After the trigger comes the intended action. Here, companies leverage two pulleys of human behavior—motivation and ability. To increase the odds of a user taking the intended action, the behavior designer makes the action as easy as possible, while simultaneously boosting the user’s motivation.
- Okay, so we figured out what the user's internal trigger is, we figured out the itch that we are going to attach our product or service to, we figured out the external trigger, how to prompt them to action with some piece of information, now it's time for the action itself. This is where the habit is manifested. So when we talk about the action phase, the definition of an action, in the context of a hook model, is the simplest behavior done in anticipation of a reward. The simplest thing the user can do to get relief from that itch.
So, as an example, it might be something as simple as a scroll on Pinterest, or a quick search on Google, or something as simple as just pushing the play button on YouTube. These incredibly simple behaviors done in anticipation of an immediate reward, some kind of immediate relief. Now, when it comes to building these actions, the key here is to make the key action as simple as possible. I can't overemphasize. The whole purpose of technology, the reason that innovation matters for the human race, all we have to do to innovate, is to shorten the distance between the recognized need and the reward, the outcome.
That's all technology has to do. I don't care if it's the cotton gin or the iPhone. That's all technology has to do for us, is shorten that distance between the recognition of the need and the outcome. And when it comes to the action phase, the same exact rules apply. Now, when we think about these singular behaviors, there's actually a very effective formula to help us predict the likelihood of these singular behaviors, these singular actions. It comes to us from a researcher at Standford by the name of B. J. Fogg, and Fogg tells us that for any human behavior B, we need three things at the same time: we need sufficient motivation, that's the M, we need sufficient ability, that's the A, and we need a trigger to be present.
That's what we talked about in the last section, these triggers. But what that means for us in a product development context, if you're trying to get your user to do anything in your app, in your store, in any kind of customer experience, and for one reason or another, they're not doing that thing, they're not taking the action you want them to take, well then, all you have to do is to ask yourself, does the user name sufficient motivation? That would be on the Y axis. Does the user have sufficient ability, on the X axis? And when the user has sufficient motivation and sufficient ability, meaning a behavior is very easy to do, when that happens, they cross that threshold, they cross that line, and when the trigger is present, the behavior will occur.
Every single time. Online, offline, doesn't matter. Every human behavior. Your behavior, your significant other's behavior, your kids' behavior, your customer or user's behavior, always requires sufficient motivation, sufficient ability, and a trigger must be present. Now. We can go on for hours about how to change user motivation and how to change user ability. Let me just very briefly walk you through the precepts of changing motivation and ability, as espoused by B. J. Fogg. Fogg tells us that, for motivation, there are six key levers: That fundamentally all of us seek hope and avoid fear.
We seek social acceptance, we avoid social rejection. We seek pleasure, and we avoid plain. So these six levers of motivation are at the basis of anything that gets people to do something by boosting motivation, by increasing their energy to do a particular behavior. Seeking pleasure, avoiding pain. Seeking hope, avoiding fear. Seeking social acceptance, avoiding social rejection. So, that's one axis we can use to boost user motivation. When it comes to ability, I actually think that that's the more important place to focus.
Ability is all about making a behavior easier to do, and we always want to focus first, when it comes to a product development context, for the vast majority of companies I work with, we always want to focus on ability first. Why? Because changing user motivation is very difficult. Very, very difficult and expensive to change user motivation. Changing user ability, turns out, is in our control. That's where customer experience comes into play. That's where design, good design, can make a huge impact.
Now, when it comes to ability, here again, there are six levers that we can pull on, six things that we can do to make someone more or less likely to do a behavior, simply by making that behavior easier to do. And here's how. We can make that behavior something that requires less time. Less physical effort. Brain cycles, something that requires less thought. The easier something is to understand, the more likely that user is to do that behavior. Social deviance. Social deviance tells us that we become more likely to do something when we see other people like us doing it as well.
Money, of course, when something, the more something costs, the less likely people are to buy that particular product. And then finally non-routine. Non-routine is probably the most important of the six. Non-routine says that we become more likely to do something simply for the fact that we have done it before in the past. And this is why habits are so important, because the more I do a particular behavior, the easier it becomes for me. Now, what do we call that principle? That's called practice, right? The more we do it, the easier it becomes, the more likely we are to do it in the future.
So habits have this repeater effect. But just to wrap up this action phase, fundamentally, what we want to do in the action phase is to make sure the user has sufficient motivation to do the behavior, that a clear trigger is present, and that, where we want to spend most of our time, is figuring out how to increase ability as much as possible. What can we do to radically simplify the experience the customer has, the steps they need to take, so that they can get their reward as quickly as possible?