Currently the market for lifestyle management services is growing and new web solutions pushing people to change behavior pop up everyday. But how do we persuade users to change behavior? Humans are by nature constantly trying to gain control over the situation, and as a result the first step is to educate users and make sure they are fully aware of the consequences a change will lead to. The next step is to make sure that users are motivated enough to put in the effort required to complete the change and that they have the ability to do it. Great, now the users are ready to go through with the change, at least mentally, but in order to go from thought to action there must be a trigger, the final push. The last step is to reward the users so they will stay committed to the new behavior. In summary the main factors of persuasive design are awareness, motivation, ability, trigger and reward.
Designing for people should always involve research with real users in realistic situations. It's comfortable to slide down in the office chair, analyze remotely produced user data, simulate context of use and apply best practice, but it will probably not unveil a complete image of the user needs. A lab can never simulate how people actually live their lives. Instead I think observing people in their common environments is the first step to design usable products, because if we don't understand the problem how can we solve it? Ultimately, as a user experience designer, my problems are the problems the users have.
For me design is not the art of a creative genius, it's the result of a process based on well defined methodology to make sure each important aspect is covered. Maybe this is just a way for me to justify the academic background I have. However, initially everything is about creativity - the ideas must be born in order to be processed by the methodology I mentioned. This is a great article that helps you to get your wheels out of the mud.
Assumptions are the designers worst enemies because they make us arrogant. Shouldn't a design know what controls that works for all users, shouldn't a designer know the meaning of symbols, shouldn't a designer know what possible user contexts exists? The answer is simple: NO! There are no quick answers to good design because users are diffrent to each other, technology is constantly changing and expectations are hard to predict. But the formula to happy users is simple, make research, prototype and test the design until all details fall into place.
UX is so much more than a final user interface, it's the long journey before we know how to succeed that makes a difference. Great designs come from a lot of thinking - here are a few things to keep in mind.
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