Academic journal article International Journal of Design

Exploring Problem-Framing through Behavioural Heuristics

Academic journal article International Journal of Design

Exploring Problem-Framing through Behavioural Heuristics

Article excerpt


Design for behaviour change (Lilley, 2009; Wever, 2012) is part of what Redström (2005) calls "a progression towards the user becoming the subject of design" (p. 124), with "design as an intervention into multiple and interpenetrating technical, material and social systems" (Mazé & Redström, 2008, p. 55). Dubberly and Pangaro (2007, p. 1302) note design's growing concern with "ways of behaving", and popular guidebooks and toolkits explaining the practical applicability of a range of behavioural principles to design have become common in recent years, particularly in interaction design, service design and user experience design (e.g., Anderson, 2010, 2011; Dirksen, 2012; Lockton, Harrison, & Stanton, 2010a; Pfarr, Cervantes, Lavey, Lee, Hintzman, & Vuong, 2010; Weinschenk, 2009, 2011).

Much of this focuses on changing behaviour: the aim generally is to translate psychological principles or effects into strategies or techniques which can be applied via the design of products and services, to influence users' behaviour, often for social benefit (e.g., Tromp, Hekkert, & Verbeek, 2011; Visser, Vastenburg, & Keyson, 2011) or environmental benefit (e.g., Lockton, Cain, Harrison, Giudice, Nicholson, & Jennings, 2011; Mazé & Redström, 2008). The field overlaps substantially with the aims of persuasive technology (Fogg, 2003), and may contribute to transformation design (Sangiorgi, 2011) as design is employed to facilitate change.

As design practice becomes increasingly focused on people, modelling human behaviour is becoming an explicit aspect of designers' responsibilities (Keinonen, 2010). The different approaches taken to understanding behaviour can result in a wide spectrum of strategies, framing both problems and solutions in a variety of ways (e.g., Brand, 2004; Lidman & Renström, 2011; Lockton et al., 2010a; Tang & Bhamra, 2008; Tromp et al., 2011; Wever, van Kuijk, & Boks, 2008; Zachrisson & Boks, 2012). What is still needed is an approach to modelling which links insights from contextual research (with users themselves) to possible design strategies (Lockton, Harrison, & Stanton, 2012). This has the potential to be particularly valuable in design for behaviour change, giving designers greater understanding of users' behaviour and how to influence it.

The research question we explored in this paper, is whether it is possible to develop an approach that links insights from user research with applicable design techniques in the context of design for behaviour change, through modelling both interaction behaviour and design techniques in terms of simple abstracted 'rules'-behavioural heuristics. The approach complements but differs from other nascent modelling approaches used within design for behaviour change and persuasive technology, drawing on ideas from human factors, behavioural economics, and decision research to explore and frame behavioural problem-solution pairs (Dorst & Cross, 2001) in-context, rather than starting with classifying design strategies.

This paper takes an exploratory approach to examine the potential of using behavioural heuristics as part of the design process in design for behaviour change: we are not claiming this to be a definitive solution to the question of how to specify relevant design techniques, but rather we are suggesting that this is an approach which may be useful to practitioners seeking to model user behaviour through insights from user research. Further, we wish to stimulate discussion in the area of design for behaviour change. We start by reviewing how models of human behaviour play an important part in design for behaviour change, and how they link to different ways of framing problem/solution spaces. We then consider the potential of investigating users' mental models, and propose behavioural heuristics as a lower-level approach to modelling in comparison to conventional mental models, which seek to model behavior in a more comprehensive way. …

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