Content Strategy to Implement Behavior Change Methodologies

In the UX world, we use behavior change interventions to encourage positive behaviors and decrease negative or self-defeating behaviors. When we help people change their behaviors, we increase positive outcomes. While these are often related to health, they may impact any part of a person’s life. Content strategy is a key connector for bringing behavior change to the digital realm.

What is Behavior Change

Behavior change literally changes how people make decisions. The study of how people make choices is Behavioral Science. This field considers the environmental, social, and personal factors that impact how a person chooses to act. To that end, there are many theories of behavioral science. They include the Fogg Behavioral Model, Self Determination Theory, and Social Cognitive Theory. Each theory identifies key elements that may reinforce or challenge an individual’s ability to act in their own self interest.

A slide from <a href="https://www.uie.com/handouts/virtual-seminars/VS161_Designing_Motivational_Interventions.pdf">Designing Motivational Interventions</a>

In the research world, these theories are studied and tested. Researchers, policy makers, and health clinicians evaluate the efficacy of behavior change interventions. They report on therapies, programs, and abstract behavioral science concepts. But in the digital realm, theories take on a different value. They form the basis of design principles. That way we can use research to inform the strategies we use and the applications and websites we build.

Digital Interventions

A digital intervention is a website or application used to affect someone’s behavior. When it comes to the types of interventions we design at Mad*Pow, we rely on our behavior change team to lead the way. They research theories and studies and in-person interventions. Then we work together to translate those into digital experiences.

For example, if a therapist uses talk therapy to help a patient with PTSD discover new coping mechanisms, we need to identify what cadence, language, and tactics will achieve the same or similar outcome. Behavioral analysts have a plethora of research to help identify appropriate techniques for a given intervention. We may need to help our audience overcome barriers, build autonomy, or develop skills. For example, we may need to tap into their intrinsic motivations. In addition, we may need to help them break down bigger goals into smaller steps.

Why have a behavioral analyst work on a digital project? Because we want to infuse the digital work with the same value that has been tried and tested in face-to-face situations.

Content Strategy for Behavior Change

Unfortunately, knowing the research is not enough to enact change. Some designers work as behavior change experts and learn the skills required to implement behavior change recommendations in wireframes and designs. Others rely on reviews and testing from behavioral analysts later in the project. My recommendation? Create a content strategy.

The goal of a content strategy is to formalize the principles in place and the techniques to be used over time. A behavior change intervention typically takes the form of an application or website that the target audience will use over time. But how does the methodology get implemented? Creating a content strategy solidifies the ways in which the application or website will implement the behavior change methodology.

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