Behavioral Design UX
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Behavioral Design is the Future of UX

Laura MacPherson March 7, 2019

For an app or software product to be successful, users have to actually use it. How many times have you heard horror stories of companies building an expensive app or software, only to struggle to get people to adopt it? Maybe the user experience is counterintuitive. Or maybe what users reported they wanted isn’t what they really wanted after all.

Whatever the reason for rejection, the new app ends up languishing because it doesn’t resonate with users. Or the enterprise organization spends even more money on training and wastes significant time and energy cajoling rogue employees to get on board.

Two Approaches to UX Design

Software should be a delight for target users to interact with. They should eagerly adopt it because it makes their lives easier and better. So how can designers and developers ensure that software is a joy to use and actually resonates?

There are two primary ways: user interviews and behavioral design best practices. Each has an important role to play, but many software development companies today focus too heavily on user interviews.

Yes, there’s important information you need to gather about your users that you can’t get any other way (such as details about where they’ll be using the software, what processes the software needs to fit within, and what other tools users need the software to integrate with). But human nature is such that we can’t always accurately predict our behavior. Especially when it comes to reflexive behaviors (which much of software usage involves), we act outside our conscious control.

Why Behavioral Design Works

Behavioral design steps in to fill the gaps. Behavioral design is based on understanding from behavioral science — insights about human behavior that are true of all users. Through behavioral design, developers can build a UX around proven explanations of why people do what they do so that the software is enjoyable for people to use. And they can take advantage of patterns of behavior to create software experiences that drive increased usage.

Behavioral design uses what we understand about the neurological loop: a cue triggers a routine (behavior) that delivers a reward. Behavior that’s rewarded is repeated. And thanks to behavioral science, we know that how you deliver the reward makes an impact on how strongly the behavior is reinforced.

Why Behavioral Design is the Future

The more software developers base their design on proven principles of science, the more likely they are to build products that people use. Again, user interviews are essential, but they’re not enough. By neglecting behavioral design, developers are working with one hand tied behind their back. The future of UX is behavioral design.

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