Why digital behaviour change?

The Digital Behaviour Change project came with a shared interest in how we can improve the use of behaviour change in physical activity. At a collaboration workshop with the Get a Move on Network we brought our experience of behaviour science, HCI and design to consider how we may better understand the interdisciplinary collaborations needed to create suggestions for developing ‘theory-driven’ technology combining design process with the Behaviour Change Technique (BCT) Taxonomy .

What is the BCT Taxonomy?

The Behaviour Change (BCT) Taxonomy provides a classification of active ingredients of behaviour change interventions. These are observable, replicable, irreducible and  can be used alone or in combination. There are total 93 Behaviour Change Techniques (BCTs). In its typical format this is a pdf of techniques grouped according to the type of intervention. While this is well known in the field of behaviour science is has rarely been used by designers, potentially due to the format but more likely as there are simply not many examples of it to draw from.

What can it look like in a face to face & digital experience?

For an example of a face to face behaviour change technique, in “4.1 Instruction on how to perform a behaviour” might be a gym instructor with you at the gym showing you how to perform a sit-up. For a digital example, we can consider “6.1 Demonstration of Behaviour” in a video of someone performing an exercise on an app. BCTs we have probably seen before in digital applications include “1.1 Goal setting” (e.g how many steps will you walk per day) and “2.2 Feedback on Behaviour” (e.g how fast you ran).

Digital-Behaviour Change workshops

Most everyday technologies such as fitness apps often do not incorporate behaviour change science into the design process, so it’s not surprising that people’s use of them is often short-lived and does not lead to sustained behaviour change. Interventions that are based on behaviour change science can be more effective. However, there are no practical guidelines on how to implement behaviour change techniques into the content of digital interventions.

We explored this gap through a series of design workshops with experts across the disciplines of physical activity, behaviour science and design. We observed how they worked together and used BCT to create effective design suggestions to overcome real barriers to physical activity. Three workshops took place online with a total of nine experts, our analysis of which demonstrated both the roles that experts take throughout the process and the potential of the behaviour change taxonomy to be used a tool in the design process.

So what happens When #Designers meet the #BehaviourChange Technique Taxonomy?

Bringing the Behaviour Change Technique taxonomy to designers has been an interesting exercise in observing how the long list is tackled. Some have used it as inspiration for design, some have used it as a “checklist” to review existing designs and some have rejected it altogether brandishing it too limited for creative thinking.

We are currently working on publishing an upcoming paper on our workshops, running some student projects and launching our project website where we aim to tackle the ongoing challenges of bring behaviour change into technology (www.dbcproject.com). We see it as a relatively untapped source for many potential use cases in design and through the Digital Behaviour Change project the aim is to develop contextual case studies in a range of settings to establish a methodology and resources for successful, effective and empowering combinations of behaviour change and design in digital experience. 

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