Posts tagged behavior
Admittedly, I am horrible at formally documenting my process, but I found these post it notes hiding under a stack of papers on my desk. Chances are I wrote them some time about January or February when I was planning out my initial prototype. While I had set out to design an easier and more sustainable way for people to save money, I ended up teaching myself and learning a lot about prototyping for behavior change— because lets be honest, saving money is not quite as attractive to people as spending it.
According to my post-its, here are the things I was thinking about as I started prototyping: (I’ve included a few thoughts and links to posts I have written in the interim to fill in gaps, insights, and findings.)
- Design for existing strengths not weaknesses I wrote about this before, but I think it is the one point that has been the driving force behind the majority of my design and prototype decisions, so I will say it again: The key to success is not in telling users to work harder at something they already suck at, but in giving them the tools to improve upon their existing strengths.
- Design for capabilities not limitations: We already feel so limited by what we can and can’t do with our money. Our options around saving are so limited that I found that some of my prototype participants didn’t even know what a savings goal was. They thought saving was something that was wrapped up in a 401K, home ownership or life insurance plan - all things that were inaccessible and irrelevant to their life experience and behaviors around money. They weren’t able to even fathom saving for something so huge - so they didn’t. And as a result, they didn’t save for anything else either. My design focused on setting short term goals - things that users felt like they could complete confidently and competently in a knowable amount of time. The framework was something they could wrap their heads around - it was something they felt capable of working towards and completing.
- Design for users’ lack of time It goes without saying that most mobile experiences should be designed around what Josh Clark calls “quick hits”: that is - Assume that interactions with the app are going to be wedged between all the other things we are doing in our day. Don’t have any delusions that people will actually want to engage whenever a notification comes through. The job of the designer is to make them want to engage and make that experience as simple as possible. “The best apps fold neatly into the fabric of a busy schedule… Get me there in a tap or two.” This means that the act of saving has to be quick. Easy. Effortless. In a nutshell, I had to make the act of saving as easy as swiping a credit card…. or easier.
- Design for users competing priorities This was a hard one to tackle because the priorities and behaviors that I was up against were pretty big. I have written about this elsewhere, but to summarize: I had to make saving money for something in the near future more attractive and pleasurable than spending money (and seeing immediate gain) in the present. The main way I have been thinking about this is to make the “saving” experience as positive as possible. If the one bad thing about making a purchase is feeling guilty about spending the money, I’d do the opposite. I’d make people feel like they were paying themselves. And everyone likes to wake up with some extra money in their pocket. I want my experience to feel like that.
- Be there for users when things start to break down: I had to figure out ways to anticipate even the most positive of actions breaking down. What happens when people fall off the wagon, so to speak? What happens when they get tired of making a daily contribution or realize they are actually saving too much and can’t sustain their day-to-day lifestyle? What happens then? As I worked through my prototype this past month I had to purposefully break interactions in order to find the best to build them back up.
- Make it as easy as possible to get people involved. This is obvious. Perhaps more than the actual contribution action, I’ve been putting a lot of time and energy into the onboarding process. At times it seems ancillary and I kick myself for not putting time into the other actions and potential features, but then I remember that in order to be involved you have to GET involved. So… moving on.
- Design for a trajectory of use rather than one time use. My prototype also addressed user over time. How long did I want people to be engaged? When do I give them breaks? How long is enough? How long is too long? I hate to beat a potentially dead horse, but a lot of my thinking around this was inspired from coaching and preparing competitive training programs for athletes. Change is only going to happen if you switch up the intensity, frequency and rest periods often so people don’t plateau or fatigue. The goal is always to be improving.
I recently watched Shlomo Benzarti’sTED Talk about behavioral finance and savings behaviors. It’s a great watch and affirming to some of the thinking I have been doing.
I’ve made a small chart that summarizes some of the stats that he gave about a representative sample of Americans’ savings behavior. Fascinating that only 11% of us have a 401K and use it effectively. That means 89% of people don’t have a sustainable way to save. eeg.
These past weeks I have been thinking systematically and strategically about what it means to prototype for behavior change. It is different that prototyping for usability in the fact that you are not just prototyping for what users do, but how and WHY they do it. This means carefully planning prototype interventions, anticipating user response, and simulating context as closely as possible. It has been an amazingly complex process - one where I have learned that even the smallest alteration in method can have astronomical effects on behavior, and perceptions. I will be working on fully and completely documenting all of my methods and findings, but the crux of it is represented in the feedback diagram below, which reads:
COST OVER TIME determines ACTION, which is influenced by MOTIVATION. Motivation is sustained by timely and relevant FEEDBACK, which provides VALUE to the user and encourages repeat ACTION.
The rest of the blog post will walk through some high level thinking around each of these areas.
Most importantly, I have learned that when prototyping for behavior change, it is essential to design for users’ perceptions of time. This first involves understanding what their perceptions of time are and how this thinking is manifested through users’ decision making around a particular behavior - in this case, savings behaviors.
Whether they realize it or not, people will most always weigh the immediate cost of an action against the long term value that that action will bring. Usually the immediate “cost” is a loss of present “gain.” In my particular case, this was a difficult point because my users’ perception of time is present-tense. They didn’t understand the idea of a “long term goal” or “future plan” because their “futures” are incredibly unstable. Because any notion they have of “the future” might change in an instant, planning or gleaning any long term value from it is, for them, an act of futility. You can begin to see why designing a new kind of “future-focused” savings product was going to require some social and tactical prototyping. However, I was able to structure my prototype in ways that met user needs and addressed their perceptions and assumptions rather than setting out to build the most efficient savings app from the start.
I tried to prototype in ways that would specifically motivate users in 5 key areas:
Intellectual, Emotional, Social, Technological, and Economic. i have outlined the desired user “before and after states” below. Economic is not included in the chart.
My prototype also began to address the issue of habit formation vs. fatigue. What is the difference between engaging with something because we want to and are used to doing it vs. engaging with something because we feel like we have to. The latter is exhausting and has no place in products that are meant to encourage behavior change. Which is exactly how I began to think about my prototype. How can my prototype encourage a new behavior BEFORE fatigue sets in? This requires anticipating where/when users will start to break down, and being able to provide feedback that is timely and appropriate to mitigate users’ decreasing motivation. I also tried to build in ways that motivation could be provided through normal social relationships rather than technology? Ultimatelt, the question that my experience has to answer is “How will my product anticipate these changes in behavior (positive and negative), acknowledge them, and provide ways for meaningful action?
The feedback loop diagrammed in the first image is the most concise way I could represent my thinking . It reads: COST OVER TIME determines ACTION, which is influenced by MOTIVATION. Motivation is sustained by timely and relevant FEEDBACK, which provides VALUE to the user and encourages repeat ACTION.
Grouped, by Paul Adams
The Effect of Language on Economic Behavior, by Keith Chen
Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next, Pew Research
I spent a bit of the afternoon reading about conversations.
I didn’t get very far before I was distracted by all the different voices in my head talking to each other, which reminded me that the most interesting conversations are oftentimes the ones you carry on with yourself. It also reminded me that these conversations are usually the most important, so here are some thoughts that have made their way into normal speech and onto the page:
As a designer and communicator, and as a person who is fascinated by the stories people tell, I love learning about the languages that people speak. I love their stories, am enthralled by their experiences and I am incredibly frustrated when I can’t have a conversation with someone simply (or not so simply) because I don’t know their language. Either I physically can’t form the sounds in my mouth and imbue them with a meaning that is comprehensible to the person sitting on the other side of the table - or my experiences are so different from theirs that, even with a common spoken language, I have few ways to understand the experiences or ideas they are trying to tell me about.
Conversations undeniably change the way we think about and interact with the people we engage with on a daily basis.They remind us that the real world - the one that is “out there” is different than the one we have created inside our heads and challenge us to find ways to bring the two closer together. I spent the majority of the past year traveling to places where people didn’t speak my language. It gave me a lot of time to talk to myself, but also afforded me huge opportunity to try and talk with people that I don’t understand. Not only because I literally can’t make out a single word they form on their lips - but also because they come from places and backgrounds that are completely foreign to me.
I love lists. I have most always loved lists, and chances are, I will love lists till the day I die. I have decided to save all of my to-do lists from grad school. The photo above shows a few lists on my desk from the past month or so. Top left: a list of thoughts for my “How-to” project. Top Right: A list of things to blog about. Bottom Left: To-do list for a couple of days at the end of September. Bottom Right: To-do list for last weekend. Here is an old blog post I wrote about lists and here are a few of the “if you do nothing else” lists.
(Originally published on October 22, 2010)
i have been working on a project these past three weeks that attempts to map and and create a functional specification of the life of Genghis Khan. Strangely, this is how my mind understands systems, strategies and behaviors.
With the help of Jack Weatherford’s book entitled, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, (which, by the way, if you haven’t read, you should), and some other sources, I’ve delved into the the life of this conquerer, trying to interpret not just what he did, but why and how he did it. I looked at cultural context, history, and identified the habits and motivations of the people who interacted with Genghis Khan. Finally I visualized different scenarios and created a flow chart that will tell you how likely you are to be killed if your city is conquered. Hint: if you are rich, and want to time travel back to the 13thc., be sure to leave your money behind. Here are some images from my specification and a few sentence introduction to my work:
Genghis Khan is arguably the most successful conquerer in human history. A brilliant tactician and strategic genius, Genghis Khan controlled an expansive empire by connecting disparate people, places and behaviors and by manipulating those connections to inspire loyalty among enemies and friends. By facilitating access between things that were once inaccessible, Genghis Khan ultimately changed the behaviors of entire civilizations.
(Originally published on October 22, 2010)