Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘behaviour change

New tools for changing behaviour? Like digital platforms?

Joanna Choukeir is a social design practitioner, researcher, speaker and lecturer with a decade of experience in the UK and Lebanon.
She is the Design and Communication Director at Uscreates, a London-based strategic consultancy pioneering innovative work to help organisations maximise their social value. Joanna has recently completed a PhD, researching and developing communication design methods to enhance social integration in post-conflict communities.

Using digital tools to change behaviour

Joanna Choukeir

How can you use online user experience to change behaviours in the physical world?

MyFitnessPal is an excellent sample of using an online experience to change offline behaviour – specifically around health and fitness. User experience is not just a digital thing – it’s any interaction with a company, service and product.

Buying fish and chips is a user experience. Successful UX is when they have a positive, streamlined and successful interaction with a service.

The future is digital. And it’s mobile – mobile is being used twice as much as PCs, and is the only media type growing.

Unilver has suggested that sustainable change will have to come across society, not just government or corporates.

There’s widespread interest in using behaviour change to improve our life experiences. Using online tools to do that means you can review and iterate.

You can measure change – if the app is logging changes, you get that hard feedback.

We’re not connecting these disciplines as much as we should.

A quick search of Google News turns up headlines taking about how much behaviour change apps are failing to do that. Searches for behaviour change have been consistent for nearly a decade.

UX design is rising rapidly, and user experience is higher than both and still growing.

How do we connect the dots?

Operant conditioning – the carrot and the stick

The Walk is an app, which plays you an audio thriller as you walk, and requires you to walk a number of steps to unlock the next episode. Zombies Run does the same thing, but you have a stick behind you – the zombies…


Kitten gives you a kitten photo if you hit your word count for the day. On the stick side you have Write or Die, which starts deleting words if you stop writing for set intervals.

Social cognitive theory

How much ability do we have to manage ourselves and our productivity?

There’s an app called Freedom that will block the internet on your computer for a while. SelfControl allows you to blacklist websites you want to avoid.

Theory of reasoned action

We evaluate the benefit or harm of actions to us, and we consider social pressure in that. BetterMe shames you on social media for failing to meet a task.

Theory of planned behaviour

If you want to change, you need the intention and a plan.

Unfuck Your Habitat allows you to plan and focus your efforts in cleaning your home.

Trainaway helps your reduce your carbon footprint, by concentrating on enjoying the journey, not just the destination. It helps you plan stopover points and things to do there.

Social learning theory

We observe and model behaviour based on what we see around us.

The Wheel of Well-being is built on the idea that people respond to tips given by others, because they know they work.

Social ecological model

We’re influenced by individual, environment and interpersonal factors. The Wheel of Well-being gives tips and activities contexts to harness this effect.

Trans-theoretical model for behaviour changes

Behaviour change is complicated – you need to have the idea, think about it, prepare for it, act on it and then maintain that change. It’s hard.

Most digital product focus on preparation and maintenance stages.

Can we move into the pre-contemplation stage, to give people the idea for change?

Why using research-led insights affect behaviour change?

U in Point of View posted this July 24, 2013:

The wise David Ogilvy said, “The trouble with market research is that people don’t think what they feel, don’t say what they think and don’t do what they say”.

But if traditional market research is ineffective, how do you know why people behave as they do? How can you find out their motivations and triggers?

And how can you build behaviors and encourage change?

Research-led insight and eating at work – food for thought

Research has shown that healthier eating at work impacts on productivity and creates a happier and healthier team. We’ve achieved significant success in building positive eating behaviours in the workplace.

Eating can obviously be an emotional issue, so we used a variety of insight gleaning techniques to get to the heart of this behavior.

What were people really eating?

Why were they eating badly at work?

And what could we do to encourage them to build different behavior?

The Uscreates approach

To answer the above questions, we used traditional interviews, round-table discussions and surveys. But we also gave our target market some interesting tasks designed to uncover actual as opposed to reported behavior.

The tasks were designed to encourage people to engage with the research, uncover barriers to change and provide inspiration to the design phrase of the process.

Amongst other things we gave out cameras and asked staff to take a picture of their lunch, someone else’s lunch they wished was theirs, and an image of their eating companion (if any).

We gave them a budget, and asked them to buy food they felt represented the eating culture of the office.

Finally, we ran a collaborative event which involved our clients and staff members in generating ideas to improve eating behaviours.

The proof of the pudding…. (Healthy pudding obviously)

Our innovative solutions to encourage behaviour change around eating at work involved an honesty fruit bowl system, visiting chef, health lunch pack delivery service, health and nutrition MOTs and staff eating area re-design.

These solutions all came from the insights gleaned during our initial consultations, and were tailored to the people, offices and issues affected.

For one of our clients, one year (later?) on, 23% of employees rated their lunch “healthier”, and 73% are eating at least two portions of fruit/vegetables at work per day: a measurable and powerful result.

(My hypothesis is “How people are communing in their eating habit and the duration for finishing eating are much more important than the quality of the food or ingredients… Take time to chew well and relax with your work companions…)

Research-led insight – an effective and efficient use of your marketing budget

As we’ve seen, using research-led insight you can be sure that you are getting a thorough understanding of the issues affecting your target market.

With our eating example, we discovered how people eat, when, why and with whom.  We heard the truth, got to the core of barriers to change, and were able to translate this insight in to creative solutions that worked.

Having deeper understanding and insight in to the real life behaviour of your target market in situ is very powerful.  We’ve found that it leads to greater creativity in strategy and communication.

Sometimes a little insight goes a long way; it can provide the hook, answer the problem or highlight that opportunity that you need to succeed. And – if you read this and are trying to be SMART, you’ll also find that research-led insights make it easier to measure your results.

We love research-led insight (and we’re really good at it too)

In our experience, research-led insight is invaluable to any forward thinking business. It requires creative thinking, analysis and superb people skills.  It’s hard to do, but, done well, there’s nothing like it for uncovering deep insight into employees, customers or users and building new behaviours.

Thanks to research-led insights, the creative and collaborative approaches we use lead to engaged participants and compelling measurable results.

Do you have any great examples of research-led insights?

What behaviours are you trying to change in employees, customers or users?

Join our conversation now




May 2023

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