Behavioral Design Models

3. Type of needs

To provide value is to solve a need or show the potential to do it. With this model, you will explore the different needs your product can help solve and understand how significant they are for your users.
To provide value is to solve a need or show the potential to do it. With this model, you will explore the different needs your product can help solve and understand how significant they are for your users.
  1. List your actors in a row
  2. Add a label for each of the ERG theory elements (Existence, Relationship, Growth)
  3. Link each actor with the type of need your product fulfills for them
  4. Update the first model with your findings!


Once you accounted for all roles and actors involved in your product and identified its necessities to succeed, you need to find out why anyone would do it. To do so, we need to know what makes each role tick. So let's talk about motivation.

Several psychologists have dedicated themselves to the study of needs. The most popular theory is "Maslow's pyramid" or, more technically, "the hierarchy of human needs," described by Andrew Maslow in 1943. For this model, we will use the "ERG theory" instead. A theory that derives from Maslow's work, developed by Clayton Alderfer in the late 1960s.

This theory reduces Maslow's model from five to three categories: Existence, Relationship, and Growth (Growth) and proposes modifications to the relationships between needs, expanding Maslow's hierarchical model. ERG resonates thematically with the concepts introduced in the first model, but it most importantly makes the model less complex.

"Existence needs" deals with basic needs to live (in Maslow: physiological and safety). A glass of water when you are thirsty or financial stability. It is all about what allows us to maintain our current existence.

"Relationship needs" are social needs (in Maslow: Love/Belonging and Esteem). As humans, we need to feel part of a group and feel valued by other people. "Relationship needs" appeal to our status desires.

Finally, "Growth needs" (in Maslow: Esteem and self-actualization) respond to that intrinsic need for personal development and to transcend.

ERG Theory

According to ERG theory, "existence needs" come first in importance for individuals who do not have them fully covered, then "relationship needs," and finally, at the top of the hierarchy are "growth needs." When higher hierarchical needs are not covered, individuals redouble their efforts in a lower category. For example, an individual who does not manage to feel part of a group will put his efforts into his survival needs.

It won't be easy to find value for all the actors. The product you envision has clear value for "the user," but all roles are not created equal. The purpose of exploring these categories is to allow us to look for the rewards of our product that are not obvious to the naked eye.

An employee who uses software because the company requires it and receives payment for performing that action (or would stop receiving it if he did not do so). Therefore, he is covering survival needs. Someone posting on social networks fulfills their relationship needs; is looking for a connection with others. A player trying for the tenth time a level, simply because it's fun to improve, has a "need for growth."

Consider the case of an office worker who must be serving the public 6 hours a day, with a 30-minute break for lunch. A new tool makes this employee's work simpler and more effective; she can now serve more people. But it does not increase her rest time nor salary, so the product does not add value for her; it does for the company.

That something is convenient or simpler to do, is not enough. Since convenience in itself, it does not generate value. However, it provides value if doing a task faster allows me to get more money or go for coffee with my colleagues.

The Model

For this model, we will reuse the one constructed for the previous step (link). The goal of this exercise is to relate actors and roles to a necessity in the ERG theory. So, in the bottom part of the diagram, add the labels existence, relationships, and Growth.

For each line that relates an actor and a role, we need to find a motivation. Or, to reframe it, discover how your product provides value to this actor by promising to solve one of the ERG model needs. Going back to the mantra defined in Model #1 - Product and Life, "Users must get more value out of the product than the effort they put in."

Model 3 - Empty

Link each actor with the type of need the product solves and list them under the need title. For example, is your aiding in solving an Existence need? Consider situations such as:

  • will make it easier to make money
  • will make them feel more secure
  • It will help them do what they already do, but better.

The same for Relationships.

  • Will it expand social connections
  • Will it make them feel part of a group
  • Will it make them feel loved

And for Growth:

  • Is there something to learn
  • Will it help the user transcend their lifetime

Remember that what matters most is the perceptions and not tangible realities. Theft insurance solves a need for existence; it provides safety. Even when it cannot prevent an act of theft or that the insured home ever gets broken in, the user feels reassured.

Model 3 - Example

Once you listed how your product provides value, go back to the model created in Model #1 - Product and Life. Compare your previous notes with these current needs and add the behaviors each user needs to perform to receive something from your product.