Now available for pre-order: Managing Priorities by Harry Max

Frequently Asked Questions

These common questions and their short answers are taken from Amy Bucher’s book Engaged: Designing for Behavior Change. You can find longer answers to each in your copy of the book, either printed or digital version.

  1. I’ve got a background in behavior science, but no talent for visual design. Can I do behavior change design?
    Absolutely. I was a total amateur at all of the things I thought were design before I started working in the field (and am still not very good at many of them). My strengths are research, strategy, and evaluation, so I partner with people who bring the visual and interaction design and application development chops. I have colleagues who have stronger design skills and less research experience, so they team up accordingly. It’s all about building a team that can complement each other. Chapter 12 offers tips for bringing behavior change into your work, regardless of your background.
  2. Is behavior change design actually necessary?
    If I didn’t think behavior change design was important, then there’d have to be something deeply wrong with me to have spent this much time and effort writing a book about it. Behavior change design helps make products more engaging, which means more people want to use them. That’s good for business. And if your product is actually trying to change people’s behavior, which is true of most products in indus- tries like health, education, and sustainability, then behavior change design will hugely increase the odds it works. Learn more about how to measure the effects of behavior change design in Chapter 2.
  3. What role does social media play in behavior change design?
    Social support can play an important role in helping people change their behavior, and social media can deliver that support in a scalable way. But like any tool, social media must be used thoughtfully to produce the best results. Chapters 8 and 9 cover how to facilitate social support within behavior change design, both with and without connecting people directly to each other.
  4. This book is mostly about motivation psychology. Are there other types of psychology that designers should learn?
    Yes! Cognitive psychology is full of useful information for design- ers, especially visual and interaction designers and anyone creating content. This information includes how people perceive information and can guide decisions about how to present and format the flow of your product. Behavioral economics, which is psychology-adjacent, is what a lot of people think of when they think of behavior change. It’s worth really understanding what behavioral economics is and is not.
    Beyond that, read widely and often. Many of the topics that get covered in pop psychology don’t fit neatly within a particular theory, but are helpful in thinking about designing for behavior change. See Chapter 12 for more suggestions on continuing your behavior change design education.
  5. Can I use behavior change design for evil?
    Sure, but I don’t condone it, and it will probably come back to bite you when people realize what’s happening and stop trusting you. Play the long game and use your behavior change design skills for good. Learn about how to build and maintain user trust in Chapter 10, and get tips from experts on ethical design practices in Chapters 6 and 10.

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