A lean guide to designing for behaviour change – Part 2


In Part 1 of A lean guide to designing for behaviour change, we covered how our mind works, discovering your user’s needs and examined the Fogg Behaviour Model using elements such as motivation, triggers and ability.

Step 3: Use strategies

designing for behaviour change
By Brandon Davis

1. Automate things

The easiest and best strategy is to eliminate the work required by the user. If we can automatically do things with their consent, then we should do it. We can use smart defaults, machine learning and tailoring.

Two solutions we can use:

  • Automate the action behind the scenes
  • Use smart defaults to reduce cognitive load

2. Make or change your user’s habits

The next most effective strategy is to use habits. We can avoid making the user work for an action and remove conscious effort. Identify a trigger and reward. These rewards need to be immediate. Habits are a powerful way to form repeated behaviours.

3. Support user’s conscious action

The last way to change behaviour is using conscious action. If either of the first two strategies are not available, then you must help the user consciously undertake the target action. This is the hardest.  

Step 4: Reward users

designing for behaviour change
By Vonecia Carswell

Jeffrey Nevid says, ‘motives are the ‘whys’ of behaviour — the needs or wants that drive behaviour and explain what we do. We don’t observe a motive; rather, we infer that one exists based on the behaviour we observe.’

Let’s look at two types of motivation.

Extrinsic motivation

“If I sign up to this product, I will receive some rewards in their loyalty program and get something free next time.”

These motives can come from family, professional environment, competitions, or contests. The motives of this sort encourage the person to deal with the outer world of other people as there is no other way to achieve the particular goals.

Intrinsic motivation

“If I buy this product, I can help disadvantaged people as some of my money goes to charity.”

Intrinsic motivation creates its own rewards, formed through the wishes and needs of the person. It has meaning. It is not a magic bullet, but intrinsic is the most powerful motivation to use.

Helping people focus on the meaning and impact of their work, rather than on, say, the financial returns it will bring, maybe the best way to improve not only the quality of their work but also–counterintuitive though it may seem–their financial success.

Amy Wrzesniewski  

If we want users to act, then we need to use their motivations. Using intrinsic motivations such as learning a new skill and the love of mastery is powerful. This is a reward in itself. These motivations if highlighted can turn into a worthwhile habit for the user.

Step 5: Choose the right actions

designing for behaviour change
By Steven Thompson

Develop job stories

Write out what goals and motivations the user has in achieving a task.

Generate a list of possible actions

List the specific behaviours we want the user to do. Who is doing it? What is the person trying to achieve?

Choose the best action

After a group discussion, select the best action based on job stories.

Structure the action

Close-up view of Apollo 11 Launch Operations Checklist

Neil Armstrong had hundreds of steps to go through to just to activate the system on Apollo 11, but most of us aren’t sending our product to the moon. Let’s not get bogged down with every possible action the user might do. This should be a simple flowchart or user journey. If the user has to take too many steps to get some real benefit, then we’ve blown it. Think about the sequence of real world steps a user needs to take to complete an action.  

  • Are these steps easy and intuitive to perform? 
  • Where are the pain points in each step?
  • Are they meaningful enough to reward after completion?
  • How does the user finish each action and how do they know? Is there any feedback do they get?

Design the environment

To support the action, create an appropriate environment.  

  • Ensure the environment motivates your users. That motivation is at the front of their minds. Use their existing intrinsic motivation if possible
  • Ensure users are ready to act now
  • Ensure users know they are succeeding or failing by giving them feedback
  • Avoid or co-opt other behaviours that are competing for their attention
  • Ideally, piggyback onto something they are already doing

In Part 3 of A lean guide to designing for behaviour change, we put what we’ve learned into practice.


  1. B.J. Fogg, Fogg Behavior Model
  2. Stephen Wendel, Designing for Behaviour Change
  3. Nikki Pfarr and Judith Gregory, Cognitive Biases and Design Research: Using insights from behavioral economics and cognitive psychology to re-evaluate design research methods
  4. Dan Lockton, Design, behaviour change and the Design with Intent toolkit: Theories and Practices of Designing for Change
  5. Jeffrey Nevid, Psychology: Concepts and applications
  6. Amy Wrzesniewski and Barry Schwartz, The Secret of Effective Motivation
  7. Nir Eyal, The Manipulation Matrix
  8. David Hall, Our hero: Storymapping the user experience

Cover photo by me.


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