Behavioral Design Models

8. Features that Drive behaviors

How to design features to drive behavior? This model will introduce you to a new way of thinking of behavior design and classify your target behaviors in terms of their weakest elements.
How to design features to drive behavior? This model will introduce you to a new way of thinking of behavior design and classify your target behaviors in terms of their weakest elements.
  1. Go over each behavior and consider the most likely scenario
  2. Mark it Green if they don't realize they can do it (triggering issues)
  3. Mark it Red if they can't do it or it's hard to do (ability/friction)
  4. Mark it blue if they don't want to do it (lack of motivation)

We are finally ready to focus on a particular behavior and how to get people to do it. This model is the model you need to create for each behavior in the path of your target behaviors. So I've kept it simple.

Whenever you want to get somebody to do something, there are three scenarios:

  • They don't want to do it (lack of motivation)
  • They can't do it (ability/friction)
  • They don't realize they can do it (triggering issues)

These three dimensions shouldn't be considered as absolutes but as gradients. For example, I could not be motivated enough to go to the gym, but a gentle push can get me to go, or maybe there is no way in hell I'm returning to the gym, no matter how much money you are offering for me to do so. Each particular user will have their threshold to achieve for the behavior to happen.

Pre-product, it isn't easy to estimate what those thresholds are. After you collect some testing data, you will be able to gauge these realities better, but for now, we will have to use heuristics to focus our design.

The three dimensions I introduced earlier (motivation, ability, and triggering) are part of B.J Fogg's behavior model, a simple and effective way of looking at behaviors.

Fogg's model states that: "three elements must converge at the same moment for a behavior to occur: Motivation, Ability, and a Prompt. When a behavior does not occur, at least one of those three elements is missing." it also states that there is a threshold that the conjunction of motivation and ability must reach at the time of the prompt for the behavior to happen. And that threshold has this shape:

ERG Theory

So if at the time I see an ice cream truck (triggering) I'm having a sweet tooth (motivation) and got some extra money, the time to queue, and the truck is not that far away (ability), I will buy myself ice cream!

This model is a great way to explain what factors are in play when designing for behavior, and I strongly recommend you visit his page to know more. But how do we use it in our quest for an MVP? by now, you should guess my response, prioritize!

The most significant dimension is triggering. Without the user noticing the prompt, he doesn't even consider the behavior. In "models for triggering design," I will give you some tools to design triggers and how to get users to consider a behavior (even unconsciously)

Then we have to decide if motivation or ability. Counter to what your gut might tell you, we should consider ability first. The reason is relatively straightforward: it's easier for two different people to agree that something is difficult or expensive than to agree that it's fantastic or engaging. So designing to reduce friction (or boost ability) helps you target more people and get more of them closer to the activation threshold. Check out the models for friction reduction and learn some more.

Finally, let's talk motivation. Motivation is hard. Motivation is sexy, and everybody wants to know how to get people motivated. I have been talking about motivation since model Model #1 - Product and Life. In "Behavioral Design Motivation Models," I will help you navigate these waters, but you must first focus on the other two dimensions. There is no yearning for something you don't know exists, nor is there a way to take a weekend vacation to Mars, no matter how much you want it.

The Model

Pick three colors, one for each dimension. I use green (triggering), red (ability), and blue (motivation). Go over the list of behaviors and think which the most pressing questions are:

  • How/when would they notice? Would they understand what to do? (green)
  • Is it simple? can you ensure they have the resources needed? (red)
  • Will they want to do it? (blue)

Mark each behavior with the color, and if you marked it blue, I would recommend you double-check! Then open the corresponding model and brainstorm some solutions to that key question.