Supporting people’s sense of autonomy is a key principle for designing engaging experiences. Designers can sometimes nudge users into taking specific actions by painting those actions as being consistent with the user’s values or goals. For example, insurance advertisements often focus on how the product can protect loved ones if the buyer dies unexpectedly; this plays on a common deeply-held value of looking out for the family’s best interests. A lighter hearted but poorly executed version of this has lately been endemic on my travels through the web: Email sign-up light boxes that accuse the user of some undesirable quality if they don’t enter an email address.
At the 2014 TEDxJNJ event I attended, Bennett Levitan of Janssen R&D talked about work he was doing to incorporate patient preference and risk tolerance into pharmaceutical treatment (a review of his research is here). The idea is that from a purely medical and scientific standpoint, we’ve established risk points beyond which we consider a treatment unsafe. More than x% risk of a serious side effect? That treatment will not be offered to patients. And most of the time, that’s the right decision.