Changing behaviour by design

We explore how behavioural design can be applied to UX to create a successful digital customer experience.
Written by
Nichola Hudson
Published on
September 30, 2020
Changing behaviour by design

Our behaviours are shaped by the world around us and constantly change and adapt each day. Design, in turn, should reflect this. We explore how behavioural design can be applied to UX to create a successful digital customer experience.

Aren’t we all part designer?

From the earliest of ages our behaviours are constantly being moulded by others. From our parents giving us ‘the look’ to stop us from misbehaving to the whole process of learning how to explore the world (like using road crossings), humans are the product from years of our behaviours being designed.

As self-labelled designers, even if we don’t recognise it, we’re constantly trying to build on this history of learnt behaviours. Whether we’re designing adverts to help influence potential customers to buy our company’s product, or designing clothes which influence our fashion choices, the designer’s role is to, subtly, alter our behaviours. Unsurprisingly, the design of digital products and services is not any different in this regard. Every element on a screen is designed and placed to help influence ‘positive’ behaviours, for better and for worse.

This strain of design thinking is referred to as Behavioural Design: the application of behavioural science to the design of a product or service. To understand behavioural design then, we must understand behavioural science, which in turn means we need to understand a little more about human habits and behaviours.

To influence behaviour, we need to understand behaviour

Human behaviour flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge.

- Plato

It’s interesting that we’ve been discussing behaviours since the age of the Ancient Greeks. Throughout millennia, we’ve sought to understand how to influence behaviour to our own advantage. Our understanding of this knowledge has, understandably, improved since this point in time.

Behavioural studies have resulted in models of behaviour. One of our favourites is B J Fogg’s model that says for behaviour to occur, we need a trigger, the ability and the motivation. This helps us to understand what creates a behaviour and, by extension, how we can take these learnt behaviours, make them subconscious and morph them into a habit. By furthering our own understanding of which triggers, motivations and abilities fuse into user behaviours, we can manipulate our services and products to help form behaviours which help us deliver more customer success. The question which remains then, is how can we apply behavioural design specifically to digital design?

BJ Fogg's Behaviour Model
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How does Behavioural Design work in UX?

For any product or service to be a success, users have to actually use your creation. Conducting user interviews and undertaking user testing is one way to help designers create a user centric experience that customers are excited and delighted by. But adopting a behavioural design centric approach to UX will go even further in helping predict human behaviour which will give you, and your customers, a better outcome.

But like anything, wanting to adopt a behavioural design centric approach and truly starting one are two separate challenges. We always find that starting with mapping out the customer journey is the best entry point when taking this approach. Through creating a visualisation of your key customer journeys over time we can help identify the entire end to end experience we need to consider. Mapping these journeys will identify the key touchpoints within a customer experience and what emotions they feel along the way.

For example, services such as Deliveroo will map from the first pang of hunger through to the moment of satisfaction as you smell your cheat night dinner. Each point in this experience will contain motivations, abilities and triggers which help form habits that can help your digital experience grow. If you’re interested in this then you can check out our article on why UX and understanding the journey is paramount to web design.

Customer journeys give us a springboard from which we can jump into a world of behaviour led design. Let’s revisit our Deliveroo example. Through mapping out our customer journeys, we’ve identified that a key moment in that journey is when a customer decides they’re hungry. If we apply the Fogg model to this part of the journey, we can see that we have a clear motivation; our customer is hungry, and they want food, and fast. Now we know this motivation we can analyse our product offering at this point of the customer journey. We can confirm that the customer has the ability to order food: our product is functional, and the ordering system is up and running. But what about our triggers? Are we anticipating this motivation that someone is hungry and providing them with the adequate trigger?

For example, here we could anticipate that our users are most likely to be hungry between 5-8pm on the Friday after pay day (who doesn’t love a pay day curry?) and send a push notification to their phone to help trigger their motivation and create an action. We can even go a step further and marry behavioural driven design and data driven design to anticipate when our customers are most likely to be hungry through large data. Behavioural design does not have to act independently of other tools in our designer toolbox.

Artwork demonstrating human behaviour
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Through embedding this way of thinking we can critically analyse the whole customer experience and look at how our customers’ behaviours and motivations relate to opportunities and threats to our services. No longer are we simply looking at users as quantitative metrics through our analytics reports but, instead, we’re acknowledging their capacity as human beings to be motivated to make decisions. And we can capitalise on this knowledge. There are many methods which we can use to trigger these conversations and allow us greater insight into these motivations. But, most importantly, make it your primary way of interrogation. The best products and services out there are the ones that consistently ask the question of how their customers are using their product or service and why. What’s more, behavioural design can be extremely low cost, whilst making a considerable positive impact on your digital success.

But this can be difficult to achieve. Centring your approach around your customers’ behaviour sounds obvious, but it can be hard. You have to constantly challenge your biases as a team, and constantly evaluate whether you fully understand your customer. The pay-offs when you get this right though are, in our opinion, well worth the constant effort. Through choosing a behavioural driven approach you can reduce wasted effort, get more impactful results from your employees and, most importantly, create extremely happy customers.

If you’re thinking about how to improve your website’s user experience, get in touch today.

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