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Ask The Expert – Designing for behaviour change

This year, we’ve again sponsored the UX Bristol event and the lineup of workshops was brilliant. We heard from Efi Chatzopoulou. Her workshop revolved around the intersection where psychology meets design, which is a road you definitely can’t avoid going down when designing for behaviour change. Inspired by a well-known psychology model that has helped bring change to thousands of people and applied to different health behaviours.

We caught up with Efi after the event to gather her thoughts and top tips revolving around this.

ADLIB: What has been your career journey so far, leading you to where you are right now?

Efi Chatzopoulou: My parents always told me what a pain I was for constantly taking stuff apart, like toys and small devices, so that I can see what’s inside and understand how they work and then put them back together (not always successfully). I was also very fond of buttons and finding out what they did. I was known to read manuals cover to cover for everything we had (including our car) to make sure we don’t miss out on any hidden magical functionality. In secondary school, I loved maths and solved algebra problems when I was bored in history lessons…

All of the above seem a self-indulgent, irrelevant part of my history but it really isn’t, because these are traits that are actually really valuable in UX: curiosity, info gathering and problem-solving. This is what I think UX is about: methodical thinking with lots of helpful processes to take people on a journey towards solutions.

But if your question is more about what I studied and did for work, here’s a very quick whistle stop. I studied psychology because I was fascinated by human complexity and the stats were a nice bonus.

After I graduated, I did an MSc in Human Computer Interaction because I was a frustrated female gamer in a male gaming world and wanted to be part of creating a more level playing field. Rather than gaming, I ended up working in the charity sector for 10 years, supporting and running services for people with autism and mental health difficulties. I loved it and wanted to make more of a difference so went on to study Health Psychology.

But the more I studied Health Psychology the more I thought how design thinking could actually be a great tool for designing better interventions that help people. So I changed my path and started working at a UX agency. And that was it, I really felt I was where I needed to be, so I’ve been working in UX ever since, first in agencies and more recently as a freelance consultant. I feel so lucky in that I absolutely love what I do, it perfectly combines my fascination with people and fixation with problem-solving.

ADLIB: In a nutshell, what is ‘designing for behaviour change’?

Efi Chatzopoulou: It’s about encouraging designers to think beyond the service, product or website they’re putting out there; about the implications, design can have on their customers’ lives as a whole, not just on their platforms. That means thinking about the mechanics of human behaviour rather than solely about the mechanics of the product.

Especially when clicking a button takes people beyond ordering a new pair of shoes but commits them to starting something new or doing things differently to what they’re used to, there is a lot to consider and incorporate into our thinking. For example, clicking on the ‘Start saving now’ button of a banking app means regularly putting money aside and we need to carefully consider the ins and outs of that in order to develop a valuable and supportive experience that helps people get there.

In fact, we need to start from there, the behaviour, and work backwards, towards interfaces and buttons, rather than the other way around.

ADLIB: What were some of the core activities you focussed on in the workshop and why?

Efi Chatzopoulou: I introduced a model that has been widely used in Health Psychology. It’s one that I unwittingly found myself going back to when I was working on behaviour change problems, such as when designing a health wearable or in the finance sector. I ended up revisiting it and the more I read about it the more I felt that it can help designers break down this sort of complex problems. I wrote an article on how it can be helpful here.

In summary, two key aspects are:

  1. When it comes to changing behaviour, people tend to go through five different stages.
  2. We need to know what stage people are starting from so we can make sure to offer the support they most need at that stage.

When it comes to design, this can be really helpful, because we often have a plethora of good solutions to choose from, which makes deciding which ones to implement tricky.

This approach can help us hone on where to spend our energies on. And the answer to this is going to be different for different products at different times.

At the workshop, I invited people to create profiles of people in different stages (imaginary personas kind of thing) and then come up with ideas for solutions accordingly. It was a lot to cover in a 90-minute session, so there was a bit of information overload but thankfully it sounds like people found it helpful so I’m now developing a slightly longer, more comprehensive hands-on session around it.

ADLIB: And finally, what were some of the key takeaways from the session?

Efi Chatzopoulou:

  • Humans are complicated! As designers, we need to go beyond “users” and start thinking about the humans behind our products.
  • Change is not binary but happens in stages. If we know where people are starting their change journeys from then we can design solutions that are more matched to their needs.
  • Always test test test.

If people end up taking away just one of the above points I’d be delighted!

Thank you for sharing!

About Efi Chatzopoulou: Efi is a UX consultant with a strong behavioural science edge, helping organisations get to the most effective solutions by asking the right questions. She’s always been in awe of human beings and their complexities, which led to her studying psychology 3 times (in different shapes and forms)! She strongly believes that adding behaviour science into product design can really make magic happen, which is why she’s on a mission to help organisations add human centredness to user-centred processes. She’s worked with top agencies in Bristol and supported government, corporate and charitable organisations, including Public Health England, Innovate UK and the V&A museum. When not helping to solve design and behavioural problems for work she listens to psychology audiobooks and tests theories on herself and her family.

The purpose of our article series ‘Ask The Expert’ is to capture and share Tech, Data, Engineering, Science, Marketing and Design sector expertise. We are featuring experts, thought leaders and influencers. Showcasing sector wisdom learned through experience.