Designing Persuasive Technologies: Don’t marry the first person you date!  

Persuasive Technology . Source: Peter Parkes
Persuasive Technology . Source: Peter Parkes

It’s easy to come up with an ‘awesome’ idea and then wonder if anyone ever came up with it. The answer most of the times is YES and there’s also an overwhelming chance that it isn’t the ‘best solution ever’. As a designer it’s important to not get obsessed with the first idea that comes to your mind. To be more precise, it’s also important to avoid getting obsessed with the 2nd or the 3rd or the 100th idea.

So… what to do? While designing technologies for behavioral change a.k.a Persuasive technologies you should start with one simple behavior you would like your user to perform. The reason to target behavior instead of thoughts or beliefs or attitudes is that unlike these factors, behavior is easily perceivable, it can be studied and observed. After you come up with a target behavior you try to pass it through several filters and obstacles as explained in the figure below.

Design Process
Design Process for Persuasive Technology (Fogg, 2009)

Another thing that the figure makes clear is that the process is messy and iterative. There’s a good chance that the behavior you pick might not stand the test of other steps. As a result it common to go back and come up with several new ideas and ways of tackling the problem. And throw away the ‘awesome idea’ that seemed so cool. Although providing harry potter style magic wand wearables to middle school teachers to create 3D holographic figures to explain concepts seems uber-cool, it might not work because of several factors like classroom enviornment, familarity with technology, tech-infrastructure, etc.

Final Word: Start with a behavior, put it through a thorough test, be skeptical of your own ideas, start simple and build upon it. Remember, everything big started small, even the universe!!


Fogg, B. J. (2009, April). Creating persuasive technologies: an eight-step design process. In Persuasive (p. 44).

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