What sort of behaviour?

The different patterns (initially just those featured on the poster) have each been given a badge (or two) showing whether they have the effect of enabling, motivating, or constraining user behaviour:

Enabling behaviour

Enabling behaviour
Enabling ‘desirable’ behaviour by making it easier for the user than the alternatives

Motivating behaviour

Motivating behaviour
Motivating users to change behaviour by education, incentives and changing attitudes

Constraining behaviour

Constraining behaviour
Constraining users to ‘desirable’ behaviour by making alternatives difficult or impossible

This way of classifying the patterns can be useful to think about when you’re coming up with concepts and evaluating them. What are you trying to achieve in terms of influencing behaviour? How would you react, as a user, faced with the design? Would it influence your behaviour? Why?

Much work in Persuasive Technology has taken the approach of motivating behaviour, with attitude change usually a precursor, but BJ Fogg’s reduction and tunnelling (Fogg, 2003) are arguably also about enabling particular behaviours by making them simpler (see also Maeda, 2006). Buckminster Fuller’s ‘trimtab’ concept–“modify[ing] the environment in such a way as to get man moving in preferred directions” (Krausse & Lichtenstein, 2001)–also accords with the enabling approach and provides a link to the wider field of design for social benefit. Human factors strategies aimed at influencing behaviour in a health and safety context often employ a constraining approach.

The approach used in practice–and hence the patterns and concepts chosen for further development–may, of course, be dictated by the client or other stakeholders rather than being the designer’s decision.

P.S. If you can come up with better icons (the ‘Constraining’ one does look rather intestinal), or your own classifications, please do let us know in the comments below…

Next: the patterns

Architectural lens

Errorproofing lens

Persuasive lens

Visual lens

Cognitive lens

Security lens

The Design with Intent Toolkit v0.9 by Dan Lockton, David Harrison and Neville A. Stanton
Introduction | Behaviour | Architectural lens | Errorproofing lens | Persuasive lens | Visual lens | Cognitive lens | Security lens



  1. Your set of primitives resemble the concepts of “force dynamics” that I was influenced by when I did my Ph.D. in cognitive science. A brief description is in the Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Force_Dynamics

    If this is interesting for you, please contact me via email, and I’ll explain further.

    Whatever formal notation you choose I think this is really interesting research.

  2. Great site Dan. I’ve just started to dig through your material, it’s really inspiring. RE: The above taxonomy

    Enabling = Carrot
    Constraining = Stick
    Motivating = Carroty stick


  3. Dan

    Thanks Simon & Nick.
    Simon – I’ll be in touch.

    I like the idea of the carroty stick! I think I’d say that while a stick fits well with constraining, the carrot would be better for motivating than enabling. I don’t know where enabling would fit in the donkey-control framework!

    But these are only ideas. Enabling / motivating / constraining might not be the best way to split it up anyway. Chris Vanstone (formerly of the Design Council’s RED) used the scheme “stick, carrot, speedometer” which I tried to explore a bit in this post a couple of years ago, though my thinking’s evolved a bit since then.

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  9. Josh W

    Carrot, stick and speedometers are all motivations; as you make a choice I send you information that biases your decision; speedos make the decision clearer, and carrots and sticks adjust the results of the decision by adding new conditions.

    Constraining and enabling actually refer to adjusting the mechanics underlying the choice; a person in solitary confinement gives up stealing not because of the penalty, but because it is really hard! Enabling would mean that he generally doesn’t steal because people give him food if he asks for it. It is about interfering with the possibilities in the choice itself, and requires you to dig under the person you are dealing with and change the ground he works on, easiest in online situations like MMORPGS or forums, but sometimes possible in heavily constructed social situations too.

    But beware of hacking; if the prisoner escapes, then the lack of penalty becomes a problem. In the same way, people can dig under your finely constructed economic system with their own black market. Succeeding at enabling requires you to be more in tune with the structure of the world than those you seek to regulate.

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