours – Online Sebastian Deterding reboot 11 Copenhagen, June 25, 2009 ★ ★★ ★ cbn
  2. Life: A Game of Marble Madness Today, I‘d like to talk about: Immanuel Kant and cloisters, park benches and organ donors, Easyjet and nail polish,, twitter, and why life is a game of Marble Madness.
  3. Persuasive (Web) Design And perhaps, also a little about persuasive web design.
  4. (Web) Design ✓ Now, web design we all know (and probably practice).
  5. Persuasion? But persuasion?
  6. per⋅suadere (lat.): convince (literally: pierce, get through) For non-native English speakers (like myself), persuasion comes from the Latin word „persuadere“, meaning „to convince“, literally: to get through to someone. So, persuasive design is design that convinces people - to do or think differently. Let‘s take some real life examples.
  7. I arrived at this conference by train, starting from here, Hamburg main station, Germany. As in many other European cities, the station has taken to play classical music in the entrance hall - not to please their travelers, but because research has shown that it drives off noisy, drunken youngsters who usually don‘t take to Beethoven (a kind of inverse Clockwork Orange). http://
  8. Likewise, these arm rests at a public bench in Oxford are not there to give your arms a rest, as one might think, but to keep homeless people from taking a night‘s rest on the bench.
  9. A less mean example are these printed flies in men‘s urinals all over the world, which have been shown to encourage careful aim and thus significantly reduce spillage.
  10. Though personally, I much prefer this solution, which adds a design principle I‘ll get to later: Make it a game!
  11. small design choices, big impact In short, persuasive design (as I understand it in the context of this talk) is about small design choices that have a potentially big impact on the users‘ behaviour.
  12. Can we do that Online? And the question that interests me as a user experience designer is: Can we do that online as well?
  13. 3 Rationale 5 Strategies 1 Introduction Q&A 2 Definition 6 Questions 4 Contexts I will answer this question in six steps: We‘re already through with the introduction (1), so let‘s look at what persuasive design is and what makes it different (2), then why it‘s getting some mindshare right now (3) and whom to ask about persuasion today (4), before looking at ways to put this into practice (5) and finally, what questions are still open (6).
  14. Q&A 2 Definition
  15. „I define persuasive technology as any interactive computing system designed to change people’s attitudes or behaviors.“ B.J. Fogg Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do (2003) It all started in the late 1990s when Stanford psychologist B.J. Fogg collected everything psychology knew about how computers change people‘s attitudes and behaviours and did a large study on online credibility, which became a well- received book and academic research stream under the moniker „persuasive technology“.
  16. Make the user follow the 1 designer‘s intent Design to help the user follow 2 through her own intent Looking at the applications Fogg described, one might distinguish two kinds of persuasive design: One where the designer wants the user to adopt a behaviour of the designer‘s choice (like buying something), and one where the designer wants to help the user turn her own intentions into lasting behaviour changes (e.g. e-health applications like losing weight).
  17. 2003 2005 2008 In 2003, designer Andrew Chak first applied this notion to websites. Then in 2005, the Eisenberg brothers coined „persuasion architecture“ as a technique to measure and increase online conversion. But persuasive design really only took off in 2008 with a plethora of white papers, books and blog posts. (Link pointers to all books at the end of the presentation)
  18. „You still need good usability—if people can’t find something they can’t be persuaded by it—but soon usability will no longer be the key differentiator it has been.“ Eric Schaffer, HFI Beyond Usability. Designing for Persuasion, Emotion and Trust (2008) For instance, the usability agency Human Factors International re-positioned itself as providers of PET design(tm) or „Design for Persuasion, Emotion and Trust“.
  19. „Enabling behavior change: ... To change consumer behaviors we must design motivational experiences that push, pull, and ease the pathway to adopting new habits.“ Brandon Schauer, adaptive path 9 experiences for 2009 Brandon Schauer of adaptive path identified „enabling behaviour change“ as one of the nine major user experience trends for 2009.
  20. „Behaviour is our Medium.“ Robert Fabricant, FrogDesign interactive’09 Vancouver And in his interactive’09 keynote, Robert Fabricant of FrogDesign went so far as to say that the medium of interaction designers is not user interfaces nor digital technology - nor any other artifact, but their users‘ behaviour (, also check
  21. Usability? Now you might say: Getting a user to do something online, making it easier for her - isn‘t that usability? In fact, the characteristics of persuasive design (I think) become much clearer if we compare it to usability.
  22. A B Let‘s oversimplify and say changing a user‘s behaviour is getting her from A (her current state) to B (the desired state).
  23. B A And let‘s assume that the way from A to B is a slide.
  24. Usability Then usability is all about making that slide as smooth and frictionless as possible, getting all outer obstacles, hurdles out of the way of the user.
  25. Motivation? But even the smoothest slide doesn‘t help if the user hasn‘t decided to go for a ride in the first place.
  26. Persuasive Design! And that‘s what persuasive design is about: On the one hand, reducing inner resistances and frictions (like fears or conflicting motives) that keep the user from realising her impulse to slide, ...
  27. Persuasive Design! ... and on the other hand, amplifying, sustaining or even creating that impulse, that momentum, that motivation to slide.
  28. MUST... EDIT... DOCUMENT! For we all know that users do use products with horrid usability - if only their motivation is big enough (think Microsoft Word before its redesign). So a truly rounded picture of a user‘s behaviour has to combine both perspectives: the impulse to do something and the ease of doing it; the inner and the outer resistances to realising an impulse.
  29. Premium Account Registration 2. Exploration New Release 1. Exploration expected/felt effort Let‘s draw a ficticious graph of the different phases of a user‘s interaction with a site and the expected and/or felt effort in doing them. From a usability perspective, the design pain points are obvious: It‘s those peaks of effort that have to be lowered to ensure the users are not aborting the process.
  30. Premium Account Registration 1. Exploration 2. Exploration New Release expected/felt effort Like this.
  31. Premium Account Registration 1. Exploration 2. Exploration New Release felt motivation expected/felt effort However, if we layer the felt motivation to do something on top, the real (or at least, different) pain points emerge: Whenever the motivation to use a site falls below the felt or expected effort to use it, the user will likely leave. Put into a design principle:
  32. DESIGN PRINCIPLE In any step of usage, ask yourself: Is the felt motivation to do this bigger than the felt or expected effort to do it?
  33. THEORY OF PLANNED BEHAVIOUR BI =AB(W1) + SN(W2) + PBC(W3) This principle basically just applies a well-established model within the psychology of persuasion, the theory of planned behaviour by Icek Ajzen and others ( Psychologists like to express their models in mathematical formulas, ...
  34. THEORY OF PLANNED BEHAVIOUR Persuasion The intention to perform a behaviour is a result of the individual attitude and subjective norms toward the behaviour, and the perceived control over the behaviour. Usability ... but this one is actually pretty easily translated into human-readable language. Note the emphasis on social factors („subjective norms“ means: my subjective notion of what other people expect to be the ‚right‘ behaviour in this situation), and that „perceived control“ is the result of the outer difficulty and my inner ability to overcome it.
  35. In summary, if you just increase the usability of a site - not caring about the motivation to use it - and wonder why users don‘t use it, that‘s like merely turning up the amplifier on a stereo, not the volume, and wondering why you don‘t hear any music.
  36. 3 Rationale Q&A But if that is true, why are people only now beginning to pay attention to persuasive design? I see four reasons - three good and one bad one.
  37. The first (and bad) one: In the current economic crisis, agencies are looking for any way to differentiate themselves and argue why they add more to their clients‘ bottom line than their competitors.
  38. Reason number two: Within HCI and the behavorial sciences in general, the theoretical models of human reasoning, decision- making and acting have shifted dramatically. Up until the 1990s, the human mind was thought of basically as an advanced computer, as expressed e.g. in the GOMs model (
  39. A B 1 2 3 4 Traditional HCI understood action and decision-making as a highly rational, functional process focused on completing tasks and goals. Humans were supposed to start with a clear end goal in mind, systematically slicing up the way into subgoals and then ticking off subgoal after subgoal until the end goal was reached.
  40. However, everyday experience and the new wave of cognitive science tell us that life is really more like a messy game of snakes and ladders: We are constantly juggling multiple competing, vague goals with likewise competing and vague ways to get there. Our reasoning, decision-making and actions are inextricably intertwined with our emotions, bodies, artifacts, environments and social relations. This is what the whole „third wave“ of HCI (like affective computing, social design, user experience - and persuasive design) tries to articulate and address.
  41. A B The third reason for the current interest in persuasive design is the expansion of goals that websites are trying to achieve. Let‘s look at our A-B model again. If I were to tell a webdesigner today that I want to get a user from A to B, she‘d likely say: „Say no more - I know!“
  42. „A - that‘s the Google search result page, and B, that‘s your checkout page.“
  43. A B Usually, this A-B line is ordered vertically rather than horizontally, ...
  44. A B ... and illustrated with these nifty funnel graphics of how many users you lose on each step on the way.
  45. Conversion The technical term for this is „conversion“, and the discipline involved „conversion optimisation“. The current use of the term conversion is pretty limited to turning traffic on a site into paying customers of whatever service or product the site offers.
  46. Goals: Web 1.0, e-commerce Buy! Register Now! Subscribe! Upgrade! Which is all nice and fine with basic e-commerce sites who‘s conversion goals are basically about selling - exchangig value for money.
  47. Conversion However, the word „conversion“ itself already has a much richer history. Originally, it‘s a religious term, signifying a person changing his or her creed.
  48. Goals: Web 2.0, UGC, SNS Retweet! Bookmark! Upload! Comment! Share! Tag! Forward! Add as friend! Digg! Invite more friends! Likewise, the range of goals that web 2.0 sites pursue go far beyond traditional e-commerce. They are basically asking their users to use and recommend their platform more, to create and curate content for free. That‘s neither selling nor employment, and traditional economics have a hard time modeling the incentives for these kinds of behaviour.
  49. (Business Goals) Advertise for us! Give us your data! Create our content! Curate our content! Be our customer service! (Alothough behind the immediate goals, there are - hopefully - still solid, economic business goals.)
  50. Prosocial, personal goals Donate now! Help your neighbour! Join the cause! Plant a tree! Save electricity! Go carbon-neutral! Write your MP! Vote for me! Don‘t drink and drive! And traditional marketing wisdom fully breaks down when it comes to sites that promote pro-social behaviours or try to help a person change her behaviour. You don‘t „sell“ someone to cease smoking or report potholes on public roads. The dynamics behind these kinds of behaviour are very different (note though that social marketing claims just the opposite, 16J5LT).
  51. In summary, more and more websites (UGC-based, pro-social, political, e-health, ...) are aiming at other user behaviours than spending money, and the motives that drive users to do this are not value-for-money. Thus, traditional marketing models (which are behind most of today‘s online marketing and conversion optimisation) fail to grasp them.
  52. Homo Oeconomicus The fourth and final reason is that even with run-of-the-mill commercial transactions, decades of research have shown that we are not the fully informed, fully rational, always profit-maximising homo oeconomicus that economic theory and marketing would like us to be.
  53. Q&A 4 Contexts But if traditional marketing and HCI cannot tell us what drives our users‘ behaviours, the obvious next question is:
  54. Whom to ask?
  55. * * Cicero Rhetoricians? Rhetoriker?
  56. * * Erving Goffman Sociologists?
  57. * * B. F. Skinner Psychologists?
  58. * Philosophers? * Michel Foucault
  59. Moti Social psychology vatio es Inc nc nal p cie en tiv gy eS sych o e- ol itiv Ce n ch gn Be olog nt h Te Co er av ve iou i ed as y ra u lE s D. co er gn no P esi lD gy mi a ion Psycholo Neu cs Co cien rom va t oti mp ce S a rket M uti ing ng Eco on nom ati ics uc Ed tion Social marketing Health Communica Persuasive Design Com cati muni- on Sustainable design Propa ganda resea es i gn rc h D So cio Rhetorics gn log i l des Pe y ca rs Criti gn ua si sio Po de n ive lit it i cs t ns en e of s Int - ue ar l Va te ith Fra Rhetorics fa nW ct m s ing sig De The answer is: all of the above, and many more. This (certainly incomplete) graphic shows just the major strands within the different academic disciplines that might have something to contribute to persuasive design.
  60. Moti Social psychology vatio es Inc nc nal p cie en tiv gy eS sych o e- ol itiv Ce n ch gn Be olog nt h Te Co er av ve iou i ed as y ra u lE s D. co er gn no P esi lD gy mi a ion Psycholo Neu cs Co cien rom va t oti mp ce S a rket M uti ing ng Eco on nom ati ics uc Ed tion Social marketing Health Communica Persuasive Design Com cati muni- on Sustainable design Propa ganda resea es i gn rc h D So cio Rhetorics gn log i l des Pe y ca rs Criti gn ua si sio Po de n ive lit it i cs t ns en e of s Int - ue ar l Va te ith Fra Rhetorics fa nW ct m s ing As a purely subjective selection, there are some that stand out: Apart from the already-mentioned persuasive technology, it‘s sig traditional rhetorics and persuasion research, the politics of artifacts in science studies, design with intent (of which later De more), incentive-centered design in CS, and finally, two fields within economics that have managed to receive the lion‘s share of current professional and media attention.
  61. Cognitive Neurosciences The first one is cognitive neurosciences and its popular applications. This is often mere psychology repackaged with a more marketable brand, as the studies most of these books draw upon were published in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, without the imaging technology for brain activity that characterises today‘s cognitive neurosciences.
  62. Behavioural Economics As a look in any current non-fiction bestseller list and this Gartner Hype Cycle for 2008 shows, the second up-and-coming research field is behavioural economics. It comprises of economists who recognized that their homo oeconomicus does not adequately explain (let alone predict) human behaviour.
  63. Behavioural Economics Traditional economic models failed... ... because they looked ... because they ignored at the wrong incentives systematic distortions Oversimplifying again, there are two main reactions to this insight: 1. Human beings are economic creatures, we‘ve just looked at the wrong incentives. If we include the right incentives, the models work fine. 2. Human behaviour really deviates from rational profit-maximising. However, we can describe these systematic deviations and include them in our models.
  64. 5 Strategies Q&A Moving on, how might we as designers include the findings of all these disciplines into our practice of creating persuasive experiences? Personally, I have found the 1980s video game „Marble Madness“ to be a helpful visual metaphor to make sense of human behaviour, and sort the different possible ways to affect it through design.
  65. Life: A Game of Marble Madness In this game, the player navigates a marble through a labyrinth toward a goal. On the way, all kinds of physical forces affect the marble: gravity, slippery or sandy grounds, rubber bouncers, vacuum devices, ... The final course of the marble emergres from the interplay of inner steering and outer forces - which, I feel, is a pretty accurate concept of human behaviour.
  66. * Iconography shamelessly appropriated om Dan Lockton Constraints* Facilitation Motivation Seen this way, there are three major strategies in which behaviour (the marble‘s course) may be changed: One might restrict the pathways that are open, ease the way along certain pathways, or shape the impulses that push or tug in certain directions.
  67. Constraints Limit possible behaviours, exclude unwanted behaviours Let‘s look at the first one: The design excludes deviations from the desired path of behaviour.
  68. Constraints My favourite example for these constraints is Immanuel Kant. He had an agreement with his servant Lampe to throw him out of bed each morning at 7 a.m., no matter what Kant might reason, promise or threaten at that specific morning.
  69. We are all using such self-imposed constraints when we take a retreat in a cloister or health resort. We find it too difficult to get clear or lose weight in our everyday life; therefore, we put ourselves in an environment that automatically excludes all stimuli and opportunities to deviate from our own goals.
  70. Another nice example is this bitter nailpolish for people with a nailbiting tic: Each time they unconsciously start to bite their nails again, the bitter taste interrupts the habit.
  71. The most obvious and blunt form of such constraints in digital media is of course digital rights management that directly controls what a user can and cannot do with a given file or application, ...
  72. ... or which users are allowed to use it in the first place.
  73. The checkout process of e-commerce sites is another good example. Once the user has signaled her decision to buy, the sites immediately remove all information and options that might distract from completing the checkout. The final checkout page doesn‘t even offer a back button - all you can do is complete the checkout, or abort it by closing the browser.
  74. ClaimID founder Fred Stutzman has created a nifty „retreat app“ to help people constrain their own online procrastination. You just enter the amount of minutes you‘d like to be free, and the software disables the networking capablity of your Mac for that duration.
  75. One might easily imagine a similar functionality on social networking sites that struggle with public accusations of „online addiction“. Their customers could set themselves time limits for usage.
  76. Note Gee, time flies! You‘ve already spent one hour on Facebook today - and you were pretty clear you only want to join us for that duration each day. So, please, come and see us tomorrow. Close
  77. Defaults A far subtler form of constraint are defaults. Users generally take the path of least resistance and don‘t change the default settings, as a study on US driver‘s licenses has shown. The form asked whether the applicant would like to donor her organs in case of death - and just changing the default from „no“ to „yes“ increased the number of donors by 80%.
  78. Default settings are an easy case for persuasive web design. Again, you might further your site‘s goals („receive notification on special offers? Yes!“), or help the user follow hers, e.g. by raising the default security settings (though raising your privacy settings might also be a way of damaging your competition, see the IE8 privacy settings potentially blocking Google ads).
  79. The power of defaults has already been recognized - to the point that being included in the default set is a sellable, measurable asset. How much would you pay to be included on this page? Put into a design principle again:
  80. HOW MIGHT WE... close off detours from the desired behaviour, without taking away the user‘s sense of control?
  81. Facilitation Ease the translation of the user‘s intentions into behaviours and habits Let‘s move on to the second family of design strategies: Helping to translate vague, transient intentions („I should ...“) into concrete, lasting behaviours.
  82. Make behaviour visible There first step here ist to make your behaviour and its consequences visible. How many of us would turn off appliances on stand-by, or unplug transformators, if their cables would signal through bright light that they are indeed using lots of elecrticity right now?
  83. „Personal Informatics“ This notion already has its own name: personal informatics. (And if you haven‘t already, check out the mad, beautiful genius of Daytum-founder Nicholas Felton‘s own annual life in numbers,
  84. Making the impact of your behaviour visible and measurable is also a common strategy within ecological design. Just add meters to any kind of daily consumption.
  85. → For online procrastination, there‘s RescueTime, which tracks and visualizes which apps and kinds of websites you use for how long.
  86. For your personal energy consumption, there‘s WattzOn
  87. Though my favourite example (which will accompany us for a little from this point on) is the social travel network Dopplr, where you can track your planned trips and check whether your friends will be there at the same time.
  88. More interestingly, Dopplr also offers a CO2 calculator for your travels. In September 2008, for instance, I took a transatlantic flight - and produced around 2 tons of CO2. In December 2008, on the other handy, I did not travel and thus produced no CO2 - „we envy you“. (Note the subtle emotional difference between this praise and eco-typical admonition.)
  89. However, as important as the capturing and making visible of one‘s behaviour is, mere numbers alone produce little momentum.
  90. Make it personal The first thing to do is to make them personal. There‘s a world of difference between „In 2008, German CO2 emissions increased by 20%“ and „YOU emitted 4 tons of this stuff“.
  91. 4.802 kg Make it graspable However, we human beings are terrible with big, abstract numbers. They don‘t make sense. So present those numbers in a way that is immediately, visually comprehensible, that makes sense and relates to a human scale.
  92. 4.802 kg You will burn 23 trees this year Make it emotional Next, try to find a representation that also speaks to emotion - in a way that makes sense and adds to the message in the given context.
  93. My personal favourite for a numerical display that is personal and emotional is the Deathclock. Enter your date of birth, sex, weight and height, and it calculates your statistical date of death, with the seconds ticking away live. If that doesn‘t stop your online procrastination...
  94. 4.802 kg You will burn The average person 23 trees this year burns 3 trees per year Make it comparable Another tactic is social comparison. I produce 4,8 tons of CO2 - is that much? Too much? Is it little? How are others doing?
  95. Here‘s a smart example for social comparison used in an utility bill (found on a recent core77 post by Robert Fabricant on user-centered design for social change,
  96. 4.802 kg You will burn 23 trees Your aim for 2009: 5 trees this year, 18 too many (3 less than 2008) Set (SMART) goals So let‘s assume you receive a graspable, personal, emotionally appealing depiction of your behaviour: How to translate that impulse into action? One thing is to offer concrete goals instead of letting the impulse dissipate in a vague „Aw yes, I should...“. (Think self-management 101 built into the architecture of our designs.)
  97. → RescueTime offers exactly that for your computing behaviour: Set yourself goals which kind of software or website you‘d like to use for how long each day (and receive alerts if you miss your target).
  98. 4.802 kg You will burn 23 trees Your aim for 2009: 5 trees this year, 18 too many (3 less than 2008) ☒ Plant 18 trees instead ☐ Take a train instead and save 4 trees Offer concrete actions Then, when there‘s an impulse to act and a concrete goal, offer a concrete action to achieve that goal (easily, without too much effort) - not some time, but right at the spot where the impulse occurs.
  99. καιρός This is the principle of „kairos“ in classical rhetorics, literally the „opportune moment“: To persuade her audience, a speaker has to address it at the right point in time and space, in the right mood, at the right step within her speech, when the audience is the most seducible.
  100. „seducible moment“ Which is why web designers speak of this as the „seducible moment“.
  101. A brilliant case in point is this reverse vending machine for deposit bottles. You might either push green (and get a receipt you cash in at the exit), or push yellow and rather donate that little money - which you actually don‘t have at this point (so it doesn‘t feel like a loss), is a tiny amount to begin with and saves you the hassle of carrying and remembering the receipt.
  102. You will burn 23 trees this year This trip burns 10 trees (440 kg CO2): ₤ 12.00 Plant 10 trees Returning to our Dopplr example: What is the most opportune moment? Not when I enter the trip into Dopplr - by then, I‘ve likely already booked the flight - but during booking.
  103. You will burn 23 trees this year This trip burns 10 trees (440 kg CO2): ₤ 12.00 Plant 10 trees ☒ Remember Settings And then, you might as well add some default to turn this one-time behaviour into a stable one.
  104. ☒ Einstellung merken Which is, in fact, what Easyjet is already doing (albeit only on their English language sites) as a Corporate Social Responsibility measure.
  105. 1. When and where is the user most motivated to act? Translating this notion of kairos into an actionable design principle: When we design a site or application, we should always ask ourselves two questions. Question one: When and where is the user most motivated to act?
  106. 2. When and where is the user most likely to act? Question two: When and where is the user most likely to act? Summarised in one sentence:
  107. DESIGN PRINCIPLE No impulse without a fitting opportunity to act, no site of action without a fitting impulse.
  108. SpendTrend ☒ Einstellung merken Another nice example for multiple facilitating tactics rolled together with kairos is this credit card addon by MIT Media Lab‘s Sajid Sadi ( The user can set personal limits for different kinds of spending, and the card gives a simple traffic light feedback whether the purchase you just swiped threatens to break the limit.
  109. ACTION Design an application that facilitates individual control of online overspending, leveraging kairos. Of course, it would be even nicer if the card warned you before you swipe it. So as a call to action for this year‘s reboot, I suggest translating and improving the same problem solution to the web.
  110. (If you need more inspiration, IDEO has combined spending with defaults in their Bank of America service design Keep the Change to encourage saving. All purchases are rounded up to the next even amount, and the difference is added to your savings account.
  111. Tangential Motivation The behaviour satisfies motives not directly related to the behaviour Moving on to the family of strategies concerned with motivation. Here, I see three loose subgroups: tangential, intrinsic, and extrinsic. The first one is to recruit some motive that isn‘t really core to the intended behaviour, but nevertheless satisfied by it. Sounds cryptic?
  112. Good Gestalt Here‘s an example: Use gestalt laws. This light switch nudges us to turn off the light (state shown in the right picture), because we feel the need to reestablish the visual forms that are disrupted when the light is switched on (left picture).
  113. Completeness Another good example is our drive towards vissual completion of patterns. Many social networking sites use this as an incentive to „complete your profile“.
  114. Completeness Maybe the smartest way of using this is showcased by Panini football stickers albums; they blend the drive for completion with other psychological mechanisms of collecting (scarcity, social facilitation) to an addictive mix. (If you‘re too young for sticker albums, think trading card games.)
  115. HOW MIGHT WE... design interfaces so that the intended behaviour creates a good visual gestalt at the same time?
  116. Intrinsic Motivation An activity is in and of itself motivating, it is its own end The second group of motivational strategies is to make the behaviour itself so pleasurable, fun and worthwhile that it becomes and end in itself. And which designers know best how to create pleasurable, fun experiences?
  117. „Reality is broken. Games work better. ... Games are the ultimate happiness engines.“ Jane McGonigal UX Week 2009 Game designers! Or at least that‘s what Jane McGonigal, designer and researcher of Alternate Reality Games, proposes: Games are „happiness engines“, and game designers should apply their knowledge in creating them to all strands of life.
  118. Though beware: Game design does not mean to simply slap points, levels and a highscore ranking on any given activity.
  119. A case in point for this simplistic approach is „Attent“ by the Serious Gaming business consultancy Seriosity. They promise to manage office mail clutter by adding a point currency system: You add point rewards to mails according to their urgency, and receive points attached to mails by replying to them.
  120. A better example is „Chore Wars“, which overlays a complete Online Roleplaying Game mechanic ontop everyday household chores. Players assume roles and collect experience points by solving „quests“ consisting of household tasks. http://
  121. The gaming experience ★ voluntary challenge ★ safe experimentation space without consequence ★ clear goals ★ clear options ★ clear end states ★ clear, strong feedback ★ self-efficacy ★ optimal learning scaffold ★ space and opportunity for socializing Media psychologists and game designers have sketched first theories about why exactly games are such „optimal experiences“ (see last slides for more references). In general, games are voluntary, save, and much more prestructured and clear in their goals, choices and consequences than everyday life - but still offer „interesting choices“ on each step.
  122. Difficulty Anxiety fl ow Boredom Ability One very popular model comes from psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who extensively studied the shared properties of „optimal experience“. According to him, we don‘t find total relaxation optimal, but challenges where our abilities are fully called upon: activities that are neither too hard (= stress & anxiety), nor too easy (= boredom). And through many testing iterations, video games perfectly match their difficulty curve with the learning curve of the user. Also, they dynamically adapt their difficulty in any given situation, thus continuously keeping the player in the optimal „flow tunnel“. This is a radical break with the standard approach of usability to make everything as easy as possible - and I have no easy answer to reconcile this tension :).
  123. A twist to making the intended behaviour intrinsically motivating is to create an intrinsically worthwhile activity that has the intended behaviour as a side effect. Delicious does this in terms of usefulness (it helps you to keep your bookmarks sorted while reaping the side benefit of a collective bookmark pool), but you can also do it with in terms of pleasure, like the ESP game: Players have to guess which word their human opponent on the other side will think of first when seeing a displayed picture. In the background, they are really creating high-quality tags for web images.
  124. HOW MIGHT WE... turn the intended behaviour into a voluntary challenge with clear conditions that creates strong feelings of efficacy?
  125. Extrinsic Motivation External incentives motivate the intended behaviour But what if you cannot make your intended behaviour compelling and enjoyable? Let‘s look at the last set of motivational strategies: extrinsic motivators.
  126. AN PA TI TT - ER N Rewards Again, a word of caution: Decades of psychological research have shown that simple external incentives such as money, grades etc. have only short-term, transient effects and might actually decrease motivation if the user already has other (intrinsic, social, ...) motivations to do something („I‘m not in it for the money!“).
  127. The best one-book summary on this topic is „Punished by Rewards“ by Alfie Kohn. So, if rewards don‘t work, what kind of motivator does? The answer is (at least on the „social web“): social!
  128. Social motivators ★ Recognition ★ Belonging ★ Comparison ★ Facilitation ★ Peer pressure ★ Reciprocity ★ Cooperation ★ Competition ★ Social control ★ on and on and on ... Practically all „social media“ and „social networks“ work so well and develop addictive qualities because they utilize the full palette of social motivators so masterfully - combined with strategies of facilitation. The list is so long that it warrants another presentation, so I can only point out two exemplary ones and reference the literature here (i.e. at the end of the slides).
  129. Call Visi bi Acti to Pref orm lity on acti at on a- mp Co on ris Reci proc ity l S ocia l tro con Reco g nitio - n r Pee re su p res ition pet Com Just take twitter. One of the most interesting social mechanics (that‘s also used by Facebook status updates) is what I call the „livestream effect“ of social comparison. The moment I have a couple of „friends“ or „followees“, by virtue of sheer mathematics, they will collectively produce more updates than I myself - thus constantly encouraging me to post more in order to „keep up“.
  130. Public Commitment Another social tactic to motivate yourself are public commitments, The PledgeBank by offers a platform where users can make public pledges and collect social support - „I promise to do X if Y amount of others promise to do the same“.
  131. StickK has turned this into a self-help tool: Users can commit themselves to a goal (like losing 20 pounds) in a contract, define a (monetary) stake they would lose, and find another user as a referee who monitors their progress. https://
  132. Q&A 6 Questions So, what‘s missing? There‘s no doubt that persuasive design is just in its infancy. It‘s an unsorted and incomplete toolbox.
  133. Open Questions ★ Theory: How does it work? ★ Terminology: How to speak about it? ★ Taxonomy: How to sort it? ★ Methodology: How to apply it? ★ Metrics: How to measure it? ★ Ethics: Isn‘t that immoral? We still lack models, methods, taxonomies to systematically think and talk about persuasive design, and apply it in our designs. We lack metrics to test, prove and communicate its effectiveness. And most importantly, we have to answer to ourselves: Isn‘t this a rather shady business?
  134. „Persuasion Architecture“ ★ Uncovery ★ Wireframing ★ Storyboarding ★ Prototyping ★ Development ★ Optimization As regards theory and methodology, in „Call to Action“, the Eisenberg brothers suggested a five-step method for persuasion architecture ( - though personally, I don‘t find it very helpful. It‘s basically no different than any other standard user-centered design process.
  135. Quintilian, „Institutio oratoria“ inventio finding the argument dispositio ordering the argument elocutio explicating the argument memoria rehearsing the argument actio presenting the argument Compare this with the classical method for preparing a speech, and you‘ll find that nothing much has changed for the past millennia. (As an aside, listen to Robert "r0ml" Lefkowitz talk on Quintilian as a blueprint for software development, http://
  136. Aristoteles, „Rhetorics“ ethos character, credibility of the speaker pathos speaking to emotion: images, stories logos speaking to reason: valid arguments Another valuable classic model are the three main means of persuasion in Aristotle‘s „Rhetorics“: A speech is persuasive by virtue of the speaker‘s character (online trust, anyone?), appeals to the emotions of the listener, or the validity of the argument itself. (Idea to look at Aristotle nicked from Colleen Jones‘ beautiful slides on persuasive web copy:
  137. B.J. Fogg, „Functional Triad“ tool increases capability social actor creates relationship with computer medium provides experience social space enables social communication In „Persuasive Technology“ (, Fogg speaks of three ways computers might persuade us: they increase our ability to do or persevere, they build a social relationship with us (by providing feedback, praise, etc.), or they convey compelling experiences. (In his more recent work on Facebook as a persuasive technology, he puts additional emphasis on the ability of digital technology to connect humans to persuade each other - though the wording „social space“ is my own).
  138. Method Cards Stephen P. Anderson says he‘s currently working on a set of „method cards“ for the different tactics of seducing users. Though as of today (June 2009), nothing is public yet - apart from this gorgeous presentation:
  139. Persu asive not even alph a! Pattern Library As for myself, I keep a huge mindmap that shall eventually become an online pattern library. (Whoever wants to join is cordially invited: sebastian /ät/ dings /dot/ cc ^_^).
  140. Design With Intent Toolkit Currently, the best and most mature taxonomy and method I know of is Dan Lockton‘s „Design With Intent Toolkit“ - a must- read, as is his blog „Architectures of Control“:
  141. Mind Control? I‘d like to close with the question of ethics: Usability ultimately serves the user, persuasive design „manipulates“ users: Isn‘t that unethical? The usual ethical standards are to avoid deception and outright coercion (the user should always be able to choose and consent), and to make your own intentions transparent.
  142. „You cannot not communicate.“ Paul Watzlawik Metacommunicative Axiom But then again, just as we cannot not communicate ....
  143. „You cannot not ------------ communicate.“ influence Paul Watzlawik Metacommunicative Axiom ----------- persuasive ... we cannot not influence other people. The moment we interact with anyone, we also, by the nature of social interaction, affect them. So the ethical question is not whether we persuade or not, but (a) how we do it, (b) with which intentions, and (c) to what effect?
  144. Wha t the desi gne inte r nde d And finally, we should never forget that there will always be a world of difference between our intentions as a designer ...
  145. Wha t the user s did ... and the uses people invent for our creations.
  146. Some Online Resources ★ Dan Lockton‘s blog: http:// ★ Fogg‘s Captology laboratory @ Stanford University: ★ Google Group Design and Behaviour: http:// ★ The most important conference on the subject, the annual „Persuasive“:
  147. Books to read ★ B. J. Fogg (2003): Persuasive Technology. Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do. ★ Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein (2008): Nudge. Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. ★ Joshua Porter (2008): Designing for the Social Web. ★ Dan Arielly (2008): Predictably Irrational. The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. ★ Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner (2006): Freakonomics. A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. ★ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. ★ Raph Koster (2005): A Theory of Fun for Game Design.
  148. For the sake of completeness (yet not really recommended) ★ Andrew Chak (2003): Submit Now. Designing Persuasive Web Sites. http:// ★ Bryan Eisenberg, Jeffrey Eisenberg (2005): Call To Action. Secret Formulas to Improve Online Results. ★ Bryan Eisenberg, Jeffrey Eisenberg (2005): Waiting for Your Cat to Bark? Persuading Customers When They Ignore Marketing. ★ Susan M Weinschenk (2008): Neuro Web Design. What Makes Them Click? ★ Mark Lindstrom (2008): Buyology. Truth and Lies About Why We Buy. http://
  149. Q&A: sebastian ät Follow me: @dingstweets Licensed under: Creative Commons by-nc/3.0