How Can Voice Tech Help Health Behavior Change? The Alexa Diabetes Challenge

I’ve gotten to do some cool work things lately. One big one is getting involved in the Alexa Diabetes Challenge, sponsored by Merck & Co., and supported by Amazon Web Services (AWS). Contestants are tasked with coming up with an idea, and later a working prototype, for an intervention that leverages Alexa’s voice technology to support people newly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. The challenge administrators, Luminary Labs, curated a panel of subject matter experts across a variety of domains to work with the five finalists. I’m supporting them on behavior change, along with Marika Saarinen, a PharmD and certified diabetes educator at Virginia Mason. Continue reading How Can Voice Tech Help Health Behavior Change? The Alexa Diabetes Challenge

Against Empathy? Maybe

I just read Against Empathy by Paul Bloom and have some thoughts. I picked the book up partly because of the provocative title. My work relies heavily on empathy–or what we call empathy–to understand the challenges and needs of people who will eventually engage with the product or experience we’re designing. Could it be that empathy is the wrong tool? After reading Bloom’s book, I think: Sort of. Continue reading Against Empathy? Maybe

Behavioral Economics Black Magic: Fixed Schedule Billing

I have a feeling that if you asked most people how gyms make money, they’d intuitively grasp for an explanation that involves fixed schedule billing. The idea is simple. Businesses that operate under a subscription fee, like gyms, automatically withdraw the next payment each period unless the customer provides written de-authorization a certain number of days or weeks in advance. For a variety of reasons, many people will go on paying for months or years without using the service. The result is a steady profit stream for the business and a customer spending money for no value. Continue reading Behavioral Economics Black Magic: Fixed Schedule Billing

Five Best Practices for Digital Badges for Behavior Change

It’s easy to come up with examples of digital badges that don’t work, or are simply too silly to be serious tools for engagement. It’s far more difficult to take the positive perspective and determine the features that can make a digital badge an effective tool for behavior change. My interest in badges originally stemmed from a critical place, both from seeing badly done versions as a user, and having clients ask for badges without a thoughtful supporting strategy. But working through that critique has brought me to the following set of recommendations for doing digital badges well. Continue reading Five Best Practices for Digital Badges for Behavior Change

Digital Health Is Not a Hammer: Why Your Interventions May Be Set Up for Failure

As more data has become available on the success of digital health and wellness platforms, it’s become clear that many health plans and self-insured employers don’t have the positive return on investment (ROI) they’d hoped to see. A 2013 study by RAND ¬†Health¬†(which did not focus exclusively on digital interventions) finds that employers have an overall ROI for health and wellness interventions of $1.50 per employee, but that disease management programs drive much of it. Wellness programs deliver, on average, only about a $0.50 ROI. It’s not nothing, but it’s also not enough to pin all of our hopes on. Is it time to give up on digital health? Continue reading Digital Health Is Not a Hammer: Why Your Interventions May Be Set Up for Failure

Nudge Me to the Ballot Box: Behavioral Economics in Action

I found a postcard in our mailbox last week that was a textbook example of several behavioral economics and behavior change tactics. Its intention is to nudge people to vote more consistently, including in smaller local elections. The group sending the card, the Environmental Voter Project, urges voters to support politicians and policies for sustainability. It’s an interesting example of how some behavioral economics tactics might actually come to life in an intervention. Continue reading Nudge Me to the Ballot Box: Behavioral Economics in Action

Mistaken Identity: How Do We Design for This Edge Case?

I have an ongoing problem. As an earlier adopter of Gmail, I have the “original” firstname.lastname versions of the gmail.com address for both my maiden and married names. This means that people with similar names often mistakenly receive email at my addresses. In the past several years, this has gotten much worse. Some of the emails I’ve received have included: Continue reading Mistaken Identity: How Do We Design for This Edge Case?

Three Examples of Digital Badges That Support Psychological Needs

How can digital badges serve as a source of motivation? One way is by supporting core underlying psychological needs. Three such needs identified in self-determination theory are autonomy, relatedness, and competence. Experiences that support these needs have been shown to be more engaging and energizing for users. Fortunately given their prevalence, digital badges are capable of supporting all three of these particular needs. Here’s how. Continue reading Three Examples of Digital Badges That Support Psychological Needs

A Little Personality Can Improve the UX of Forms

Designing effective forms is a tough but critical UX challenge. You’ve got to collect all the necessary information in a way that’s intuitive to the user and works on a variety of form factors. There’s a lot of work that’s been done on how to get form design right (I linked to a few comprehensive recent overviews at the bottom of the post), but one tactic that always catches my eye is injecting humor or interested into the experience. Continue reading A Little Personality Can Improve the UX of Forms

Awarding the Right Behaviors in Digital Design

Digital badges to encourage behavior are a fine idea in concept but riddled with issues in practice. I talked about badges at UXPA International last week (slides here), including a whole host of reasons why they go awry. One of the biggest ones, in my opinion, is that designers may choose to award digital badges for behaviors that aren’t really critical ones for obtaining meaningful outcomes. Instead, they reward behaviors that are easy to measure (like clicks or check-ins). The result is a reward system that doesn’t actually lead to results. Continue reading Awarding the Right Behaviors in Digital Design

Psychology for Health and Happiness