Behavior Change Design Sprints

Implementing a UX metrics framework at a Brazilian food delivery startup

UX strategist
Workshop moderator
Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering
Spring 2017, 2018, 2019
Workshop guides
Moderation slide
Card decks

*scroll down for download links

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.

Numerous methods help designers to rapidly brainstorm design ideas, but none of them incorporate human behavior science into the design process. How can we facilitate the application of scientific findings from human behavior science into the design process?

3 years ago I created the Behavior Change Design Sprint, and since then I have been following a User-Centered approach to improving it. In this period, I had the opportunity to run multiple sprint sessions as an instructor of the Human Centered Design and Engineering program and giving the workshop in multiple companies and events, such as Interaction’19.

Workshop participants at the IxD Education Summit’19, in Seattle.

I envisioned a workshop format that follows current industry practices to facilitate understanding and adoption of the sprint, grounding the method in exercises and terminology that are familiar to designers. Therefore, I used Google’s design sprints as a foundation for the Behavior Change Design Sprint. In addition, I created a short workshop format that fits into the work routine of professionals. For example, product teams usually do a quick 1 or 2 hour brainstorming session to debrief user research findings. This is the type of situation for which the Behavior Change Design Sprint was created.

Of note, most design processes don’t have any particular steps or guidance related to design ethics. I wanted to encourage designers to consider ethics as a key factor in the design of behavior change technologies, and I factored this concern into specific steps of the Sprint.

Below I briefly describe the Behavior Change Design Sprint steps.

Split the participants into groups of 3 or 4. They should have access to a whiteboard, post its, and markers. The process is quick and goal-oriented. Therefore, you need certain design materials to set the right constraints for a productive session. I decided to use common materials such as persona-based scenarios, user journeys, and design challenges.

Translating Scenario into User Journey
In the first step, participants are asked to read and become familiar with the input materials.

Participants then have to create a visual representation of the scenario, showing a sequence of events that the persona goes through. I designed this translation of scenarios into user journeys to help designers envision multiple timings and locations for behavior-changing design interventions.

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 the example below, taking the stairs instead of taking the elevator.

Visualizing the design scenario as a diagram and highlight the target behavior allow 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.

Lastly, it is important to encourage participants to think about ‘the why’ of behaviors, identifying obstacles for target behaviors to happen.

Applying Strategies to User Journey
In the second step, it is time to expose participants to human behavior science. This is key because, without findings from human behavior studies, brainstorming often generates more general ideas such as how to make designs easy-to-use or delightful.

I have used card decks with behavior insights, but you can use other resources such as user research findings. At the bottom of this page, you can find downloadable card decks. What is important here is that cards should have clear recommendations that can help designers brainstorm ways to address their design challenge.

Sketching Solutions
This is the only individual step in the sprint. Here, participants sketch different ways to incorporate human behavior science into designs, following cues that prompt them to think about different ways to promote behavior change in the personas.

Selecting a Solution
After sketching individually, participants present their ideas to their peers. At the end of this step, groups converge on one idea that they think it’s appropriate to tackle the design challenge. In the guide, you will find prompts to facilitate groups’ decision-making.

Prototyping and Explaining Rationale
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 human behavior science was used to inspire prototypes. We also ask participants to discuss the ethics of their proposed designs.

Here are all the resources that you will need to run the Behavior Change Design Sprint:

  • Sprint guide. All of the steps described 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 and the moderation slides here.

  • Constraint materials. Download the example design challenges, personas, and scenarios here. Feel free to adapt our examples, or come up with your own materials.

  • Recommendations. Participants need a set of insights from human behavior science. You can use our Behavior Change Design cards decks (below), with insights drawn from social psychology research. You can also use other card decks, such as Artefact’s or Lockton’s. Some product teams might even want to use findings from their user research instead of design cards.

Download the 2018 card deck
Download a box for the card deck

Download the 2019 card deck
Download a box for the card deck

Interested in knowing more about my process and the research behind the Behavior Change Design Sprint? Read the white paper I published about it at the Designing Interactive Systems ‘18 conference:

Download research paper; or else, you can read a short Medium post that the Interaction’19 organizers published about the sprint: Read Medium publication.

“Reviewers believe that the paper is useful for design professionals to have an additional knowledge base for understanding behavior change related to their design goal, and in identifying a clear gap in the field which makes a strong contribution to Human-Computer Interaction and Design communities.”
Primary review of the submission

“Thank you so much for the sprint at the Education Summit. It was truly an awesome experience! I learned so much from it. I think I can apply a lot to my work.”
Feedback from Interaction’19 workshop participant

In my academic department, HCDE, the sprint is the backbone of a class that my advisor and I created for masters students where we teach behavior change design.

“I just wanted to let you know that I thoroughly enjoyed every class we've had. I keep telling people how this is my absolute favorite of all HCDE classes ever because I learned so much while also having a lot of fun, so thank you for a great quarter!“
Student in the Spring 2019 class

See some examples of designs that my students created using the sprint (these are prototypes created and delivered for grading in only one class, around 3 hours of work).

I acknowledge the work of my collaborators Tien Do, Erika Dillman, and Gary Hsieh to design the sprint. I also appreciate the participation and input of all students and workshop participants that helped me to observe ways to improve the sprint.

More projects