Dan Lockton on behavioural heuristics

Behavioural change researcher Dan Lockton discusses an approach which has emerged out of some of the ethnographic work he has been doing for the Empower project, working on CarbonCulture with More Associates, where asking users questions about how and why they behaved in certain ways with technology (in particular around energy-using systems) led to answers which were resolvable into something like rules: behavioural heuristics [which are] rules (of thumb) that people might follow when interacting with a system.

“I would envisage that with user research framed and phrased in the right way, observation, interviews and actual behavioural data, it would be possible to extract heuristics in a form which are useful for selecting design patterns to apply. While in the workshop we ‘decomposed’ existing systems without doing any real user research, doing this alongside would enable the heuristics extracted to be compared and discrepancies investigated and resolved. The redesigned system could thus match much better the heuristics being followed by users, or, if necessary, help to shift those heuristics to more appropriate ones.”

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