Behavioral Design Models

4. Target Behaviors Definition

"My kingdom for a horse!." This model will help you determine who is getting the better deal of your product and prioritize those behaviors you will have to put your effort into designing for.
"My kingdom for a horse!." This model will help you determine who is getting the better deal of your product and prioritize those behaviors you will have to put your effort into designing for.
  1. List all known actors in a row.
  2. List all behaviors that show value to each actor in a column.
  3. Order the behaviors in descending order according to the value they provide to the user. Follow the order defined by the ERG theory of needs.
  4. Reorder the actors in ascending order of value they receive from the product (the one that gets the least value first).
  5. Numerate the behaviors from in the resulting table, from left to right and top to bottom.
  6. The resulting list is the order of target behaviors to tackle.

So far, we have identified the growth, nutrition, and reproduction behaviors required for your product. We have ensured that they make the product ecosystem viable by checking that they provide value to each actor. Without one of these behaviors, the product would not work by itself.

Throughout this process, your development priorities have probably changed; issues that did not seem relevant have risen in importance from this perspective. It is usual for these priorities to continue to evolve. The objective of this model is to find some certainties in this regard, order your goals so that you set a course in an ever-shifting ocean.

By this point, we should have three unsorted lists resulting from updating the first model with the behaviors found in model Model #3 -Type of needs . These are the Target Behaviors of our product. Our goal as product designers is for these behaviors to happen. So why prioritize a list of essential behaviors? Unfortunately, throughout product development, situations often create the illusion that a part of the project is more critical than it is.

An example of these illusions is the bicycle parking effect, described by C. Northcote Parkinson. Parkinson noted that a nuclear plant design committee spent disproportionately more time discussing trivial matters, such as bicycle parking supplies, than addressing the plans for the nuclear plant itself. They preferred to treat the simple task in length and differed from attending to the challenging issues.

The example is generalized in Parkinson's law which states that "The time spent on any aspect of the agenda will be inversely proportional to the amount [of money] involved." A nuclear reactor is a complex object, which requires a lot of information, so the committee participants assume that the experts' recommendations are correct. On the other hand, bicycle parking is where the participants feel more secure giving their opinion and trying to establish their convictions in the project.

In my experience, the most common of these illusions is to consider that some functionality is the only reason why the product is not a success. It leads teams to focus on specific functionality, which generates value only for some actors and neglects others fundamental to its success.

To avoid these illusions, we need an objective way to establish the importance of each of these behaviors that we want to generate. How much of our time and effort we will dedicate.

We have been working under the assumption that a product is a life-like thing. For life, the first necessity is to grow. A product that does not grow in a user, those that fail to show users value, does not have the opportunity to add value regularly and has even fewer chances to be recommended. Therefore, first and foremost, the product must be used for the first time by the user. A seed grows before it can sustain itself, and only when it matures and has excess energy, it reproduces.

That is the reason why free trials are successful. When a product can show its value regularly, this is the best possible adoption strategy. If you can significantly lower the user's effort in the Growing stage and show value later, your product will succeed. Many companies spend the vast majority of their initial capital on this type of strategy. Even when most products cannot afford this luxury, it should not change the fact that most of the investment should be made at this stage.

Objective behaviors categorized as "Grow" should, in principle, have a higher priority. The behaviors in Nurture take precedence over those listed in Play because if your product shows value periodically to a user, they will usually take care of reproducing it, even when you have not designed anything for this to happen. As they say in Jurassic Park, despite the dinosaurs being sterile: "life finds a way."

life finds a way

The diagram constructed in models Model #2 -Actors Requirements and Model #3 -Type of needs will be helpful to prioritize within lists. *For some actors, the value is evident, and the effort is minimal; for others, not so much. The objective is to prioritize the actor which the product is providing less value.*

Value depends on context. We know that resolving survival needs is a must if the user doesn't have it covered, but it could be of little value to those who do. In turn, Relationships and Personal Growth needs are valuable when the survivorship aspect is covered.

"My kingdom for a horse!" - Richard III

The model

Make a list for each actor and rank each target behavior according to its value received relative to the actor context. There is no need to quantify value; the objective here is to create an orderly list. Remember that we already defined Grow behavior as precedence over Nurture and Reproduction, so you need to qualify them within categories.

The last step is to combine the lists into a single target behavior list to rule the MVP development. For this, we will rank actors according to (you guessed it) the value they receive. The objective behaviors of the actor that gets the least value are a priority because they are the ones we must devote more attention to, the weakest point of the value offer. But, it is also vital that each actor gets something out of the platform or won't engage, so we need to plan for them. Therefore, we cannot focus on just one actor.

Model 4 - Empty

Take the behavior that provides the most value of the user that gets less out of the platform. Then continue with the next actor in the "get least value" and select their most valuable behavior, and so on. In the end, you should have a prioritized list of Target Behaviors. This list helps you focus on designing value for users we need but are not easy to engage.

There are still some more optimizations you can perform. There may be duplicate behaviors; different actors may need to do the same thing. In this case, that behavior becomes a priority (we cover two actors with the same effort), so we place it at the beginning of the list. It is also likely that there are behaviors that we cannot realistically affect with our product, it is good to know that they exist, but we must rule them out of our prioritization for design.

Model 4 - Example

Finally, Draw a line under the last nutrition behavior. The behaviors above the line are necessarily part of our MVP.