(Written as part of Fjord IxD writing, shared with Fjord IxD team)

Last week, I have shared a video of B.J. Fogg on Simplicity and behavioural change. This week, I want to add ‘complexity’ to this.


To give you some more background, I will explain a bit about persuasive technology. Technology shapes the way we behave – we write more to other people because there is email or text, whether it’s intended or not. Persuasive technology is referring to technology that is designed to change attitudes or behaviours of the users through persuasion or social influence, rather than coercion. (Thx, wikipedia) The Russian subway is a good example of persuasive technology because it is designed to make impact on the society and the individuals in it by designing the way people purchase tickets differently. I like that project because it not only makes people actually do what they are supposed to do, but also bring awareness to others. Captology is a study of computer as persuasive technology led by B.J. Fogg in Standford University.


In the video I shared, he explains why simplicity is an effective principle of persuasion. You are using resource that you have when completing a task. The resource can be defined as a combination of time, money , physical efforts, brain cycle, social deviance and non-routine. Simplicity is what makes you use less of resource to complete a task. I thought was a good way to measure our design against; a flow with less clicks, a navigation that people are already familiar with.

By making a task simpler, you can make people do it. Remember the ‘Fogg Behavior Model’ that Nour shared last week? When a task is simpler, it is easier to do, so it’s more probable to leap the activation threshold. (yellow arrow) This links to Nour’s point last week about tiny achievable habits.



Simplicity is a great tactic for achieving greater goal but it’s not a solution for all. In fact, sometimes people do things that are more complex in terms of using the resource. In terms of usage of resources, the russian subway example is in fact a complex design. It requires a lot more time and physical movements than just pressing a button. Moreover, it takes a lot of courage to squat 30 times in front of strangers. What makes complexity work against the simplicity are emotions and feelings. Humour, empathy, pleasure, intellectual satisfaction and sense of belongings are the kind of spices that you want to put in when you design for behaviour change. They are very good at elevating motivation and make people cross the ‘activation threshold’. When motivation plays high, ease of things can be less relevant. (orange arrow)



The second picture is abnormal (=complex), but it’s more effective behaviour changer because it appeal to empathy. People play complex mmorpg games (I cannot name any latest example – I’m old.) because it appeal to intellectual satisfaction and pleasure. So emotional peak is another factor that we can measure our design against.


Ease of use + emotional satisfaction = good design

Maybe the conclusion is too boring, but this is what I have. When you design something, use those two ingredients wisely!