Behavioral Design Manifesto

Design and technology can pervade every product, moment, and solution in our lives, and have enormous potential for changes. They boost the development of behavioral design, which is a method based on systematical and experimental knowledge and understanding of how humans think, feel, and conduct. The method is applied for considering treatments that result in behavioral change. The method has intervened in different domains of health, sustainability, safety, crime prevention, and social design. There is no denying that the behavioral design profession confronts several difficulties in the design field, and we must not be hesitant to examine the existing flaws and weaknesses as designers. One obvious challenge is that behavioral design can result in changes that are both desired and unwanted, both deliberate and inadvertent.

Behavioral design unlocks the power of behavioral psychology and aims to help people make better decisions in life, at the same time it could also bring undesirable results. For example, by adopting behavioral design techniques, tech companies like Facebook and Apple, have engineered ways to make their products and services ingrained into our daily lives. However, it causes undesirable outcomes, most obviously, cell phone over-dependency and social media addiction. 

The boundary between constructive influence and manipulation is quite thin, thus putting ethics as the priority of behavioral design is indispensable. As designers, we must remember that behavioral design puts purposeful action and employs strategies to affect the behavior of others, thus we have the responsibility to critically evaluate it in the desired direction and preferable situations. We should recognize the duty and strive to prioritize ethical behavior and goals. To that purpose, we aim to integrate consideration of any services and outcomes connected with any design, as well as the repercussions of these actions, into the design process. Behavioral Design should never serve the purpose of tricking users to fall into dark patterns, but lead the users to a more sustainable and healthier decision-making process.

During the design process, it’s important to keep criticizing and reflecting if:

  • We put the user’s desired goal first;

User needs and satisfaction are always the first goals for designers. It’s important to keep in mind that we design through people and for people. Our designs cannot be effective without empathy for the users. It's critical to have a better knowledge of the people for whom we're designing products or services, as well as to observe and build empathy for the target user.

  • We value the users as human beings over customers;
Good designers should always take the human behind the customer as the focal point and focus on what they truly need to be successful. Not only do we designers analyze their current situation, emphasize their pains and problems, we also need to consider what the unintentional circumstance our design could bring in the way of achieving the desired behavior.

  • We create sustainable solutions and create sustainability;
We have the responsibility and ability to consider our products’ growing and continuing impacts on the users, considering the intentions and impacts in a larger scope. We should design for people to achieve healthy and sustainable behavior patterns.

  • We respect data protection and data security;
We cannot use behavioral design to trick users to get into dark patterns. Our designs have to follow the F.R.I.E.S principles. 

  • We create useful and useable designs;
Thinking of the larger scope of targeted user groups and making accessible design is also important. Considering the basic needs of people with disabilities and design to give them access to perceive, understand, navigate, interact with the product could eventually help more people.

  • We are socially responsible;

We behave in socially responsible ways during the design process. We are conscientious about the material resources we use and the results we achieve. We also reflect design thinking and design techniques to societal concerns in a larger scope.

©  Lynette Huang 2023

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