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What can you do now?

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Image – atomicity

User-centred design is about what people need to do.

We can talk about nudging people towards behaviour change – what we want them to do. Or, we can focus on creating things that help people to do something – solving their own problem

Both are focussed on delivering better outcomes and real changes in peoples’ lives.

The difference is somewhere between making people do things differently and giving people the means to live in a better situation. Simply, it’s first making sure that they can behave differently.

I’ve always been uncomfortable with the idea of ‘customer behaviour change’. This includes gamification and any other dark design patterns used to influence consumer behaviour. It’s one of the reasons I choose to work in the public service.

For me the role of government is different. We should be getting design out of the way. The experience is the result of the service and what happens when policy exists in the real world. You have to design for what could happen next.

Customer behaviour change feels too much like an assumption that we know what’s best for people and society. That we can accurately predict how people need to live their lives, without any real understanding of what they’re doing, thinking, and feeling.

To an end-user of government – a citizen – life is about what’s possible. The question is always “what can you do within your situation, your physical ability, dependencies etc.”

We’re designing to create better opportunities for people. If we get it right, we should be asking people – “what can you do now?” – it might be better than anything we could have possibly imagined.

The science might tell me I’m wrong, but what if nudging people makes them less likely to solve their own problems. Where’s the possibility in that?

Ben Holliday is an experienced design leader, writer and speaker. This is his blog (started in 2005). You can follow all of Ben's blog posts by subscribing to the RSS feed, or follow him on Twitter for more regular updates.