All posts filed under “DwI Method

September workshop sessions: invitation

Design with Intent workshop sessionsDesign with Intent workshop sessions

As part of my PhD I’m testing different variants of the Design with Intent toolkit with designers (and design students) to find out how well different configurations work when a designer’s faced with a brief about influencing user behaviour: how useful are the ideas in inspiring solutions, and how well does using it compare to not using it?*

For the latest round of workshop sessions, to take place in September, I need 6 people to take part – if you’re a practising designer, design student or someone interested in this kind of field, and are able to give up a morning or afternoon, please do let me know.

I hope they’re relatively fun sessions – you get a series of design briefs and the idea is to generate and explain (sketches, notes, discussion) some possible solutions quite quickly – some briefs will mostly suit product solutions, while others are suitable for service solutions too. There’ll also be a bit about how you, as a designer, visualise and model the users you’re designing for, and how different design choices relate to different ‘models’ of the user. If you’re working on anything to do with behaviour change, or design innovation methods, I hope it will be useful to you.

There are going to be 3 sessions, with 2 participants in each. The sessions will last around 3 hours each; for part of it, you’ll be working together, and for the other part you’ll be working on your own. They’ll be during the week, taking place at Brunel University (Uxbridge, west London, end of the Piccadilly and Metropolitan lines). The most I can pay you for your time/travel is £10, plus cake or doughnuts or biscuits and plenty of coffee / tea / water. If that still sounds attractive, please get in touch!

The exact dates aren’t decided yet, because it depends on who’s taking part, so if you’re interested, please email me – and suggest a few of the following dates when you’d be available and I’ll get back to you if / when I can pair up people around at the same time! Possible dates are: 7, 8, 9, 10, (not 11 or 14), 15, 16, 17, 18, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 September 2009.

Thanks for your help!

P.S. If a team from your company or organisation would like to take part in a full / longer / tailored-to-what-you-need ‘Design with Intent’ workshop, please get in touch too. The more people use this stuff, find flaws and suggest improvements, the better it’ll get and the more useful it’ll be.

Design with Intent workshop sessions
Photos from some workshop sessions earlier this summer. Doughnuts will be provided; racing car might not be there.

*The results, along with those from some of the other workshops I’ve run in the last few months, are going into an article to be submitted to Design Studies, and the results from part of the session may also be used in an article to be submitted to the International Journal of Design.

A survey for designers: more books to win

Following last week’s card-sorting exercise (which went really well – thanks to everyone who took part), here’s something a bit more open-ended and ongoing.

I’m trying to find out how designers and design teams (in-house or consultancies) who’ve worked on influencing user behaviour think about what they’ve done – which techniques and patterns do people recognise that they’ve used, or considered? Do the patterns I’ve identified in the toolkit actually make sense to people who’ve put this stuff into practice strategically? Or do people think about it differently?

So, if you’ve worked on persuasive technology, behaviour change design, or influencing user behaviour in general, across any field where you consider that you’re designing stuff (service design, product design, interaction design, social design, user experience, information architecture, HCI, social marketing, mobile interaction, web design, network engineering, pervasive/ubiquitous computing, transformation design, advertising, urban planning, human factors, ergonomics, built environments, healthcare, environmental, safety, crime prevention – anything, in fact), I’d really appreciate it if you could spare a few minutes to have a go at this survey. It shouldn’t take too long unless you have a lot to tell me about!
DwI Cards
Designers thinking about the effect they can have on behaviour‘ is a growing theme. The idea with this survey is that if we can collect together some good examples of where and how companies are using these ideas, what’s worked and what hasn’t (and why) (where you’re prepared to talk about it!), it’ll be a useful reference for everyone, as well as (potentially) a series of great case studies to be included in a book (at some point once my PhD’s out of the way). In the meantime, I’ll of course try to feature some of the projects on the blog.

If you take part in the survey, your details will go into a draw to win a classic book on design and behaviour (I’ll do one draw for every 20 participants). I’m not sure what the books will be yet, but there’s a lot to choose from. The survey doesn’t really have a closing date at present – I’ll leave it open as long as it’s getting interest.

Thanks for your help!

Sort some cards and win a copy of The Hidden Dimension

The Hidden Dimension

UPDATE: Thanks everyone – 10 participants in just a few hours! The study’s closed now – congratulations to Ville Hjelm whose book is now on its way…

If you’ve got a few minutes spare, are interested in the Design with Intent techniques, and fancy having a 1/10 chance of winning a brand-new copy of The Hidden Dimension, Edward T Hall’s classic 1966 work on proxemics (very worthwhile reading if you’re involved in any way with the design of environments, either architecturally or in an interaction design sense), then please do have a go at this quick card-sorting exercise [now closed].

It makes use of the pinball / shortcut / thoughtful user models I introduced in the last post, so it would probably make sense to have that page open alongside the exercise. The DwI techniques will be presented to you distinct from the ‘lenses’ (Errorproofing, Cognitive etc) so don’t worry about them.

The free WebSort account I’m using for this only allows 10 participants, so be quick and get a chance of winning the book! Once 10 people have done it, I’ll draw one of the participants out of some kind of hat or bucket and email you to get your postal address.

The purpose here (a closed card-sort, to use Donna Spencer‘s terminology) is, basically, to find out whether the pinball / shortcut / thoughtful models allow the DwI techniques to be assigned to particular ways of thinking about users – that make sense to a reasonable proportion of designers. There’s no right or wrong answer, but if 80% of you tell me that one technique seems to fit well with one model, while for another there’s no agreement at all, then that’s useful for me to know in developing the method.

Thanks for your help!

Card sorting

Cover photo from Amazon

Modelling users: Pinballs, shortcuts and thoughtfulness

The different approaches to influencing people’s behaviour outlined in the Design with Intent toolkit are pretty diverse. Working out how to apply them to your design problem, and when they might be useful, probably requires you, as a designer, to think of “the user” or “users” in a number of different ways in relation to the behaviour you’re trying to influence. I’ve thought about this a bit, and reckon there are maybe three main ways of thinking about users – models, if you like – that are relevant here. (These are distinct from the enabling / motivating / constraining idea.)

The ‘Pinball’ User

In this case, you think of users as, pretty much, very simple components of your system, to be shunted and pushed and pulled around by what you design, whether it’s physical or digital architecture. This view basically doesn’t assume that the user thinks at all, beyond basic reflex responses: the user’s a pinball (maybe a slightly spongey one) pushed and pulled this way and that, but with no requirement for understanding coming from within [1,2].

While things like deliberately uncomfortable benches or the Mosquito act against the Pinball User – effectively treating users like animals – this view need not always take such a negative approach – lots of safety systems, even down to making sure different shape connectors are used on medical equipment to prevent mistaken connections, don’t mind whether the user understands what’s going on or not: it’s in everyone’s interests to influence behaviour on the most basic level possible, without requiring thought.

The ‘Shortcut’ User

Here, you think of users as being primarily interested in getting things done in the easiest way possible, with the least effort. So you assume that they’ll take shortcuts [3], or make decisions based on intuitive judgements (Is this like something I’ve used before? How does everyone else use this? I expect this does what it looks like it does), habits, and recognising simple patterns that influence how they behave.

The Shortcut User is assumed not to want to think too much about what’s going on behind the scenes, beyond getting things done. He or she’s not always thinking about the best way of doing things, but a way that seems to work [4]. If systems are designed well to accommodate this, they can feel very easy to use, intuitively usable, and influence user behaviour through these kinds of shortcut mechanisms rather than anything deeper [5]. But there’s clearly potential for manipulation, or leading users into behaviour they wouldn’t choose for themselves if they weren’t taking the shortcuts.

The ‘Thoughtful’ User

Thoughtful Users are assumed to think about what they are doing, and why, analytically: open to being persuaded through reasoned arguments [6] about why some behaviours are better than others, maybe motivating them to change their attitudes about a subject as a precursor to changing their behaviour mindfully. If you think of your users as being Thoughtful, you will probably be presenting them with information and feedback which allows them to explore the implications of what they’re doing, and understand the world around them better.

Most of us like to model ourselves as Thoughtful Users, even though we know we don’t always fit the model. It’s probably the same with most people: so knowing when it’s appropriate to assume that users are being mindful of their behaviour, and when they’re not, will be important for the ‘success’ of a design.


Of course there are many other ways you can model the user. But these seem like they might be useful ways of thinking, and of classifying the actual design techniques for influencing behaviour [PDF] according to what assumptions they make about users. I will try to test their validity / usefulness as part of my trials.

See the next post for how you can get involved with that…

From an academic psychology (or behavioural economics) point of view, the boundaries between these models of the user are maybe too blurry. Shortcut User is assumed to be pretty much like a System 1 thinker, while Thoughtful User is System 2. Straying inadvisedly into areas I know little about, Pinball User may well be assumed to be a user only using the R-complex, though I’m not sure this fits especially well. But if the distinctions are useful to designers, in the context of actually developing products and services, that (to be honest) is what matters from my point of view.

To develop the three models described above, I was inspired by this Interactions article (also here) by Hugh Dubberly, Paul Pangaro and Usman Haque, which draws on some of Kenneth Boulding’s General Systems Theory [PDF] to characterise a range of ordered system ‘combinations’ in which the user can be a part. The Pinball User corresponds pretty much to the ‘Reacting’ system; the Thoughtful User is a ‘Learning’ system; the Shortcut User is perhaps a special case of a ‘Regulating’ system (self-regulating negative feedback to damp variation, to minimise effort, boundedly rational).

I haven’t yet explored applying Leonard Talmy’s Force Dynamics, as suggested by Simon Winter to these aspects of modelling the user / interaction. I will do, in due course.

[1] Perhaps analogous to Lawrence Lessig’s ‘pathetic dot’
[2] I’m grateful to Sebastian Deterding for the explicit concept of user-as-pinball
[3] Heuristics & biases (Kahneman & Tversky)
[4] Satisficing (Simon)
[5] Peripheral route persuasion (Petty & Cacioppo)
[6] Central route persuasion (Petty & Cacioppo)

Pinball photo by ktpupp on Flickr, CC-licensed. Shortcut photo (desire path) by Alan Stanton on Flickr, CC-licensed. Thoughtful photo by Esther Dyson on Flickr, CC-licensed.

Coming up for air, briefly

Thanks for all the responses to the Design with Intent Toolkit – it’s got a heartening reception from lots of very interesting people, and has brought some great opportunities. I hope to be able to deal with all this effectively!

Thanks too to all the people who’ve blogged about it, included it in a podcast, and spread it via Twitter. Your attention’s much appreciated and if anyone does try it out on some problems, please do let me know how you get on, what would improve it, and so on. And more examples for each of the patterns are, of course, always welcome!

Printed copies (A2 poster, 135gsm silk finish) are available – the nominal listing on Amazon is £15 including postage, but if you’d like one for much less than that, let me know! (In fact, if you’re willing to try it out on a design problem, fill in a survey about how you did it, and let me use it as a brief case study, you can have it free.)

Persuasive 2009

I say I’m just coming up for air briefly, as for the last couple of weeks, among some other major work (which could possibly bear some very nice fruit), I’ve been putting together my presentation* for Persuasive 2009, the Fourth International Conference on Persuasive Technology in Claremont, California, next week, and at present am desperately trying to finish a lot of other things before flying out on Saturday. It’ll be my first time across the Atlantic and my girlfriend and I will be having a bit of a holiday afterwards, so I hope a lack of updates and replies, while little different to my usual pattern, will be excusable. But while the conference is on, if there’s time and no hoo-hah with the wireless and it seems appropriate, I’ll try and do a bit of blogging, or more likely, Twittering about it (#persuasive2009 ?). There are some very interesting people presenting their work.

Anyway, if you missed the update to my earlier post, a preprint version of my paper (with David Harrison, Tim Holley and Neville A. Stanton), Influencing Interaction: Development of the Design with Intent Method [PDF, 1.6MB] is available. At some point soon this version of the paper will downloadable from Brunel’s research archive, while the ‘proper’ version will be available in the ACM Digital Library. ACM requires me to state the following alongside the link to the preprint:

© ACM, 2009. This is the authors’ version of the work. It is posted here by permission of ACM for your personal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive version will be published in Proceedings of Persuasive 2009: Fourth International Conference on Persuasive Technology, Claremont, CA, 26-29 April 2009, ACM Digital Library. ISBN 978-1-60558-376-1.

The presentation will include many parts of the paper, but the nature of academic papers like this (submitted in December) is that they are out of date before anyone reads them. So, much of the presentation will be about the DwI toolkit and the reasoning behind bits of it, rather than just sticking to the state of the research six months ago – I hope that’s reasonable. Last year, presenting on the last day of the conference meant that I was able to spend many hours in a hotel room in Oulu editing and re-editing the presentation (mostly listening to the Incredible Bongo Band’s version of In-a-Gadda-da-Vida on repeat) to match what I thought the audience would like, and incorporate things I’d learned during the conference, but this time I’m on the first day so there isn’t that opportunity…

Interfaces article

Also this month, I have a brief article about my research in Interfaces, the magazine of Interaction, the British Computer Society’s HCI Group, in its ‘My PhD’ series (p. 20-21). Interfaces no. 78 is available to download here (make sure to click on the link below the cover image, as – at time of writing – the cover’s linked to the previous issue). It’s a great magazine – redesigned for this issue – with some really interesting features about aspects of HCI by some well-known names in the field. Thanks to Eduardo Calvillo and Stephen Hassard for making the article possible.

The table in the article was unfortunately truncated during editing so (if I get it in in time) there’ll be a brief addendum in the next issue with the full table, but I might as well make it available here too [PDF, 8kb] – it’s a brief, not especially exciting summary of some concepts for influencing householders to close curtains at night to save energy. (At some point I’ll do a full case study on this as there are some interesting ideas as well as some very impractical ones.)

*Taking Parkinson’s Law as an instruction manual seems to be a perpetual habit of mine, so the maximum time allocated to get the presentation done has been more than entirely taken up by getting the presentation done… it’s still not quite there, and I’m not sure whether the format of the auditorium’s going to allow an interactive element which I would very much like to include but probably won’t be able to. Also – while Prezi looks like it might be everything I’ve ever wanted in presentation software – the workflow of “doing a PowerPoint” for me has evolved into a long chain of “Photoshop – Illustrator – export – Photoshop – Save for Web – insert into PowerPoint” which I’m sure I could do more quickly, but lots of conferences and seminars want PPTs rather than PDFs, and the only Mac I have (which once – kind of – belonged to the Duke of Edinburgh [interesting story]) is too slow and old to run anything better.

Security Lens: The Patterns

Bonjour / Goeiendag to visitors from Design for Persuasion: while you’re here, you might also like to download a free poster [PDF] which has 12 of the Design with Intent patterns on it in a handy reference form. Thanks for stopping by!

The Security Lens represents a ‘security’ worldview, i.e. that undesired user behaviour is something to deter and/or prevent though ‘countermeasures’ designed into products, systems and environments, both physically and online, with examples such as digital rights management.

From a designer’s point of view, this can be an ‘unfriendly’ – and in some circumstances unethical – view to take, effectively treating users as ‘guilty until proven innocent’. However, thinking more closely about the patterns, it’s possible to think of ways that they could be applied to help users control their own habits or behaviour for their own benefit – encouraging exercise, reducing energy use, and so on.


“What do I do when other people might be watching?”

â–  If people think others can see what they’re doing, they often change their behaviour in response, through guilt, fear of censure, embarrassment or another mechanism

â–  Techniques range from monitoring users’ actions with reporting to authorities, to simpler ‘natural surveillance’, where the layout of an area allows everyone to see what each other is doing. Statistics making public details about users’ contributions to a fund might fit in here too. Surveillance can benefit the user where monitoring allows a desired intervention, e.g. a fall alarm for the elderly

CCTV warning signSecurity lighting

Examples: The ubiquitous CCTV–or the threat of it–and security lighting, are both intended to influence user behaviour, in terms of being a deterrent to crime in the first place

Constraining behaviourThis pattern is about constraining user behaviour.


“I can’t hang around here with that racket going on”

â–  Use (or removal) of ambient sensory effects (sound, light, smell, taste, etc) to influence user behaviour

â–  Atmospherics can be ‘discriminatory’, i.e. targeted at particular classes of users, based on some characteristic enabling them to be singled out – such as the pink lights supposed to make teenagers with acne too embarrassed to hang around – or ‘blanket’, i.e. targeted at all users, e.g. Bitrex, a bitter substance, used to discourage drinking weedkiller or biting your nails.

The Mosquito anti-teenager sound weapon Blue lighting

Examples: Two examples of ‘discriminatory’ atmospherics: the Mosquito emits a 17.4 kHz tone to drive away young people from public places; blue lighting is used in some public toilets to discourage drug injection by making veins difficult to see
Constraining behaviourThis pattern is mainly about constraining user behaviour…
Motivating behaviourbut can also motivate a user, e.g. pleasant sensations such as the fresh bread smell used in supermarkets can encourage purchases.

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Threat of damage

“That’s going to hurt”

â–  It’s not nice, but the threat of damage (or injury) lies behind many measures designed to influence behaviour, from tyre damage spikes to barbed wire, electric fences, shards of glass cemented into the top of walls, and so on.

â–  In some cases the threat alone is hoped to be enough to dissuade particular behaviours; in others, it’s expected that some mild injury or discomfort will occur but put people off doing it again. Warnings are often used (and may be legally required), but this is not always the case.

Pig ear skate stopper

Example: Various kinds of ‘skate stopper’ in public places, such as this so-called pig ear are designed to cause damage to skateboards (and injury to skateboarders) to dissuade them from skating an area.

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What you have

“Insert passcard now”

â–  ‘What you have’ relies on a user possessing a certain tool or device to enable functionality or gain access.

â–  Aside from the obvious (keys, passcards, dongles and so on), there are, for example, specialised screwdrivers for security screws, which rely (largely unsuccessfully) on the distribution channels being kept private. Money itself could be seen as an example of this, especially where it’s intentionally restricted to influence behaviour (e.g. giving children a certain amount of pocket money to limit what they can buy.)

Train tickets

Example: When they’re actually checked, rail or other travel tickets restrict journeys to people who have the right ticket

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What you know or can do

“Enter password”

â–  ‘What you know or can do’ relies on the capabilities of users – some information or ability which only a subset of users can provide. The most obvious examples are passwords and exams (e.g. driving tests) – testing users’ knowledge / understanding before ‘allowing’ them to perform some behaviour. Often one capability stands as a proxy for another, e.g. CAPTCHAs separating humans from automated bots.

â–  These are often interlocks – e.g. breathalyser interlocks on car ignitions, or, one stage further, the ‘puzzle’ interlocks tested during the 1970s, where a driver had to complete an electronic puzzle before the car would start, thus (potentially) catching tiredness or drug use as well as intoxication.

Childproof lid

Example: Childproof lids on bottles of potentially dangerous substances – such as this weedkiller – help prevent access by children, but can also make it difficult for adults with limited dexterity.

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Who you are

“If the glove fits…”

â–  Design based on ‘who you are’ intends to allow or prevent behaviour based on some criteria innate to each individual or group – usually biometric – which can’t be acquired by others.

â–  The aim is usually strong denial of access to anyone not authenticated, but there are also cases of primarily self-imposed ‘who you are’ security, such as the Mukurtu system, stamping ‘Confidential’ on documents, and so on.

Fingerprint scanner - photo by Josh Bancroft on Flickr

Example: Fingerprint scanners are becoming increasingly common on computer hardware.

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What you’ve done

“Do 10 minutes more exercise to watch this show”

â–  Systems which alter the options available to users based on their current / past behaviour are increasingly easy to imagine as the technology for logging and tracking actions becomes easier to include in products (see also Surveillance). Products which ration people’s use, or require some ‘work’ to achieve a goal, fit in here.

â–  These could simply ‘lock out’ someone who has abused/misused a system (as happens with various anti-spam systems), or, more subtly, could divide users into classes based on their previous behaviour and provide different levels of functionality in the future.

Square Eyes by Gillian Swan

Example: Gillian Swan’s Square Eyes restricts children’s TV viewing time based on the amount of exercise they do (measured by these special insoles)

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Where you are

“This function is disabled for your current location”

â–  ‘Where you are’ security selectively restricts or allows a user functions based on a user’s location

â–  Examples include buildings intended to have no mobile phone reception (perhaps ‘for security reasons’, or maybe for the benefit of other users, e.g. in a cinema), and IP address geographic filtering, where website users identified as being in different countries are given access to different content.

Trolley wheels lock when taken outside car park

Example: Some supermarket trolleys have devices fitted to lock the wheels, mechanically or electronically when taken outside a defined area. Less high-tech versions have also been used!


Photos/screenshots by Dan Lockton except fingerprint scanner by Josh Bancroft and Square Eyes photo from Brunel University press office.

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