“Designing for Behavior Change: Applying Psychology and Behavioral Economics” by Steve Wendel; O’Reilly Media

This easy to read and interesting book provides practical guidance on how to create products that help people to change their behaviour and daily routines. The book provides an introduction to why people behaviour in a particular way, why it might be desirable to change certain behaviours, and strategies for behaviour change. The book continues to detail an in-depth process to design, develop, and define products that can be used to create products that help users to change their behaviour.

The book is broken into six sections starting with the background of how the mind makes decisions and then working through various stages to discover the behaviours to try and change, and how to  design, create, test, and refine products to accomplish these goals. The first section provides a high-level introduction to how we make decisions and the various factors that influence them with references to the relevant studies and research articles are provided. Strategies are provided for changing these decision making behaviours, together with example scenarios and products that address particular areas where behaviour change is desirable.

Section 2 provides a very good introduction on defining the requirements for your product, including how to decide what your product should do, choosing target actions and their associated goals, defining a target audience and researching those users and their current behaviour. Section 3 provides well written and explained guidance for conceptual design of the product including how to breakdown and structure actions, providing a compelling environment for the users to motivate and encourage them to change their behaviour, and preparing and educating users. Section 4 covers the design and coding of interfaces, including reviewing designs for specific elements for influencing decision making, implementing the product from the designs, user engineering, and evaluating the impacts of revisions.

Section 5 covers how to refine the product using impact analysis, identifying problems, and how to carry findings over into future development and products. The final section provides questions, answers, and examples of how to put the content of the book into practice for novel applications, and a summary of the content of the book that provides a handy quick reference to the key points and steps discussed in more details in the preceding chapters. The book also provides a glossary, suggestions for further reading, and bibliography of sources.

This book provides a thorough guide for developing products aimed at changing behaviour, but the book provides processes and best practices for developing usable products that should be of interest to anyone in roles related to product development, product managers, and user experience. I would expect this book to be particular useful for app developers, but is just as relevant to products and services outside of software development.

For more information, see the O’Reilly product page.


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