User Research Toolkit for Behavior Change Design

Over the last few years I've been spending a portion of my free time trying to formalize the intersection of my work in the behavioral sciences and user research. I have finally put together a presentation of this work, which has manifested in what I consider to be 3 new user research tools optimized for informing positive behavior change design:

1. Heuristics (and Biases) Evaluation - This is a nod to the all more famous Heuristics Evaluation, but instead of using the list set forth by Nielsen, we use a list of the most common and powerful cognitive biases and heuristics that affect human decision-making. This allows us to review any type of user flow (on-boarding process, email campaigns, etc.) and identify the biases and heuristics that purvey the content.

This helps us...

  1. Identify content that invokes biases and heuristics that either negatively or positively impact the targeted behavior.
  2. Provides concrete design suggestions for avoiding/promoting these biases and heuristics.

2. Literature review - Yes, I know, this is hardly novel for anyone who comes from academia, but it is surprisingly underutilized in user research. Furthermore, there are ways of conducting the literature review to narrow in on the correct psychological principals and terminology for the specific behavior that we hope to change.

This helps us... 

  1. Understand what we do and don't know about the interactions between the persona, environment, and targeted behaviors.
  2. Determine which behavioral change theory is best fit for this persona, environment, and particular behavior change we wish to positively motivate.

3. Applying Behavioral Change Theories - Once we have a sense of which behavioral change theories might apply to our persona, their environment, and the targeted behavior, we can test whether they actually do. I'll need to dedicate another post to describing the various methods we can use to do this. The cool part is that once we have an idea of which theory we would like to apply, we can begin translating this theory into an actionable design framework.

This helps us...

  1. Design with a focus on the persona and the behaviors we hope to motivate.
  2. Design based off of a framework that is substantiated through decades worth of peer-reviewed knowledge.

You can find more details regarding these tools in my presentation here:

If you liked this, free to download and share.

I am currently working on expanding this into an overarching behavior change strategy. More to come soon...