The Art of Designing for Behavior Change (Preview)

Whether they are explicit about it or not, most designers ultimately want to create something that sparks change.

By Amy Bucher, Ph.D., Vice President of Behavior Change Design, Mad*Pow

Maybe the change is as small as having people consider a new perspective after interacting with an exhibit about a historical event. Maybe it’s a one-time action, like making an appointment for a colonoscopy the week after turning 50 years old after receiving an automated phone call from a health insurance plan. Or it could be an ongoing new behavior, like making a meatless dinner part of the family’s weekly routine with the help of a meal-planning app.

Yet, over and over, designers get focused on more immediate success metrics. How many people are downloading this app? Visiting this website? Interacting with this exhibit? They reach for tools designed to “nudge” users into quick actions, and for some outcomes, those tools are enough.

However, many of the most significant problems designers hope to solve call for more than a one-time action on the part of the people who encounter the design. Take 401k enrollment as an example, where opt-out choice architecture can dramatically increase the percentage of people opening a retirement plan. People who are nudged into opening a plan are likely to invest only at the default level and ultimately save less than people who enroll with a more deliberate set of financial goals.

For the types of behavior change challenges that require people to opt in over and over, a more robust intervention approach is required. Enter motivational design….

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From Design Museum Magazine Issue 017