CATEGORY

BEHAVIOURAL DESIGN

 

The art of designing attractive and effective digital engagement solutions

Are the rules of reality broken? We have become used to dividing areas or putting things in their specific boxes. Work is serious. Games are fun. Learning is serious. Creativity is fun. Problem solving – serious or fun? When we dive into the world of game thinking or game design, often grouped together under the term of Gamification, the well-defined barrier between serious contexts and play falls away. Why apply game elements to traditionally serious contexts? To get the most out of all aspects of life, sometimes we need to add more play!

Now, reality can be much more attractive and entertaining thanks to “Serious Play Experiences”.

“Serious Play Experiences”, are situations where fun narratives and game elements can be introduced without losing sight of the serious objectives driving them (for example: incentivising recycling across communities, reducing employee turnover, sustaining interest in learning materials). Often because of the serious nature of such contexts, applying fun elements can significantly enhance motivation, commitment and participation – resulting in a successful achievement of objectives.

Doesn’t sound like something you’d use? You might be surprised, as there are more examples out there than you probably think.

Mixed serious gaming experiences, not just digital

By adding face-to-face challenges, the experience can help to build social relationships or interpersonal skills in the process. This can be seen in educational contexts/scenarios, where the “escape room” concept has been adapted to provide a fun yet educational classroom learning experience. For example, Breakout Edu where as well as having an immersive game platform, players also have to work face-to-face collaboratively to solve a series of critical thinking puzzles to open a locked box. These experiences rely on a very collaborative narrative plot. When this dynamic is replicated within a digital context, the solution can include multiple communication channels and a virtual social area that further increases the feeling of community and positive group identity.

Serious gaming experiences in virtual reality environments

This is one of the most prominent emerging trends in Serious Play Experiences in the last few years. Virtual reality offers infinite possibilities due to its great versatility. A lot of use can be seen within training contexts, both educational and corporate, especially where very specific training or practice is required (such as unconscious bias training for example).

From a gamification point of view, virtual reality reinforces the weight of game elements such as avatars and non-linear or open plot narration, substantially improving users sense of freedom.

Gaming experiences in augmented reality environments

Many examples are also appearing in the market of this type of initiative. To name a few: “Zombie Run”, “Ring fit” and “Peloton”. These experiences rely on a mission structure. Each mission includes challenges that gradually increase the difficulty to increase participant’s sense of progress. To support this, other game elements are added such as the progress bar, badges and points, which reinforce the perception of autonomy and self-improvement.

So, how are serious contexts “seasoned” with the right amount of play, to ensure the objective is still met? And how could they work for you and your organisation? Let’s take a look at the solution-design steps required for taking users toward fulfilling objectives.

  1. User-centric analysis:

Before getting stuck in, it’s important to carry out a detailed analysis of the situation your target audience or objectives are operating within. You will need to understand information about the context and the users’ behaviours, characteristics, game preferences and digital skills, to be able to create a solution that will integrate easily into everyday life.

  1. Include effective components:

With client and user needs forming the foundations, you can next include the necessary components to build the actual journey or strategy of the solution. By basing or choosing components with an understanding of Behavioural Science, you can create a path that users will actually want to follow and that will feel intuitive to them.  The different parts need to consider user characteristics and preferences (collected from the previous step) as well as client requirements. The aim of the game is of course to deliver results and achieve the determined objective, but this will only be successful if you provide an experience that people feel able to collaborate in.

  1. Integrate game elements:

Making people want to take part, rather than feel they have to is a powerful motivation. Here is where introducing gamification is useful. It is no secret that people do better at something when they enjoy the activity itself. Applying game elements to a mundane or even dreary process (imagine if compliance training could be enjoyable) does not mean you simply turn the experience into a game or lose all sense of seriousness. Elements can be discrete nudges or prompts, or recognition of a user’s progress, spurring them to stick with the process or activity, boosting their motivation and commitment. To ensure a more fulfilling, engaging experience, you’re ultimately looking to weave together three interconnecting gamified structures: the narrative, the challenges, and the energisers.

Following us so far? Let’s look at an example to see how it all comes to life.

A large hotel chain was looking to reduce its high staff turnover by implementing new corporate values and culture that would hopefully encourage commitment to the brand. They needed an effective vehicle to deliver the information in a way that would stick with the employees, engaging them in the workplace and reducing feelings of detachment.

Digital solutions, either web or mobile applications, are easily accessible to wide audiences and often help to set experiences outside of the ‘real world’. In a digital solution, participants feel they can attempt challenges, immerse themselves in situations, and progress without the pressure of a manager looking over their shoulders. This means you can provide environments that resemble real life, with fewer real-life stresses.

Digital solutions also help ensure the same information reaches all people in the same way, standardising and centralising processes – such as the hotel chain communicating the new corporate values and culture. With all employees receiving the same core message, the next step is to help employees engage with this content and ultimately embody it.

Here is where we could introduce a learning by doing strategy (or learning through play). First you plot what the strategy of the solution should overcome, with an understanding of what the users need. Feelings of detachment can be resolved through tapping into people’s need for mastery, purpose, and achievement. Presenting the disillusioned employees with the chance to prove themselves and feel they are improving, which in turn gives their managers the cue to recognise this improvement. The strategy helps employees feel that they contribute to the overall success of the company and their contribution is valued. So we can look at gamifying three core steps to the strategy: a) provide opportunities to overcome challenges and improve, b) provide content and materials for employees to learn from and train with, c) foster and promote a positive environment where good work is recognised and encouraged.          

Next: how to get people involved. A narrative structure always helps to increase individual’s interest in participating. This can be achieved by introducing an appealing plot that will engage participants and encourage them to follow and commit to the process. In this example, the employees of the hotel could be invited to join a virtual hotel (call to action) as virtual staff, attending to visiting customers. They are presented with different scenarios and opportunities (challenges) where they have to demonstrate the new brand values and behaviours, earning virtual currency or levelling up when they successfully overcome their challenges.

Designing meaningful “Serious Gaming Experiences” that make an impact or drive change is a complex but rewarding process, requiring the designer to consider a multitude of perspectives in the process. All of the elements have to work in harmony with each other to create a balanced experience, that drive the desired results. If the experience is too much like a game or too removed from reality, the core message becomes diluted. When an experience doesn’t take the participant’s needs and motivations into consideration it runs the risk of turning people off from engaging. Daily life is full of distractions and examples of innovation at our fingertips. Is it crazy to consider people’s expectations and attention need more stimulation in the experiences you offer?

Like most aspects of life and learning, you will get more out of any solution if you add a little play!

Written in collaboration by Marta Calderero & Andrzej Marczewski

Events of late created a “forced trial” of remote working for many companies, shifting the way we all think about collaboration and teamwork. In this webinar we look at how motivational theory can be used to maintain and increase engagement across businesses during such unprecedented times, where people feel disconnected, disrupted, unfulfilled, and uncertain of the future.

Tech solutions are not enough, especially in isolation. They need to have people’s needs at their core. In the session below we explored how understanding this can improve communication, productivity and overall engagement across teams and businesses.

For more background reading on the subject, check out our post on remote work and RAMP

 

 

People are often quick to put themselves down. “I’m not creative”. “I can’t draw, I’m not a designer”. “I couldn’t do what you do”. We’d argue that, actually, anyone can be a designer and more people today are involved in design than what they probably realise. We all live in a world surrounded full of services, solutions, innovation, and transformation. Behind every product or solution, is a development process, with people working on the development – or design – that will make their offering stand out from the masses. The best way to successfully stand out is to create something that is wanted, needed, and enjoyable for the end users. Made with them in mind. For us, Design Thinking is the path to achieving this.

Design Thinking is essentially an immersive approach for creative problem-solving. It’s about looking at processes and products with a people focussed lens. It brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable. It offers tools for understanding, inhabiting, and moulding the end user’s experience, to teams who are not traditionally close to a customer.

By approaching product or process development through Design Thinking you change your immediate focus (create/produce item), reframe the challenges you’re tackling (what do we want it to do versus what the user will need it to do), shift the scene you’re setting development in – with simple values to bear in mind.
Empathise: think about how people will use what you’re creating, think about what clients need to achieve through it. Observe them, understand their needs. Looking at things from different perspectives and reviewing the wider data discovered from this, unblocks mindsets and identifies criteria that could have been otherwise missed.

If you use a narrow perspective, you will get a narrow result. The reality is different needs and pieces don’t always fit together neatly. Design Thinking guides teams to design and develop with all the pieces in mind, from the beginning.

Connecting the Dots

Though there is a determined set of steps, we wouldn’t consider it to be a rigid process primarily as it encourages flexibility and iteration. The guidelines help teams who aren’t trained in design follow a structure – starting by removing them from the embedded mindset of “this is how things are done around here” or “we are here to create a profitable solution” – taking them on a journey of innovation and improvement.

Once you have ascertained the drives and needs of the end users and match them with the environment it needs to operate in, you can paint a picture of the opportunities available to you for design and development. Based on the requirements and setting, basic, low fidelity experiments (sketches, outlines…) help you begin to test and ideate, gradually improving the ‘experiments’ fidelity and detail with your learnings.

It’s an approach where, for once, it is recommendable to get comfortable, generate lots and lots of possibilities, unleash ideas and go a bit wild. For the best results, trust and psychological comfort is hugely important.

When people share ideas they need to feel they are in a safe, permissive environment, especially when trying to invent and innovate in radically different areas to what their own perspective or thinking usually sits. Hence why one of the key principles behind ideation is to suspend judgment in the team. Reviewing, refining, and selecting the wide range of ideas created can come later on in the steps, around prototyping and testing.

Testing a product before implementation seems self-evident, but Design Thinking helps teams take it one step further by prototyping before developing the end product or solution. Beneficial for many reasons, as it creates a safe space for failure and is a cheaper-than-making-the-real-thing way to understand and evaluate usability. It also means you start assessing the solution in a realistic setting long before it ever goes to market or reaches the end user.

You’re a Designer Too

More companies should turn to Design Thinking as a key to success. Structures, processes, traditional mindsets, pressurised management, can all end up absorbing and burying vision and creative problem solving. To develop a great product you need to keep the focus on the setting it will be used in and who will use it. This is relevant whether you’re developing software or a shoe or a system for signing into work. Empathise with the end user, let your teams loose on the problem with fewer psychological restrictions, and move rapidly and back and forth between creation and testing to provide something truly usable and user focussed. You’ll find that you’ll learn more along the way and make discoveries you would have never otherwise found until implementation.

At Motivait we have a well-defined process, founded in Design Thinking, but we never lose sight of the need to be flexible. It’s a process to remind us to ask less conventional questions, in order to get less conventional answers, often helping clients to get unstuck from how they’d been looking at the challenge themselves.

So, how do you convince employees that they are potential designers?

Design Thinking is not Design, any more than Agile is Engineering, or Lean is Business Management. Promote and foster a creative work environment beyond the virtual borders of design. Encourage knowledge sharing, be an open book and inclusive with your work and ongoing projects. By supporting employees to be connectors, collaborators, and facilitators, you may well find you’ve created teams of designers.


How to work remotely using Design Thinking 

  • Recreate the work environment your employees are used to: organise calls for brainstorms, set up catch ups where people can feel comfortable sharing anecdotes or stories – you never know where the next idea will come from
  • On fuelling creativity: Try to not lock people to their laptops. Ensure people are feeling able to take lunch breaks, go for walks, sign up to online courses, as well as meeting deadlines and performing well. Don’t keep people on a call “until the problem gets solved”. If ideation is going nowhere, then break up the session and regroup later. It will give people a chance to look at the problem from another angle.
  • Make sure everyone has access to the same tools and information: Digital ideation tools should be simple, accessible, and allow for unstructured creative freedom.
  • Promote Inclusion: Bring everyone together to solve problems, including necessary people in the tasks that are required, and people who may not usually be included in brainstorms.
  • Embed now for success later: Design Thinking should always be your primary toolkit, remote or not. Get people thinking about what areas they would want to enhance with Design Thinking so that they feel they are building to a positive future, rather than a return to old ways.

Written in collaboration by Begoña Repiso & Pablo Heydt

 

Developing an online professional development plan can enable employees of all profiles and situations. And the key to successful and sustained growth lies in Behavioural Science. 

 

The traditional workplace has changed dramatically in the last decade, and seems to be on a path towards even more change. Flexible hours have replaced 9 to 5. Virtual learning is overtaking the two-day training course. Remote teams are on the rise. There is evidence everywhere of businesses investing to keep up with the expectations of the modern employee – greener, brighter, stimulating office spaces or vast e-learning platforms being two common examples. But what about updating internal processes to match with the new practices? Consider remote workers and their professional development. For many years, companies have established professional development plans for employees, but these approaches are almost never tailored to the needs of remote employees. Too often people fall into the trap of ‘out of sight, out of mind’, or they focus efforts entirely on ensuring productivity rather than considering the growth of individuals.

If one were to update the design of these programmes, with remote workers or freelancers or any of the emerging employee profiles in mind, it becomes highly valuable to incorporate approaches founded in Behavioural Sciences to better understand the person at the centre of the plan.

Behavioural Science is the empirical study of human behaviour. It emphasises how people are different and hence need to be understood differently, how context matters, and guides us towards adopting new positive behaviours. It can tell us what works and what doesn’t and can help us design solutions that generate a desired change.

Behavioural Science has also experienced radical transformation in recent years in its application and delivery. Through technology, we can now obtain a lot more information and understanding about individual characteristics, habits, motivations, drives (or behavioural phenotype) and subsequently optimise interventions. Behavioural design then translates the findings of the behavioural studies into effective products and services.

So, how to apply this theory to the scenario of online professional development plans, designed with remote workers in mind? Let’s take a look.

  1. Personalised Planning

Any broad or widely applicable plan has to offer options and choice to employees. Options allow individual employees to feel a sense of ownership or personalisation with their experience.  Furthermore, allowing free choice when goal setting will increase their drive and intrinsic motivation towards the end objective.

The theory indicates that goals should be accomplished through various actions, rather than only applying one rigid path to achieve a positive result. To begin with, it can be as simple as setting a goal like “improving skills related to my role” for an online professional development plan.

The idea is to not define achievement purely through office-based actions, instead to allow more self-determination and for employees to prove their progress in ways within their control. This way, they will feel like goals are within their reach.

Simultaneously, some parameters need to be set for the employee’s benefit as well. The plan should be clear and supported by sufficient detail so that the employee quickly understands how to perform the necessary actions or behaviours in order to achieve the objective they’ve set. Behavioural Science theory explains that specifying the frequency, duration, intensity and context of an action makes it easier to achieve or replicate. For example, for the goal “improving skills related to my role,” an associated behaviour would be to take a 40-hour expert course. This behaviour in turn can be divided into smaller actions to make it easier to complete. So you can take what seems like a vague objective of proving you have improved your skillset, and break it down into tangible, provable actions like each working day between 3pm and 5pm for 4 weeks accessing your online development plan and completing different modules of your chosen expert course.

Within the plan, one can even apply gamified elements to reinforce commitment – such as including a button or box that will give employees a sense of accomplishment when they finally press or tick it. It sounds simple but can be highly effective. Research states that an explicit commitment (I want to tick off things on my list) increases the likelihood that users will complete their goal.

Behavioural Science, because of the name, can sound daunting when all you feel you need is a quick fix or an easy win

  1. Clear instructions & Multiple resources at your fingertips

As already mentioned, clear instructions or ticking boxes help to keep people on track. Especially when working remotely, as it enables employees to work through tasks and actions autonomously, knowing what they need to be getting on with.

Across professional development plans, previous studies have identified how employees frequently prefer to receive practical support from the company. This is when the company provides them with the resources and content required to carry out the actions necessary to achieve the objective they’ve chosen.

However, it’s important that companies strike the balance between providing information and resources, without oversaturating employees. Users of vast online courses often remark that they don’t know where to begin when there is so much information available to them. Rather than huge amounts of information, it’s more valuable to provide clear pathways employees can follow, especially for those sat in front of their desktops remotely.

  1. Social support

As well as having materials at their fingertips, being able to count on mentors or online advisors also makes it easier for employees to effectively and efficiently achieve their goal. Knowing they have a designated ‘someone’ they can turn to with questions regarding their progression helps employees feel comfortable within their plan. This is particularly useful for remote workers who are not able to simply turn around and ask a question to a colleague.

Employees also value the support of their teammates and co-workers during their development. Research supports the inclusion of virtual social areas for remote employees and their effectiveness for reinforcing recognition and feedback. With a timeline or wall element, similar to those on social media platforms, employees can post their achievements and colleagues can applaud their progress and celebrate those achievements. Rereading the wall’s history can help to raise self-esteem and increase the self-efficacy of remote working employees particularly when feeling overwhelmed or emotionally disconnected.

These online environments allow relationships between remote employees to be established and strengthened each day, reinforcing and creating a group identity. These contexts also facilitate the transmission of informal knowledge. Studies show that innovation and commitment flourish when employees have the ability to participate freely in “interest groups” or similar working teams.

Creating safe spaces to grow and fail is hugely important in any company – setting them online helps users feel removed from reality, and more likely to try and try again 

  1. Reinforcements and Self-Evaluation

Any professional development plan should include the employee receiving positive feedback from managers, because it avoids the employee feeling too scrutinised or controlled. Feedback should be balanced, and the purpose should be to reinforce the employee’s progress. If an employee is based from home or is remote to the team, feedback can sometimes be the main occasion the employee has contact with their manager or team, making the context of feedback even more valuable. Ensure feedback is given frequently, and in a range of contexts for remote employees in any development plan.

As part of those different opportunities for feedback, self-evaluation can also be included as encouragement that the employee records and monitors their own behaviours and progress.

It should be noted that multiple studies show how people react differently to self-monitoring. Some employees will stop participating because their motivation decreases when they perceive their results as negative. This can be avoided by ‘reframing.’ A behavioural technique that involves the correct interpretation and action the employee can take, alongside the negative result in the same message.

For example, “You got 5/10 and so you haven’t passed this module. It’s a shame, but this is definitely one of the more complicated modules in your development path, so maybe check out some of the reading links and come back soon and try again! We know you can do it!” This type of messaging prevents employees from associating their results with feelings of intense failure and demotivation. Creating a safe space to grow and fail is hugely important in any company, and it can be easily provided through the medium of digital solutions as they make the user feel somewhat removed from ‘reality’.

  1. Signs of action and habit formation

Whenever a person is asked to carry out behaviours or take action, we must recognise each of the steps they take towards achieving their goal. Behavioural Science emphasises the importance of reinforcing both the steps taken towards the milestone and the time when the user completes the objective. With the help of technology, this reinforcement can reach remote working employees in real time.

Behavioural Change research often advises the introduction of prompts and stimuli that encourage action. For example, automatic prompts or notifications can be effective because they remind us to perform the behaviour at the right time and the reasoning behind it. Similarly, by performing the behaviour repeatedly, it ends up creating a habit. However, Behavioural Science illustrates that habit brings habituation, which can cause the employee to become bored and abandon the experience. Maintaining long-term engagement and commitment requires the online professional development plan to include gradual tasks and changing or growing challenges. It’s very important to start with tasks that are easy to perform, making them increasingly difficult, yet achievable, until the result is ultimately reached.

 

With all these behavioural strategies and techniques, we can design a professional development plan (suitable to the needs of remote working employees or similar profiles) without it needing to be labour intensive or adapted several times across the company. Scientifically informed, it can offer multiple growth opportunities to those employees which will therefore result in enhanced company productivity. Behavioural Science, because of the name, can sound daunting when all you feel you need is a quick fix or an easy win. But really, it comes down to understanding the audience, the people you’re trying to connect to or gain something from. We’ve come a long way from expecting employees to carry out actions or behaviours “because I said so”. Consider the power behind “because I want to”. So, if offices are changing, if what we consider an employee is changing, along with schedules, routines, a day’s work – maybe we need to update how we support and structure all of that as well.

As we face new challenges in the workplace and the world in general, it seems that working from home and remote workforces will become an increasingly common practice. Employees and employers alike will be feeling the strain to balance priorities and maintain ‘business as usual’ structures. Communication tools and software are imperative for ensuring connectivity. If implemented alone, without strategy and an understanding of how your team engage in their work, they can feel like tools to monitor and observe employees.

Here we will look at how even just a basic understanding of motivation can help you to ensure your employees or your team, whatever their profile or drives, stay engaged and motivated whilst working from home – now and in the future.

The RAMP model is based on Self Determination Theory and stands for Relatedness, Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. Relatedness taps into our innate desire to be connected to others, Autonomy, the need to have choice and freedom. Mastery is a need to improve, feel progress and achievement. Finally, Purpose can be described as the “reason” we do things.

All of these can hold the key to make working from home feel as productive or satisfying as working in an office.

Relatedness

This is one of the most important aspects that can be lost when working from home. In the office you always have people around to talk to, bounce ideas off and even just share a lunch break with. Working from home can be calming for some, isolating for others – and in times of uncertainty it is important to find ways to stay connected, not micromanaged.

  • Tools
    When working from home, it can be very isolating if no effort is made to engage with others. Most companies have tools that will enable this one way or another, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Slack and so on. Don’t bombard each other, but find reasons to send a positive message or email, and make sure there are meetings held on conference call, video call or even the good old-fashioned phone. Give your people a voice, literally!
  • Conversation & Collaboration
    When working from home for extended periods, make sure your employees are using those tools in a way similar to how they would talk to people in the office. Just because it is text based, doesn’t mean it can’t be just as valuable. If they are not using the tools, why not ask questions, send thoughts, share an anectdote. It is all part of keeping motivated and reminding you that there are others out there with you.

Autonomy

With remote work, it is important to accept that employees will naturally have more freedom and inevitably less structure than they may have in the office. If they are working from home to balance family life or health needs or extenuating circumstances with work commitments, flexibility is important. Flexibility doesn’t mean employees going MIA – which is a message for both employees and their managers. Don’t tie your employees to their desktops and phones out of fear. Connect with them and empower them to continue contributing and they will feel all the better (and perform more) for it.

  • Trust
    There may be a temptation to check in with employees more often than you might normally. This reduces their feeling of agency and autonomy. In turn, this makes them feel less trusted.
  • Accountability
    Whilst autonomy is great, employees need to be disciplined and take accountability for the work that has been set, or for finding work to be done.
  • Job Done vs Time Done
    Accept that employees will use their time working remotely differently to when they are in the office, breaking the concept of 9-5. Focus on rewarding and celebrating people getting work done, rather than whether they were online at 09:01. It can be hard, especially with current stresses, for people to be mentally present and motivated during strict time frames. Maintain ambitious project ideas, stick to deadlines, and celebrate when the job is done.

Mastery

This may be a little less obvious at first. If you are suddenly now part of a remote team, you might be feeling like your career progression has gone on hold, or maybe you’re struggling to keep up with your company’s e-learning system with other things on your mind. How can people develop their skills or experience when there is no one there to see them do it? Particularly if you’re from a more traditional working environment, working from home can end up feeling like you’re just sitting around. Mastery is about more than ticking boxes. Mastery is about achievement, and there are many ways for you to feel you are continuing to accomplish things professionally in a less conventional setting.

  • Goals
    Make sure that everyone has clear goals and that progress towards them can be tracked (for the employee’s benefit more than yours). It is essential that goals are achievable, and progress is recognised. If this is proving complicated in the beginning, break them down into smaller goals to build momentum.
  • Feedback
    Provide constructive feedback as regularly as makes sense for each employee. Whilst working remotely, it can be very hard to feel that you are succeeding or achieving anything, or to know what other people are doing around you.
  • Self-Guided Learning
    Help your team feel able to use their time to expand their skills with online and virtual learning/training courses. This will go towards them feeling trusted to manage their time, as well as providing some structure and even some inspiration for their day to day work.

Purpose

There are two versions of purpose that are important here. Firstly, finding some sort of value and meaning to the work you are doing – a reason why you are doing it. Organisations and employers play a huge role in this by helping to remind employees why the work they do is important, and emphasising that they are all part of a collective, collaborative group rather than remote satellites. The other aspect is philanthropic purpose, helping others. As mentioned before remote working, especially if somewhat involuntary, can be isolating for your team members. It is vital for team morale and motivation to keep up the human aspect of work rather than only pinging people for a favour or work related question.

  • Purpose and Value
    The more disconnected you are from an organisation, the easier it is to forget the importance of what you’re doing. It is essential that you keep up communications with your team so that you all don’t lose sight of your common goals and purpose. Also companies should be encouraged to continue sharing communications and updates to remove the sense of people working for or towards something invisible.
  • Helping Others
    The other type of purpose, that of helping others. Just because you can’t do a coffee round as you would in the office, doesn’t mean you can’t still help others in some way remotely. Make yourself available and remember that everyone is in the same boat!

User Experience (UX) is the practice of product or service design that looks beyond the physical or visual design. It analyses, enhances and emphasises the way people could interact with the experience being created.

With the growing need to better understand how customers or consumers think, combined with the demand for clever, seamless interfacing, it is possible that UX could in fact be gradually morphing towards something like User Engagement Design. Good design, and particularly UX design, looks through the lens of the user to understand their view of the world, in order to connect with them, and hopefully enhance their daily routine.

As an approach, it puts user requirements in the spotlight from the beginning of any concept or project. And if the user feels something has been made with them in mind, the more readily it will be adopted.

Engagement as an outcome

Users tend to develop a personal affection when a product empowers or entertains them. Nowadays, most companies are vying to develop this emotional connection through marketing and customer engagement strategies. They produce eye catching apps, websites, communications and campaigns that reflect the trending designs people today respond to. For brands, a stronger emotional engagement will mean more likelihood to use their services, or even to perform better as an employee, which can drive higher profitability. However, a cool design on its own isn’t enough to encourage meaningful or long-term engagement. You need to put some thought into it.

 

It is here we like to place a lot of emphasis in our work. By prioritising the drives and needs of the end user, you provide a smoother route for them to connect with you, your processes or objectives.

And with the richness of graphic or visual design and the flexibility and potential that technology can provide, it has almost never been easier to reach target audiences today. Appealing to the eye, ease of use, accessibility at just the touch of a button – it all works together to invite users to start exploring. Beyond that, a solution’s survival then depends on the ability to successfully onboard the user and continuously prove its value.

 

To create meaningful experiences, and sustain the journey you want a user to embark on, requires complementing design with some of the principles behind human psychology and human behaviour. This helps us interpret emotions, reactions and motivations, therefore helping us to build scenarios that will provoke desired interactions. You want to minimise frustration – creating an environment where the user almost instantly knows where to find what they’re looking for. An engaging application or service will almost anticipate the user’s next want or need.

Connecting to the mind of the user

 

It may sound complex, but it doesn’t need to be. UX design principles help map how we most commonly interact with things around us, and provides the key to innovate the ways we could experience something. All coming together to surprise, satisfy and stimulate an engaged end user.

In the worst-case scenario, you want to stop a user feeling lost or stuck. Ideally though, you’re creating an experience so dynamic and enjoyable for the individual that they recommend it to others and keep returning out of genuine loyalty.

 

It is here that great UX design sits: at the intersection of technology and psychology. Providing the methodology to first hook an individual into engaging with something, and then anticipating the ways a user will want to access and interact, so that the overall experience feels intuitive and responsive to them personally. The goal is to make each user feel special – as though an application or product was designed with just them in mind. And replicating that feeling across millions of other people as well. Easy!

 

Gamification, the use of game design, game elements and play for non-entertainment purposes, is a divisive word. It conjures pictures of employees and customers playing video games, where in reality it very rarely looks like that.

Gamification, in its purest form, borrows from games to increase engagement with an activity. It could simply be that the addition of clear goals and feedback in the form of progress maps and scores can achieve this. On the other hand, a strong narrative and game-like look and feel might be the best way achieve the specified business outcomes.

The point is that gamification needs to be applied in a way that fits a well-defined brief, achieves the business outcomes and balances the client’s wants with the client’s needs (which are often at odds).

However, far too often we see “Gimmick Gamification”, that looks pretty but achieves very little. It relies on the novelty factor but has no eye to longevity. It is easy to understand why though. The addition of a simple game to a website looks like a good idea. “Games are fun, people like games, a game will stick in people’s memories, and make us look innovative and exciting”.

The trouble is, the game has to achieve something for both the client and the player. For example, if the client is looking for repeated visits, then often the game will focus on short bursts of play with the promise of a reward for repeat visits. The game is usually very simple and becomes boring quickly. In this instance the rewards have to be very special to maintain at least mid-term engagement. More often than not all that will happen is short bursts of activity as new users discover the game, but very few returning players.

 

 

On the flip side, if the game is amazing, but the rewards and messaging are poor, all that you get is players engaging with the game, not the brand! If you are going to rely on a game, it needs to strike a balance of deep gameplay and desirable rewards, but this will and should take time to design.

That’s why good gamification usually focuses on borrowing from games rather than trying to build games. It requires an understanding of the target audience and of what they want and need as well as what the client wants and needs. It requires an understanding of what motivates people to engage over long periods. It requires time and development if it is going to deliver results.

If you want a quick adrenaline shot, the Gimmick Gamification might be for you. If you want sustained and long-term engagement that focuses on change and business outcomes, then you need to look at gamification as a strategy rather than a novelty.

It’s been a month now since the UCL Centre for Behaviour Change 2018 conference “Going Digital & Beyond” and I have been reflecting on a key theme that struck me as being so important and relevant in the work I do at Motivait. Mostly, it is the idea that intervention effectiveness and engagement have distinctly different sets of design and outcome criteria.

For any intervention, programme or solution to be effective in achieving its aims, it must be engaging for users (for this blog, I’ll focus on digital interventions). Whilst this is hardly breaking news, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking user engagement and user effectiveness are the same thing and therefore only designing exclusively for one or the other.

The effectiveness of an intervention is determined by whether it positively changes desired behaviour(s) and delivers intended outcomes. Effectiveness is determined by a range of factors; from how the intervention is delivered, the population and context, target behaviour(s), the extent of relevant behaviour change techniques & psychological theory applied to the intervention content, to name but a few.

Using an example, if we take employee job-strain as a commonly experienced challenge for organisations, we may use the Job Demands-Resources model as a relevant psychological framework to understand and reduce job strain. Then, we could translate its principles into the content design of a workplace wellbeing app to help managers & employees learn how to reduce employee job-strain –let’s give it a name and call it MyWorkBeing.

While the intervention’s content has been designed using relevant theory, it does not necessarily mean that this alone will attract users and sustain their engagement to the point where it is actually achieving its outcomes. In our made-up example MyWorkBeing app, it needs to be engaging enough, for long enough, to help employees’ change behaviours associated with job-strain, in the long-term, not just for a week.

There are multiple factors that influence engagement with interventions. Aside from variations in individual differences (e.g. motivation), these include the extent to which persuasive communications is used to attract users, to usability and UX, to specific engagement designs such as gamification elements and how specified they are in behaviour change techniques terms (i.e. the ‘active ingredients’ from behavioural science that regulate changes in behaviour).

So thinking about our MyWorkBeing app, it could include features such as onboarding tutorials to help users understand the apps usefulness, self-help education videos such as mindfulness, goal-setting, feedback and monitoring to cope with personal stressors, to the use of crowd-creation and crowd-rating mechanisms to generate and rate employee ideas on how the working environment could be re-designed to support wellbeing (e.g. better communal areas to incentivise social lunches, to work process changes).

When it comes to evaluating digital behaviour change interventions, it is important that engagement and effectiveness are evaluated separately without confusing their criteria. Engagement with digital interventions is considered to be measured in behavioural terms (amount, depth, frequency of use, etc.) via system analytics and in subjective experiential terms (attention, interest, vigour, satisfaction, etc.) via self-report measures.
Here we can observe what levels of engagement with the intervention, as revealed from the above metrics, is bringing about the desired changes (i.e. effectiveness criteria); this is referred to as the ‘optimal dose’.

Using our example, what levels of user engagement with the MyWorkBeing app is resulting in reductions in job-strain related behaviours (e.g. lunching at desks, email access out of hours) and outcome measures (e.g. absenteeism, wellbeing self-report measures)? We could find that those users who set and regularly monitor their goal progress and frequently watch self-help video features, to have better outcomes compared to those who only engage with the crowd-creation & crowd-rating features.

The take away message here is that engagement and effectiveness are equally important and should both be designed for carefully and evaluated with their different criteria. Simply, if users are not engaging with something, it’s not going to be effective. By the same token, if people are engaging, but the content design (or some of it) is not relevant to users, it’s also unlikely to be effective.

Engagement

Nobody said that inspiring Engagement was simple or easy, quite the contrary. It is in itself a challenging, complex process. Before launching heads first into any project, the first stop is always to consider how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together to design a successful, meaningful solution.
Initially, participants can often show lack of interest for reality because they have learned, day after day, that situation does not add any real value to them (learned irrelevance). Read more