Digital Behavioral Design: 3 Key Practices

Updated IT News

UX/UI designers are using lessons from psychology and AI to build interfaces that are seamless – and irresistible.

What do you get when you merge behavioral psychology with digital design and technology? The answer is a radically-expanded universe of possibilities for how to grab users’ attention and guide them towards outcomes and conversions on your website or app.

Digital Behavioral Design (DBD) is a relatively new and revolutionary approach to User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) design and development.

The approach seeks to apply insights from behavioral psychology in order to create optimized UX/UI that works for both users and the companies that want to serve them.

We’ve already written an article outlining the concept of DBD – and importantly, some of the ethical considerations that need to be observed when engaging in this approach to UX/UI development.

In today’s article, we’re going to take a look at some of the key practices and techniques that UX/UI designers and developers can use to create truly magnetic websites and apps through a DBD approach.

So, what are some of the basic DBD techniques designers and developers can begin applying to push up retention and conversion rates?

Here is a selection of the most powerful:

1. Align with Users’ Needs

One of the most important aspects of DBD that theorists and innovators of the concept constantly emphasize is the need to maintain a strong ethical compass when attempting to guide or change users’ behavior.

The key principle that guides this ethical framework is that DBD should not be attempting to push users to take actions that go against their interests. Instead, DBD should be used to persuade users to take actions that can be of benefit to them.

One of the best ways to ensure DBD techniques and approaches are set on the right foundations for success is to first understand how your goals and desires as a company can be aligned with that of your users/customers, and vice versa.

For example, if you’re a company selling specialty food products on an e-commerce site, you should first ask: What do my users want from my website? How can I give this to them in the best way possible?

Asking and answering these questions can lead to new ways of conceptualizing how to present your products and services.

This might involve providing incentives and the right graphic layouts to promote users to keep exploring all of your product ranges.

Or it could lead you to use data analytics to learn from users’ past activity in order to present them with certain types of food, or to give them an option for choices that are aligned with their chosen dietary requirements, etc.

Conversely, trying to use behavioral design to drive users towards goals that they may not want or need may give you short term rewards, but in the long run it will only serve to alienate you from your customers, give your brand a bad reputation, and fail the DBD ethics test.

2. Cue, Action, Reward

One of the central components of behavioral psychology is the idea of reward. Indeed, psychologists and scientists have long been exploring how reward is the most powerful driver of human – and indeed most animal – behavior.

Put simply, the pleasure we gain from being rewarded is what drives us to take actions – from eating to socializing, working towards a goal or going shopping: everything comes down to pleasure that is triggered by rewards.

However, there are many complex mechanisms that go into how we perceive and derive pleasure from a reward.

Behavioral psychologists have developed a framework for understanding these processes, which is now being applied to DBD.

This is the Cue, Action, Reward (CAR) framework. Basically, CAR denotes the three different stages of stimulating an action that is then rewarded.

Designers are able to implement many different types of cues in an interface, from colors to sounds, text, and more. These should all be designed in order to produce a desired action on the part of the user. Once this action is performed, some kind of appropriate reward should follow.

When a user is cued to press a CTA and they do so, they should be rewarded for this by being given exactly what they were promised, or more.

While there are many different ways to consider the CAR framework, the basic principle is that desired actions need to be rewarded. If they are not, then users will likely end up resenting your website or app.

3. Use the Unexpected

Behavioral psychologists have found that the most powerful types of rewards are those that are unexpected.

In a now-famous experiment involving a bird placed in a box with a button to peck that made a sound, BF Skinner of Harvard, one of the early pioneers of Behaviorism, made an amazing discovery.

Birds that were given a reward at random intervals were the ones that pecked the button most, by far. Those that were rewarded with a food pellet whenever they pecked the button did so far less.

These findings have since been replicated in many more complex ways by scientists since: but the principle remains – if we are aware that a reward is possible but not certain, we are more likely to value and pursue those rewards.

Whether it is a compliment from a friend on your new haircut, a sudden bonus announced by your boss or being presented with a surprise birthday cake – rewards that we have not anticipated tend to have the most impact when it comes to sensations of pleasure.

DBD specialists and marketers will be well-advised to integrate this knowledge into their digital designs and campaigns.

If you can create an environment that is both constantly rewarding in terms of the content and value it brings, as well as randomly rewarding through sporadic rewards given to users – such as for example, unexpected discounts or offers – then you may very well have a perfect cocktail for user engagement.

However, be careful – rewards should only be used insofar as they make sense. If they are overused, your users will quickly put less value on them.

While DBD is a constantly-evolving and highly complex system of ideas and processes, it has something to offer creators of websites and apps of all sizes.

From basic ideas on how to use colors and other cues to stimulate actions, to much more specific and complex ideas on how to create reward pathways and build trust among users: DBD is shaping up to be the design paradigm of our generation.

Do you have a website or app that you want to build in line with the latest trends in UX and UI? Get in touch to find out how Bocasay’s talented teams in Madagascar, Mauritius and Vietnam can help you make it happen.

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