Behavior Modeling & Design, Information Technology, Interaction Design, Product Development, User Experience, User-centered Design

Behavior modeling – creating habits in users

In 2006,  Apple and Nike joined hands to develop Nike+iPod, that changed not only the way people listen to music on the move, but also the way they manage their fitness and in effect, their health and lifestyle. Just about the same time, Nintendo launched Wii, that changed the way people play games from being passive to an active, out-of-your-couch experience .  A decade ago, Google changed the way people navigated by shifting their focus from browsing to searching and now Facebook has changed the way people stay connected. All these products, beyond doubt, set out to change the behaviors of people who are motivated (I am not quite there yet:-) and are capable, if they are provided with the right resources.

           

You can change people’s behaviors

All the companies and products I mentioned above, proved that it is possible to use behavior modeling and design to effectively persuade people to do something positive. In this post and a few upcoming posts, I will touch upon how these companies and others have been successful in using the power of persuasion and behavior design. They have been effective not just in creating great products and services, but also in persuading and changing the behaviors of millions of customers and users, worldwide.  Let  us analyze and understand how they could do it and what really is the secret behind their success.  In doing this, I draw my insights from Prof. B.J.Fogg’s Behavior Model (a.k.a FBM) to explain the relationship among behavior, motivation, ability and triggers.  But first, let us understand persuasion and behaviors, in detail, in this post.

Persuasion as an art and science

Persuasion has been an art we have all been familiar with and it definitely is not new to us, human beings . Right from the time we are born and as we grow up into being professionals, we have been using different persuasive techniques to deal with family, friends, colleagues and customers. Marketers and advertisers,  through the ages, have been  successful in persuading us to look at, buy and use products and services. Its only recently that product companies have been looking at using persuasion and changing  customers’ behaviors through structured and proven methodologies. More recently product companies like Fit Bit and DailyFeats-Jawbone launched wearable devices that help track your movements and proactively suggest ways to improve your fitness and health. Both these devices have been designed to persuade people to change their behavior, from a passive to a more active lifestyle. The key here is they have been successful in implementing the Persuasion and design and develop products to help change behaviors in a pragmatic manner.

What is a behavior

We keep hearing about goals, needs, tasks and activities, being used in our professional and personal spheres.  Now you  might  be wondering how behaviors are different from these. Behaviors are perhaps more fundamentally ‘human’ and ingrained in us as human beings, than say, tasks or  activities. No wonder then that behaviors could be separated from the other superficial aspects, such as activities and tasks . This is how I look at behaviors and I am not taking this from any specific source or resource.  The personality of an individual can be dependent on both her attitude and behaviors. There are numerous theories suggesting ways to bring about attitude change. But as Prof. B.J.Fogg suggests, behaviors are better separated from attitudes for a clear definition and  a focused approach to behavior change. So, I will follow the same approach and focus merely on defining target behaviors and bringing about the desired changes in behaviors of people.

Creating habits, not just products

Behaviors can come in different shapes and sizes. You might want to classify behaviors into different types based on the longevity or  duration of their  occurrence.

  1. Get people engaged in a one-time behavior  Eg., Replace all bulbs in house with eco-friendly energy-saving ones
  1. Do it over  some  duration or  for a defined period. Eg., Take bus/train to go to office, 3 days in a week
  1. Do it continuously over a long term, almost as a habit. Eg., Use hand-sanitizers to keep hands safe from viruses

It is in the last category, lies the interest of most organizations and products. Which company wouldn’t like to have   customers using their product on a continual basis? Or better still getting habituated to using the product to the extent of  forming an addiction.  Recent examples for this have been Google, Facebook and Twitter…all of them did implement this long term behavior change in a smart way by creating habits  in people, successfully. Google created searching as a habit by replacing it with the browsing navigation.  Facebook created the habit of  checking out what your friends are up to and sharing with your friends your recent escapades. Twitter provided a way for people to express and update their activities in a short sentence.  If you want to be successful in your business, then start looking beyond your product’s features and users’ needs. It is time, you looked at making positive behavioral changes to your users in different contexts.

      

Behaviors and their flavors

Behaviors can also be looked at from the perspective of what you like to do to them. Some times, you  may want to induce new behaviors, while in other instances, you want to change the existing behaviors – increase, decrease, or altogether  stop them.

  • New behaviors  can be imparted to people. Eg., flossing teeth is new, compared to brushing
  • Increase existing behaviors. Eg., Brush teeth twice a day, instead of once
  • Decrease existing behaviors. Eg. Take less quantity of fatty food during dinner
  • Stop existing behaviors. Eg., Stop  smoking (hmm…this is tricky:-)
Now that we have covered the basics of behaviors, we are now geared to get into the details. In the next posts, I shall explain, taking help from Prof.B.J.Fogg’s Behavior Model, how you can be more persuasive in designing and developing your products. Until then, ciao!

2 Comments

  1. Martin O'Donnell

    Fascinated by the way you defined the behaviors across one time to the long term habits. I have recommended the blog post to colleagues in the product marketing department in my company. Appreciate the high quality content and nice writing style.

  2. Daniel Mazorie

    I’m very impressed by this post, came to know a lot of interesting insights into behaviors. I am eager to know more about the actual process of making behavior change in customers. Keep it coming in the next few posts.

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