Emotional Design

Emotional Design is about designing products, services, and experiences to achieve specific emotional outcomes, usually positive. The bottom line is that emotions are a big part of our brain’s system for driving behavior. Most of the time, the reason people are trying to do something at all (including engaging in your product/service) is to improve their wellbeing. There are several really important reasons that designing for emotion is critical: Generally, achieving goals doesn’t create the emotional improvement we expected. (See “Stumbling on Happiness” by Daniel Gilbert.) Generally, it’s possible to greatly improve emotions without achieving any outward goals. Negative emotions consume people’s pool of willpower & patience with your product. This means that your product could be excellent at achieving it’s stated purpose, but still not feel great to use, which means people won’t use it much. In fact, I very often see products making design choices that actually negatively impact the user’s mood for no good reason. My favorite example is the feedback on form fields. Here’s a sample from Southwest.com: Here’s what drives me crazy about this feedback: I’ve simply forgotten to complete a form field, there’s not need to throw a fit: Don’t use tons of red. Red = police lights, stop signs, blood & errors on school papers. This is not a big deal. Don’t use exclamation marks – especially not two. This is not a big deal. Don’t invoke the triangle warning road-sign. There is nothing dangerous to warn me about. Don’t use interjections, like Oops (“meaningless words that express strong feelings”) especially in a giant, bold, red font with an exclamation mark. Don’t include intimidating...

Setback Recovery: The Missing Link of Behavior Design

If there is one truth about behavior change – it’s that you’re going to screw up. You’re supposed to screw up. That’s how you gain experience and figure out what works. However very few behavior change products design for ‘failure’. And when they do, they don’t do a very good job at it. Often teams put the setback recovery feature as a nice-to-have later. It’s not. It’s critical. Every single one of your users is going to go through a set-back. Some will self-recover. Most will just drop. As soon as your identify that a user is not following through effectively: 1. Stop Regular Triggers: These are beginning to suffer from trigger blindness or worse: negative trigger association. I think most behavior change products die when users begin to associate guilt with the products triggers. That leads to actively avoiding your product to avoid the pain. This is how my company GoalTribe died. 2. Re-engage with a new, surprising trigger  Your user has begun to ignore, or actively avoid, your normal cues for action, so you need to reach out with something new to get their attention. You might try dramatically varying the trigger language, graphics, sounds, colors etc.. Try reaching out through a different channel. Perhaps email or sms. At the extreme, you could trigger another user, or a live coach, to actually make a phone call. For email, consider classic email marketing techniques to get emails opened – generating curiosity is probably the most powerful technique: “Congratulations Robin!  You found it!”  — Congratulations? Found what? I better open the email to find out! 3. Normalize the experience: “Everyone faces...

Which Communication Channels Are You Forgetting About?

When you’re Behavior Designing a program, make sure you consider (and test) all the available communication channels. Sometimes a multi-channel plan is most appropriate. Sometimes the best channel is not the one you first thought of. Communication channels to consider: Email: A very popular & powerful choice. But it’s also a heavily loaded channel. Some (younger) demographics don’t use email at all. Micro-blogging platforms: Twitter and enterprise equivalents like Yammer, Jive & Chatter. These are not reliable triggers, but they can help build awareness & trigger quick responses (social support for example). SMS & mobile messaging: Very effective channels, but very protected. It’s a great privelage to be allowed to communicate with someone this way. Get permission & don’t abuse it. Instant Messaging: Google Hangouts, Skype Messenger, Slack etc.  Messages can get lost, but these are good channels for quick response triggers. Signage: For enterprise, organizations and events, promoting a campaign via signs around the facility can be very effective. Verbal Announcements: For enterprise, organizations and events, don’t forget to have prominent people provide motivation & triggers when speaking to an audience (including conference calls & video conferences). App Push Notification: If participants have an appropriate app installed, you may be able to push notifications to their phones. This channel is very effective, but spam is not tolerated, so use it wisely. Calendar Events: Sending a calendar invite to trigger a task in the future can be very effective within organizations with standardized calendaring. Of course it needs to be something that makes sense as a calender event. And you have to be able to identify a time that is...

3 Reasons New Year’s Resolutions Are Useless

As a behavior designer, I have clients wanting to launch behavior change projects around New Year’s resolutions all the time. Seems like a perfect fit, right? Wrong.   In my opinion, the New Years is a terrible time to try to make behavior changes. Here’s why (plus how to make the most of New Year’s resolutions anyway). 1. The holidays demolish our routines New Year’s resolutions date back at least 4000 years. The Babylonians, Romans, and others made Resolutions to be better people in the new year. They also both celebrated the New Year much like we do. The problem is that taking a break from regular work, spending more time with family, doing special rituals, partying into the night, sleeping in, doing special ceremonies, eating different foods at irregular times all add up to a major disruption of your regular routine. New Year’s resolutions are almost entirely about developing or breaking habits, which is about making targeted adjustments to your daily/weekly routine – a routine you’ve just spent several weeks completely messing up. 2. The holidays leave us scrambling to get back on routine Now that you’ve totally screwed up your usual life routine with a wonderful few weeks of celebration, the beginning of the new year is a period of major re-entry shock. You’re actually re-establishing lot’s of good habits you had before December started. That takes a lot of effort and willpower. Why pick this time, out of all the weeks of the year, to try to add a brand new, difficult habit? Better to start a new habit once re-entry is complete. 3. The holidays devastate our willpower The Babylonians and...

The Reality / Narrative Gap

We humans are always trying to fit our experience into some kind of narrative that helps us make sense of things. Unfortunately, reality rarely (never?) has a nice, neat narrative. So we end up with gaps between reality, and the stories we tell ourselves about reality. I call this the “Reality / Narrative Gap”. This gap is tremendously important. The Reality / Narrative Gap can take any experience and make it terrifying or exhilarating, a heaven or hell, a triumph or a disaster. It all depends on the story we create about the experience. There are many professions that have great sway over the personal narratives we end up with. Authors, musicians, therapists, teachers, preachers, politicians, philosophers, movie-makers… and designers… have  tremendous potential to empower their audiences by facilitating more empowering, more uplifting, more beautiful personal narratives. As Tony Ventrice says, gamification is largely about taking a person’s behaviors and reflecting them back as a story of growth. Some say much of therapy can be summed up as taking a patient’s experience and helping them convert it into an empowering, optimistic story. What narrative do you intend to craft for your audience? Now do some research and find out what story they actually have. And what story did they have before they even encounter your design? Now how can you weave together everything in your design purview to provide an empowering Reality/Narrative Gap. Because there is always a gap. And if you let it go un-designed, you’re leaving one of your most powerful tools on the...