Bureau Blank

Ideas + Execution

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persuasive technology

A framework for understanding behavior change

Persuasive technology. Behavior design. Captology. Sounds more like science than strategy but don’t let the buzz words scare you off. Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab’s Behavior Design Change Boot Camp is about to wrap its last session for 2013.

Even though it is about machines designed to influence human beliefs and behaviors, the research coming out of Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab is more practical than the nomenclature lets on. I wanted to share some of the articles, models and research we leverage when developing technology intended to change behavior and why we use it.

We’re not making machines but the digital experiences we’re building here at Bureau Blank are grounded in BJ Fogg's most recent research. Why?

A website is not enough.

What makes our work so exciting is that clients don’t come to us for a website: clients come to us for a solution. We collaborate with clients to find what is going to actively change their situation, overcome the unique challenges and make a sincere contribution to the bigger objective at hand. We need coordinated behavior in order to make a difference. Solutions like this require audiences to do something or perform what’s called a target behavior.

Moving an audience to understand data, share something or participate in the story is what makes the difference between a digital experience that solves the problem and one that collects internet dust. Understanding what it is about technologies that persuade, what fails and why is critical for creating successful and delightful digital experiences, and it’s imperative for our clients to understand what works so we can learn more and adjust the experience over time.

For example we conceptualized and prototyped a web app called On Track for the NYC DCA’s Office and Office of Financial Empowerment to help their clients with self-directed everyday commitment and visualization of their own future success. On Track is a proprietary, goal-oriented app that allows OFE clients to set monetary goals, visually track progress, and share their success with others. The Behavior Model Paper by BJ Fogg breaks down the elements of arriving at a target behavior below:

  • Ability: how simple it is for a person to do something (what makes something simple is different for each individual)

  • Triggers: what tells people to perform a behavior now

  • Motivation: what inspires people to do something

  • Timing: when ability, motivation and trigger come together

Every digital experience–whether it is a native app or a website–has the opportunity to be persuasive and ultimately shape behavior, and the resources below are a few of the ones we find helpful.

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