Behavior Change Design Sprint
A rapid process for applying behavior change strategies into the prototyping of technologies

Before diving into a step by step description of the sprint, here are the resources that you will need:

  • Sprint guide. All of the steps describe on this page are shown in detail on the guide. To facilitate the execution of the sprint, print out the sprint guide and give it to participants. Download the sprint guide here.

  • Recommendations. Participants need a set of recommendations on how to support the behaviors in question. I offer the Behavior Change Design cards deck, with insights drawn from social psychology research. You can also use other card decks related to behavior change, such as Artefact’s or Lockton’s for example. Some teams might want to use findings from their user research instead of design cards.

Behavior Change Design Sprints what?

Designers often create products and services to help people give up on bad habits or to perform positive ones such as exercising more or eating healthy. The process of creating technologies to nudge or change behavior is known as behavior change design.

I identified downsides with the current processes to design behavior change technologies, and used them as design goals for the creation of a new behavior change design process.

  • Workflow fit. Past behavior change design processes don’t properly adapt to the context of designers. Processes are either too time-consuming or use terminology that is unusual for designers. Therefore, to better align to what designers do in practice, I used the Google Design Sprint process as a foundation for our process. It is a pretty straightforward step by step method, with terminology and exercises that are familiar to designers.

  • Theory-driven insights. Past processes are also disconnected from behavior change literature. They don’t offer clear guidance on how to incorporate behavior change theory into the design process. I want to facilitate the use and application of behavior change theory - there’s a wealth of behavior change theories that can be leveraged in this space.

  • Design ethics. Past processes don’t have any particular steps or guidance related to design ethics. As we all know, ethics is a particularly challenging aspect of behavior change design. I want to encourage designers to consider ethics as a key factor in the design behavior change technologies.

Read more about the creation of this sprint in the white paper published at a conference.

How does it work?

Split the participants in groups of 3 or 4. They should have access to a whiteboard, post its, markers. The whole sprint happens in less than 90 minutes. It’s a rapid design workshop that fits into a time slot that design teams would use for something like a brainstorming session.

To start with the sprint one needs a challenge as this is a problem-based design process. Having a clear goal and a design scenario are the most important inputs for the sprint. I also used personas, which can be substituted by any other in-depth information that you have about your users or audience. The example below shows a design challenge about encouraging people to buy healthier food.

Step 1. Map
In the first step, Map, participants are asked to read and become familiar with the input materials. In our case, I used challenges, personas, and design scenarios. In the user journey exercise, participants have to create a visual representation of the design scenario, showing a sequence of events that a persona goes through.

Participants use whiteboards to draw out the user journey, which facilitates group work. It is also an opportunity to clearly map out the target behavior found in the challenge. Participants draw the target behavior with a different color marker — in this example, taking the stairs instead of taking the elevator.

The user journey exercise helps participants to design interventions with a focus on a particular behavior outcome. By being able to visualize the design scenario which is usually presented as a text paragraph, and highlight the target behavior, it allows participants to use the journey as a framework to drive discussions and decisions.

The user journey also helps participants to identify specific times and locations for their design interventions. They clearly define as a group in what context their interventions would come into play.

One important thing the user journey exercise should do is encouraging participants to think about the why of behaviors, identifying obstacles for target behaviors to happen.

Step 2. Sketch
In the second step, expose participants to behavior change theory in the form of design cards. You could use other resources, for example Lockton’s cognitive biases cards, or even insights from user research. What is important here is that cards should have clear recommendations that can help designers brainstorm ways to address their design challenge.

I found that the theory cards were used by participants as talking points and sparked interesting conversations of how to influence behaviors. This was key because without the cards, brainstorming often generates more general ideas such as how to make designs easier to use or more delightful.

Then, individually, participants should sketch ideas based on the brainstorming and the behavior change cards.

Step 3. Decide
In the third step, participants should present their ideas and sketches to their peers. At the end of this step, groups converge on one idea to do the prototyping step. In the guide you will find prompts to facilitate participants’ decision-making.

Step 4. Prototyping
Finally, participants create low-fidelity prototypes based on their most promising behavior change design idea. In parallel to prototyping, participants have to annotate their designs, clearly explaining how the behavior change theories were used to inspire their prototypes, and discuss the ethics of their designs.

Using behavior change theories facilitates advocating for a design. In past evaluations, I found that participants more confidently explained their design rationale by using the cards, incorporating some of the arguments in their annotations.

If you are interested in using the Behavior change design sprint, I prepared a packet with example inputs, guide, and design cards. Download these resources below:

Also, if you are intested in knowing more about my process and the research behind it, read the white paper I published at the Designing Interactive Systems ‘18 conferece:

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