Five Things You Need to Encourage Action: RefreshDC July 2013


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My RefreshDC July13 talk, drawing on Designing for Behavior Change, Chapter 2 (

"When you ask users to take action—from logging in, to clicking on a link, to exercising more—the application or website must pass five mental tests in a blink of an eye. If it fails any one of them, the user will get distracted or discouraged and you’ll lose them.

This presentation provides practical guidelines for designing intentional action into a product, building on research in behavioral economics and psychology and the practical experiences of HelloWallet.

You already know how to make your products beautiful, engaging, and usable. This talk is about making them effective at supporting users to take action."

Builds on Dual Process Theory, Fogg's Behavior Model, and various bits of Behavioral Econ to give a checklist for product designers trying to support specific actions (from logging in to exercising).

Published in: Technology, Self Improvement
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  • Providing Value doesn’t mean
  • Break the action up into small, manageable stepsBuild up the users’ confidence Give clear feedbackMake it clear what to do physically, specificallyLook for ways to cheat, and look for habit loops.Question: What sequence of actions will help users exercise?
  • Motivate – why should they act?Trigger – actually ASK them to act. Identify and neutralize competing motivations & triggers Question: What’s in the users’ environment, for each step? Write out the story: why act, why now, and why not do something else?
  • Educate? Only if necessary. Usually wastedHook into prior positive associations & experiencesDevelop a self-narrative that the user will succeed Question: How do you prepare the user to act, for each step of the progression?
  • Five Things You Need to Encourage Action: RefreshDC July 2013

    1. 1. Steve Wendel Principal Scientist, HelloWallet Author, @sawendel at 18 July 2013 you need for users to take action
    2. 2. To What’s required for people to take action? From To Every person and every action we take is unique. But the mind still has to go through a similar process.
    3. 3. My day job
    4. 4. Where we ended up at HelloWallet
    5. 5. I’m here to listen.
    6. 6. What’s coming up The five stages of processing before users act Exercise How to improve your users’ likelihood of voluntary action Exercise
    7. 7. So, what happens before action? Conscious actions must pass through these stages: Cue? Reaction? Evaluation? Ability? Timeliness? All yeses? Execute. All five must occur at the same time. Think of them as a checklist for product design.
    8. 8. For example Start with 100 people. All of them WANT to save money for the future. Why would they create an account, log into HelloWallet, and actually do it?
    9. 9. Step 1: Detect A Cue The idea has to cross their minds. Of Logging In. Of Exercising. Of Anything.
    10. 10. Step 1: Detect A Cue For example: or How does your product cue users? To log in? To take action within the product?
    11. 11. Step 2: React Intuitively, Emotionally or We can’t help having an immediate, intuitive reaction. Products that are unpleasant or ugly or are associated with painful things aren’t used (as much).
    12. 12. Step 2: React Intuitively, Emotionally For example: vs.
    13. 13. Step 3: Conscious Evaluation Costs and Benefits. Expected Value. Expected Pain.
    14. 14. Step 3: Conscious Evaluation For example:
    15. 15. Step 4: Ability Does the user know what to do? Can the user do it? Does the user believe it?
    16. 16. Step 4: Ability For example:
    17. 17. Step 5: Timeliness Is it urgent? What else is?
    18. 18. Step 5: Timeliness For example:
    19. 19. Exercise
    20. 20. Put them together It’s a funnel. With a nifty acronym. CREATE Action.
    21. 21. People fall off every step of the way Your action competes with every other darned thing users could be doing.
    22. 22. 3 strategies to pass the funnel Conscious choice. Build a habit. Cheat.
    23. 23. 3 strategies to pass the funnel: Cheating
    24. 24. Step 1: How To Cue Get in peoples’ line of sight. Become part of the environment. Become part of routines. Hook into stuff people already attend to. Avoid crowded places (like email).
    25. 25. Step 2: How to pass the emotional test Don’t be ugly. Tailor to their prior experiences. Build on related, positive experiences. Remember, users learn: the action has to actually be pleasant.
    26. 26. Step 3: How to pass the conscious test You know this story already.
    27. 27. Step 4: How to pass the ability test Show them how. Make them confident. Or, cheat.
    28. 28. Step 5: How to pass the timeliness test Make it urgent. Make it specific. Ask users to pre-commit. You lookin’ at me?
    29. 29. And, to recap: Conscious actions must pass these stages (CREATE): Cue? Reaction? Evaluation? Ability? Timeliness? Execute. All five must occur at the same time. Our products enable or hinder action at each stage. Do it intentionally.
    30. 30. Exercise
    31. 31. And that’s it for now. • Comments! Feedback! • Check out for 200 pages of step-by-step info. I can send you a draft, too. • We have a monthly Meetup on product-mediated, beneficial behavior change. at • Contact me any time at [steve]
    32. 32. Steve Wendel @sawendel Thanks
    34. 34. The overall process
    35. 35. Our Goal: Develop a story How users progress from just starting out to success Customer experience map by Mel Edwards,
    36. 36. Build the story in 3 steps 1. Structure the Action 2. Construct the Environment 3. Prepare the User This breaks the design process up: to make it manageable, to force attention to the non-obvious.
    37. 37. Structure the Action: Break down hard problems Take the garden path. Make each step is pleasant. Straightforward. “Easy”. Tailor it to their prior experiences. Skip ahead where possible.
    38. 38. Construct the environment to support action Grab the user’s attention. Make sure the motivation is clear. Provide urgency. Remove distractions.
    39. 39. Prepare the user Help users see and tell the story of their successes. Build on related, positive experiences. Educate users about how to do take action.
    40. 40. The goal: lock it in & move on. Just get it done. Make it a habit. Fully automate it. Automate tracking, and grab attention where needed.