30 April 2013

Exploring Problem-framing through Behavioural Heuristics

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Article published in the April 2013 issue of the International Journal of Design
By Dan Lockton, David J. Harrison, Rebecca Cain, Neville A. Stanton, & Paul Jennings

Design for behaviour change aims to influence user behaviour, through design, for social or environmental benefit. Understanding and modelling human behaviour has thus come within the scope of designers’ work, as in interaction design, service design and user experience design more generally. Diverse approaches to how to model users when seeking to influence behaviour can result in many possible strategies, but a major challenge for the field is matching appropriate design strategies to particular behaviours (Zachrisson & Boks, 2012).

In this paper, we introduce and explore behavioural heuristics as a way of framing problem-solution pairs (Dorst & Cross, 2001) in terms of simple rules. These act as a ‘common language’ between insights from user research and design principles and techniques, and draw on ideas from human factors, behavioural economics, and decision research. We introduce the process via a case study on interaction with office heating systems, based on interviews with 16 people. This is followed by worked examples in the ‘other direction’, based on a workshop held at the Interaction ’12 conference, extracting heuristics from existing systems designed to influence user behaviour, to illustrate both ends of a possible design process using heuristics.

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