Warm Gun: Changing User Behavior with Design

by December 4, 2011

In his Designing for Disruption: Changing User Behavior with Design presentation at the Warm Gun conference in San Francisco, CA Aza Raskin made the case for designing positive health changes in people by using feedback loops. Here’s my notes from his talk.

  • As designers we have a moral obligation to use our passion to make the world a better place. The next frontier for designers is an interface to the human body not to computers.
  • By 2020, 80% of people in the US/UK will be overweight. Whatever our health care system is doing now is not working. Doing the same thing over and over again is insanity.
  • For example, many people don’t finish their dose of antibiotics. Is this the fault of users or the design of the system? It’s the system and we can do better.
  • Delayed gratification and time discounting are the two most important principles in designing for behavior change.
  • Delayed gratification: can people wait in order to obtain something they want? Usually not.
  • Time discounting: valuing your time more now than in the future.
  • With many health issues, we are fighting against both delayed gratification and time discounting.
  • Toyota’s Prius provided a feedback loop by displaying what your average mpg was on a large screen in the car. People are willing to put themselves at physical risk for an integer (to make better mpg).
  • Random awards provide 2-3x more dopamine release over expected awards. This is why email and Twitter are so addictive.

Examples of Changing Behaviors

  • Speedometers that bend the needle when you go fast force people to slow down because they don’t want the needle not to be straight.
  • The speed of music playback can provide emotional feedback on driving speed. People will drive at the right speed to make the music play “right”.
  • Recycling boxes are put out on the curb with distinct colors so that others can see you are doing it.
  • When a series of motivational reasons for consuming power was given to people like: you are saving money and you a good citizen. The only message that helped people change behavior was “your neighbor is already doing it.”
  • Reverse feedback loop: slow down distractions so you stop using something bad for you. Break the feedback loop and delay gratification For example, use a program to slow down websites that are a distraction when you are trying to work.