Action Design UXCampDC 2013


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I give an overview of the research on behavioral change, then describe how to design products that help people change their behavior (to get in shape, save money, change habits, etc). Presentation on Action Design at UXCamp DC, 5 Jan 2013.

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Action Design UXCampDC 2013

  1. ACTION DESIGNDeveloping products that change people’s behaviorvoluntarily & transparentlySteve WendelPrincipal Scientist, HelloWallet@sawendelInformal Talk at UXCamp DC, 5 Jan 13
  2. WHO IS THIS GUY?Behavioral Social Scientist, working with UX & product folks,to design software products that change people’s behavior(voluntarily & transparently).We’re codifying a method on how to do it called:ACTION DESIGNIt’s Behavioral Research + UX Design + Qual. & analysis.This is the first time we’ve talked about the details of ActionDesign. And I’m asking for your help.
  3. Where we started out:OODLES OF BEHAVIORAL RESEARCH • Two UX methods (Persuasive Design & Behavioral Economics & Designing with Intent) already seek to change Psychology behavior. • But the recent & massive growth in research on behavior change hasn’t been applied to UX yet Product (e.g., Loss Aversion, Attention effects) Qualitative & Development, Quantitative Persuasive • Action Design makes this literature real and Data Analysis Design, UX useful for UX and product people: • Pulling in the latest behavioral research • Measuring causal impact, to show the ROI from solid designs for users, clients & product managers ACTION DESIGN • Integrating UX and product expertise, to ensure the resulting products are still cool and interesting
  4. ACTION DESIGN• Traditional product design is about building good products: products that people love using• Action Design is about building products that are also effective at helping people change their behavior, and do things they want to do, but havent been able to do before: • getting back in shape • paying off credit card debts • volunteering for a political campaign • …• It’s not • Coercion (no tricks, no forcing people to act) • Persuasion (it assumes people want to act; opt-in) Images: Clocky the rolling clock; Nike+ FuelBand; Livestrong MyQuit (Smoking) Coach
  5. HOW IT WORKS• The full process: • Prepare: know your users and your behavioral goal • Design: design the application to engender action • Implement: convert the design into tested code • Measure: run experiments & models to gauge impact • Learn & Repeat: iteratively improve• The “Design” part is one of the five steps. It’s the most relevant here, and I’ll focus on that.
  6. HOW WE DECIDE WHAT TO DO NEXT1. We have two independent systems for decision making = Dual Process Theory = The Rider and the Elephant Image from Metaphor from J. Haidt (2006) & the Buddha (~500 B.C.)2. We’ve known this for a long time. Now there’s solid research showing, specifically, how the two systems work.
  7. …HOW WE DECIDE WHAT TO DO NEXT1. Most of the time, we’re not actually “choosing” what to do. We’re using habits, intuitive (automatic, blazingly fast) responses, and cognitive shortcuts.2. Habits drive unconscious behavior in predictable ways. Habits = Cue + Routine + Reward Image From Duhigg (2012) The Power of Habit
  8. …HOW WE DECIDE WHAT TO DO NEXT3. Our intuitive minds hate work. There are HUNDREDS of cognitive shortcuts it applies to avoid work. But, most importantly, when faced with a difficult problem, we substitute it for a simpler one, and answer that instead. For example: Question: “How do you figure out which speakers to trust?” Conscious Mind: “Look up their backgrounds and prior history?” Intuitive Mind: “Ug. That’s work. I’ll look for who’s best dressed and the tallest.”* Me: “Ah, Damn!”4. … And lots more…. But let’s skip to how to apply it.* Yes, there’s lots of research that our intuitive minds do exactly that.
  9. THE “DESIGN” PART OF ACTION DESIGNFirst, pick the core behavioral strategy:1. Cheat. Don’t make the user do work at all.2. Build habits. Cue + Routine + Reward3. Help users make the choice, consciously. If you must…I’ll use a running example: Larklife Exercise Band & App
  10. AN ODE TO CHEATINGIf you want to help someone take action,the best designs remove the need for them to.Option 1: Set a default option that’s good for the user,then let users change it if they want to.Example: “Easy Mode” on fancy cameras;401(k) auto-enrollment in new-employee software.Option 2: Make it a side effect of something they’re already doing.Example: Adding iron to flour; lotteries & education funding (sort of).Option 3: Automate it, behind the scenesExample: Paycheck deduction;Automatic tracking of exercise (Larklife, FuelBand, FitBit, etc.)The result: measurable, proven design impact, with little user work.
  11. BUILD HABITSHabits save the conscious mind from doing work.They also have the benefit that once started, they are difficult to stop.1. Lots of people talk about Gamification (badges, leader boards, etc.). Ok. It is one option, but there are lots of others to build habits.2. Identify a clear trigger (time of day, or event in life), routine (something to do unconsciously), and reward (random rewards especially effective for long term stuff) Example: Larklife app provides time-of-day cues and feel-good rewards for exercise & good eating (the routines).3. Defeat old habits by avoiding the trigger, or substituting a different routine with the same reward. Example: Stop walking by that donut shop, already!See, especially, The Power of Habit (Duhigg),
  12. A CONSCIOUS CHOICE TO ACT, PART 1Structure the Action itself 1. Break the action up into small, manageable steps. Image from 2. Each should build up the users’ confidence & expectation of reward 3. Each gives clear feedback when the step is done 4. Make it easy to convey what to do physically, specificallyExample: Larklife sets daily exercise targets, w/ increasingdifficulty.
  13. A CONSCIOUS CHOICE TO ACT, PART 2Construct the environment for success1. Motivate – why should they act at each step?2. Facilitate – make it easy. Make users believe they will succeed.3. Trigger – actually ASK them to act, with Kairos. Kairos, Greek God4. Identify and neutralize competing of the opportune moment Image from motivations & triggers5. This is very similar to Fogg’s M-A-T model, but with more guidance on design part.Example: Larklife can’t automate diet tracking, so it makes it easy andtriggers user to enter data at lunch time.
  14. A CONSCIOUS CHOICE TO ACT, PART 3Prepare the individual for action1. Educate. Only if necessary. Most effort here is wasted.2. Hook into prior positive associations & experiences3. Develop a self-narrative that the user with succeedExample: Students that are prompted to see themselves ashardworkers, actually become hardworkers.(After scientifically controlling for everything under the sun).
  15. FROM A PLAN TO A BEAUTIFUL PRODUCT• A behavioral plan is not a product. It’s a design consideration.• UX experts must be free to innovate & find creative, beautiful ways to accomplish the plan (& keep users engaged overall).• When there’s a product design ready, then start thinking about behavior again. Look especially for: • Loss aversion. Fear of loss ≈ 2x joy of gain • Implementation intentions, concrete physical goals. • Temporal Myopia. Make it about them, about the present. • Vividness drives the real impact of promised rewards. • Use peer effects. We all believe we’re being judged. • … and many more tweaks you can apply…
  16. AND THAT’S IT FOR NOW.• Help, please. • What’s clear, what’s not clear? • How would this best help you, as designers? • What’s missing? • Who else is doing cool relevant stuff?• We’ve formed a new Meetup for products-that-change-behavior practitioners. See The next meetup, Jan 15th 6:30pm, is about how LivingSocial is increasingly focusing on behavior change.• Contact me anytime at or @sawendel
  17. ThanksSteve