Category Archives: DwI Method


(introducing behavioural heuristics)

Some heuristics extracted by workshop participants

EDIT (April 2013): An article based on the ideas in this post has now been published in the International Journal of Design – which is open-access, so it’s free to read/share. The article refines some of the ideas in this post, using elements from CarbonCulture as examples, and linking it all to concepts from human factors, cybernetics and other fields.

There are lots of models of human behaviour, and as the design of systems becomes increasingly focused on people, modelling behaviour has become more important for designers. As Jon Froehlich, Leah Findlater and James Landay note, “even if it is not explicitly recognised, designers [necessarily] approach a problem with some model of human behaviour”, and, of course, “all models are wrong, but some are useful”. One of the points of the DwI toolkit (post-rationalised) was to try to give designers a few different models of human behaviour relevant to different situations, via pattern-like examples.

I’m not going to get into what models are ‘best’ / right / most predictive for designers’ use here. There are people doing that more clearly than I can; also, there’s more to say than I have time to do at present. What I am going to talk about is an approach which has emerged out of some of the ethnographic work I’ve been doing for the Empower project, working on CarbonCulture with More Associates, where asking users questions about how and why they behaved in certain ways with technology (in particular around energy-using systems) led to answers which were resolvable into something like rules: I’m talking about behavioural heuristics.
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Design with Intent toolkit 1.0 now online

Design with Intent cards

It’s been a long time coming, but a year after v.0.9, the new Design with Intent toolkit, DwI v.1.0, is ready. Officially titled Design with Intent: 101 Patterns for Influencing Behaviour Through Design, it’s in the form of 101 simple cards, each illustrating a particular ‘gambit‘ for influencing people’s interactions with products, services, environments, and each other, via the design of systems. They’re loosely grouped according to eight ‘lenses‘ bringing different disciplinary perspectives on behaviour change.

The cards (Download them here)
The intention is that the cards are useful at the idea generation stage of the design process, helping designers, clients and – perhaps most importantly – potential users themselves explore behaviour change concepts from a number of disciplines, and think about how they might relate to the problem at hand. Judging by the impact of earlier iterations, the cards could also be useful in stakeholder workshops, and design / technology / computer science education.
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Learning from game design: 11 gambits for influencing user behaviour

Games are great at engaging people for long periods of time, getting them involved, and, if we put it bluntly, influencing people’s behaviour through their very design. Something conspicuously missing from Design with Intent v.0.9 is a satisfactory treatment of the kinds of techniques for influencing user behaviour that can be derived from games and other ‘playful’ interactions. I hope to remedy this in DwI 1.0, so here’s a preview of the eleven patterns I’ve included in the new Ludic Lens on behaviour change: patterns drawn from games or modelled on more playful forms of influencing behaviour.

These aren’t original, by any means. People such as Amy Jo Kim (see her great presentation ‘Putting the fun in functional’), Sebastian Deterding, Francisco Inchauste, Jeremy Keith, Geke Ludden, and of course Ian Bogost have done work which explores this area from lots of different angles, and it also draws on decades of research in social psychology. Russell Davies’ Playful (which I really should have gone to!) looks like it was very pertinent here too. (Note, this lens doesn’t cover Game Theory-like patterns, some of which are indeed relevant to influencing user behaviour, but which I’ve chosen to group under a new ‘Machiavellian Lens’)

My main interest here is to extract the design techniques as very simple design patterns or ‘gambits’* that can be applied in other design situations outside games themselves, where designers would like to influence user behaviour (along with the other Design with Intent techniques). So these are (at least at present) presented simply as provocations: a “What if…?” question plus an example. The intention is that the card deck version will simply have what you see here, while the online version will have much more detail, references, links and reader/user-contributed examples and comments.

Challenges & targets, Santa Barbara beachChallenges & targets

What happens if you set people a challenge, or give them a target to reach through what they’re doing?

« Whoever laid out this coffee tub as a target for throwing coins knew a lot about influencing people to donate generously and enjoy it

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What’s happening with the toolkit (Part 2): Interaction design: how you can be part of it

Following on from part 1, here are a few of the ‘new’ design patterns that are going to be in v.0.95 of the Design with Intent toolkit, but for which I don’t yet have very good ‘design’ examples.

Any suggestions, or photos / screenshots would be very much appreciated, whether they’re your own projects, things you’ve come across elsewhere, or just ideas that occur to you. If you’re happy for me to use them in the toolkit (cards & wiki)* then of course you’ll get a credit and if your photo’s used, I’ll send you a pack of the cards when they’re done.

Remember, for each of these patterns, the idea is that it can be used intentionally to influence user behaviour, via the design of an interface, product, service, environment, or other kind of system.


Can you make elements look similar so users perceive them to share characteristics, or that they should be used together?

This – a Gestalt principle applied with the intent of influencing behaviour – seems like it should be an easy pattern to find examples for, but I’m struggling. The basic idea is that a design intentionally has some elements which look alike, or similar, or to be in a group, so that a user perceives them to share some properties or characteristics (and so acts accordingly – perhaps using two controls together).

In its most trivial sense, this is present everywhere in interaction and web design – the design of menus, groupings of controls, and so on, to suggest that those particular functions are related – but I’m finding it difficult to think of examples where there is a more explicit behaviour-influencing intent behind it. There are instances such as Adobe’s ‘Send to FedEx Kinko’s’ button (below left), styled and positioned in the toolbar as if it were a normal button, but actually propelling the user into a business transaction when pressed – or even the use of text ads and sponsored links in search engine results (below right), styled closely to resemble the main content, in the hope that users will perceive them to be of the same value, and hence click on them – but can anyone think of a more interesting example? Preferably one designed to help users rather than trick us into clicking on things we don’t necessarily want to?

Adobe Reader Send to FedEx Kinko's buttonSponsored text links

Mimicry & mirroring

Can your system mirror or mimic a user’s behaviour in some way, to increase the engagement a user feels?

Mirroring body language or speech patterns is often promoted as a technique for establishing rapport in pop-psychology advice, but are there examples where a similar idea has been (or could be) used in design to achieve a similar effect – engaging a user so he or she follows the advice or directions given, or responds more ‘in person’ towards the system (in a computers-as-social-actors context)? (Something like ELIZA (nice online version here) might count if it were specifically intended to influence a user’s behaviour (e.g., as a ‘therapist’), but mirroring / mimicry doesn’t seem to be the main mechanism there.)

Partial completion

Can you show that the first stage of a process has been completed already, to give users confidence to do the rest?

What I’m thinking of here are things like partly pre-filled application forms, which reduce the amount of effort a user needs to put in to proceed with applying for whatever it is (and, at least with credit card applications, must be a significant vector for fraud), but also exams or learning materials where there’s enough of a worked example actually to give users confidence (building perceived self-efficacy) that they can complete the rest successfully.

And, by extension, an interface of some kind which demonstrates this sort of technique in action would be a great example to include in the toolkit, but I can’t think of one. Can you?


What happens to user behaviour if your design gives users particular roles to play, or makes them feel that they’re someone else?

This is a pattern I noted down during Sebastian Deterding‘s talk at DiGRA 2009, in which he discussed applying some of Erving Goffman‘s work to game design. It seems intuitively effective as a way of influencing behaviour – e.g. a dad telling his young son “I’m appointing you the man of the house while I’m away” (to suggest that he should be well-behaved and look after his mum) or a police officer visiting a school and giving some children little police badges so they hopefully ‘take on’ whatever characteristics are associated with the role (taken to the extreme, perhaps, this sort of pattern can lead to the results found in the Stanford Prison Experiment).

But are there examples where this pattern has been used in the design of something – where users are given or assigned (or choose) a kind of role, which then (due to commitment & consistency biases) they stick to, and behave accordingly? Perhaps applying the role-playing aspects of games to a real-life interface or product or campaign? Tim Holley’s Tio project has the express aim of turning children into ‘energy champions’ for their families, so this may well be the example I use, but is there anything else that does this more explicitly?


Can you tell a story via your design, which interests users and keeps them engaged?

Storytelling is clearly a significant technique for drawing users into an experience, and that engagement necessarily leads to different behaviour. Richard Sedley has talked about this in the context of persuasion for digital effectiveness (and if you haven’t seen this video, it really is worth setting aside 5 minutes), and some of Eugene Schwartz’s classic Breakthrough Advertising copywriting principles and examples are in this kind of area too, but I’m struggling a bit with ‘design’ examples which would quickly and clearly demonstrate the idea in the toolkit.

Are there websites which present the user experience as a kind of story? (I’m sure there must be.) Or, maybe better, environments (theme parks? museums?) which take the visitor through a series of sections or exhibits in a story-like way, with some kind of intent behind the design?

James Dyson’s original ‘The Story of Dyson’ mini-booklets, which were attached like tags to the vacuum cleaners on display in showrooms, and explained the background to the invention (and the inventor) and the 5,127 prototypes, etc, and thus made the potential purchaser feel like he or she was becoming part of that story seem like they might be a good example, but I don’t have one of them to photograph and I can’t find a picture online.

Any thoughts, ideas, suggestions or photos are very much appreciated – over to you!

(The above patterns are explicitly interaction design-related, while there are a few more new ‘strategic’ behavioural patterns which I’ll discuss in another post.)

*To be Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike licensed, except for any images which are separately licensed already

What’s happening with the toolkit (Part 1)

Design with Intent cards v.0.9

It’s 8 months since the Design with Intent Toolkit v.0.9 went online and I’ve had incredibly useful feedback from a whole range of people who’ve tried it out on different kinds of briefs and problems. As mentioned a couple of months ago, the toolkit poster PDF (which has 12 ‘headline’ design patterns, compared with the 47 in total online) reached a very high number of downloads from Brunel’s research archive website (before the admins removed the statistics package!), which is immensely pleasing and kind of humbling. If you downloaded it and found it useful (or not useful), please do get in touch and tell me why.

Design with Intent cards v.0.9Design with Intent cards v.0.9

Latterly, a few people have been trying out an IDEO Method Card-style card deck version of the toolkit (as pictured here), including all the patterns, colour-coded by lens, with a simplified bit of text about each one. I haven’t made these available publicly mainly because the quality isn’t great (most of the images are only 72dpi, coming from the website, and poorly cropped for the card format), and I’ve been trying a couple of variations of text, card size, etc. Initially I put these together primarily for quick card-sorting exercises as part of the workshop trials I’ve been running, but they ended up more popular than the poster format. Thanks to brainstorming sessions at IDEO London and the RSA, exercises with Brunel’s MSc Integrated Product Design and BSc / BA Design students (as part of the Sustainable Design and Environmentally Sensitive Design modules), and a trial as part of Design for Conversion kindly organised by Arjan Haring, I now have a better idea of what would make the cards more useful. In parallel, I’ve also been trying to ‘patternize’ some additional design techniques which have been used to influence behaviour, to increase the scope of the toolkit.

Design with Intent cards v.0.9 in use at Design for ConversionDesign with Intent cards v.0.9 in use at Design for Conversion
The DwI cards in use at Design for Conversion – photos by haijeson on Flickr (1, 2)

Inspired partly by Crumlish & Malone’s Designing Social Interfaces which is a great book (a neat companion to Jenifer Tidwell’s incredible Designing Interfaces, also from O’Reilly) with a companion wiki, I’ve decided to go down the route of producing v.0.95 of the toolkit as a Creative Commons-licensed set of 100 downloadable cards, with a printed version available to buy, and an accompanying wiki with a page on each pattern, serving as an evolving, referenceable container for new examples, tips on implementation, data on effectiveness, and so on, as they come to light, as well as new patterns, new ways of grouping them and new uses for this kind of approach.

The cards will be relatively simple, with each pattern posed as a question, as used in Nedra Weinreich’s DwI-based worksheet. The intention is that the cards can actively provoke innovative behaviour change design ideas, with a single (hopefully photogenic) example on each, while the wiki can act as a kind of ‘further reading’ resource. A future version (v.1.0?) of the cards will include this extra information on the back of each card (and then binding the cards together would pretty much produce a book), but at this stage – if I’m ever going to get this PhD finished in time – the extra info will be added to the wiki over time rather than being on the v.0.95 cards themselves, to reduce the time pressure on getting it all done.

As v.0.95 more than doubles the number of patterns in v.0.9 – a mixture of splitting up existing patterns into more finely-grained variants, and adding ideas which people have suggested or pointed out since I put v.0.9 together – there are quite a few where I don’t (yet) have a very good example or image. As such, there are opportunities for anyone with good photos or suggestions for examples to have an input and be involved – as the next post will explain in more detail.

Design with Intent cards v.0.9Design with Intent cards v.0.9
A version of the card deck I (rather laboriously!) spray-mounted onto Post-It backing, so the cards could be used to annotate sketches or ideas recorded during a brainstorming session.

What’s been going on recently

The RSA House, London
RSA Design Directions 2009/10

The RSA’s 2009/10 Design Directions competition has been launched, which means up and down the country there are design students and new graduates working on one of the pretty wide selection of briefs. Given the RSA’s aim of ‘removing barriers to social progress’ – with a significant commitment to using design to do this – the briefs are themed around design for social benefit, addressing issues ranging from helping an ageing workforce to helping new architecture graduates apply their skills in other contexts.

A couple of the briefs are explicitly about design for behaviour change, and thanks to working with Jamie Young of the RSA’s Design & Behaviour project on some ideas for briefs earlier this year, the Design with Intent toolkit is explicitly referenced as a ‘resource’ for the Independence Days brief on ‘reinventing assistive technology’ (sponsored by the Technology Strategy Board) and A matter of life…, a brief about improving patient compliance with taking prescribed medication (sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline). Both of these are very noble causes and I hope the Design with Intent patterns are useful inspiration in some small way; I look forward to seeing some of the results!

Design Approach worksheet by Nedra Kline WeinreichDesign Approach worksheet

Nedra Kline Weinreich, author of Hands-on Social Marketing, has created a fantastic Design Approach for Behaviour Change worksheet based on the 12 design patterns from my Design with Intent toolkit poster.

By re-framing each of the patterns as a question – e.g. “How can you provide a cue to action at the appropriate time?” for kairos (discussed by BJ Fogg in his original book, Persuasive Technology) – Nedra turns the patterns more directly into cues for action themselves for a design team to brainstorm or think about. After working through the questions, asking each of them about the behaviour problem you’re working on, you pretty much end up with a set of possible solutions: this is a very clever way to structure the idea generation process. (As such I’ve added a link to Nedra’s worksheet to the DwI intro page of this site.)

Inspired by Nedra’s thinking, the next version of the DwI toolkit, which I’m putting together at present, will have a question element to each of the patterns.

Design for Persuasion, Brussels
Design for Persuasion conference, Brussels

Design for Persuasion handoutAt the beginning of October I was honoured to be invited to speak at Design for Persuasion, a new conference taking place at the impressive Belgacom Surfhouse in Brussels, organised (very well) by Christel de Maeyer and BJ Fogg.

The event was mainly directed towards ‘new media’ persuasion and design, focusing on practical applications rather than academic studies, and featured some great presentations from people such as Richard Sedley (who kindly took the above photo for me!), Amy Shuen, Bart de Waele (whose excellent ‘Addictive Websites’ slides you can see here), and other expert practitioners. Many of the presentations are on Slideshare; there are also some very nice photos on Flickr from Katrien Degreef.

Here’s my presentation (below) with a transcript here and image credits here. The handout (picture above right) I refer to is here [PDF].

Many thanks to Christel and BJ for organising this, and to the great people I talked to, including Nynke, Marijn and Arjan.

BURA stats
A pleasing statistic

Thanks to readers of this blog, the DwI toolkit v.0.9 poster [PDF] I originally posted back in April is at time of writing, the most-downloaded document ever from Brunel University’s institutional repository, BURA. (Much, much more than any of our other papers, too!)

With 28,000 downloads since it went on BURA, plus another 5,000 or so directly from the blog before I changed where the link pointed, and probably a few directly from Google Books (as well as a handful of at-cost sales of the physical printed poster) it gives me an incredibly warm feeling to think that so many people all over the world have found it interesting enough to read (and hopefully – in at least some cases! – use) it. Please do let me know (in the comments, or by email) if you’ve found it useful (or useless), what problems you’ve applied it to, how you think it could be improved, and so on, or have a go at the survey.

The next version (v.0.95) will take a different form (cards – which some of you will have tried out in a couple of workshops) and include some new patterns, as well as ‘question’ phrasing as mentioned above. I hope to have this available to download (or buy as a card deck) by the end of 2009.

Thanks again for making the DwI toolkit a success!

Things which slipped by without me writing about them much here

The last few months have been very busy for me as I rush to progress the PhD in sufficient depth and breadth while still doing other things, and I’m aware that I haven’t talked much about all this on the blog. I’ve been to the DiGRA conference and had great discussions with Ian Bogost and Sebastian Deterding; I’ve been to dConstruct and talked to Adam Greenfield; been to Greengaged and blogged about it for the site; been to a conference on Naturalistic Decision-Making and got some incisive advice from Gary Klein himself; and am about to present this paper [PDF] at Sustainable Innovation ’09. With the help of some great participants (including Frankie who interviewed me here!) I’ve also managed to complete a series of Design with Intent workshops in which we’ve addressed a range of behaviour change briefs. The results of these workshops will be reported on here at some point soon, I promise!

So, stay tuned: as winter approaches, and sitting in front of a warm, glowing rectangle becomes more appealing, I will endeavour to blog more often and about more real examples of design with intent in the wild, a bit more like the blog used to be. Thanks for sticking with me.