Optimizing Training Experiences with Motivational Design

So what is Motivation Design, why is it so critical when designing for people, and how is it not simply good UX? For starters, the framework has endless applications, from employee behavior and educational development, to game play and guiding consumers to interact with your product in ways that maximize ROI.

In essence, Motivational Design takes the basic concept of user experience design and magnifies the focus on understanding a user’s emotions and drivers. The end result delivers an experience that actively engages, creates loyalty, and forms habits that drive users toward your organization’s intended business goals.

Why is this important? With a world that presents us with ever-increasing points of human-machine interaction, demands on time, and expectations of immediate gratification and productivity, designers are now, more than ever, required to fully-understand whom they are designing for and what the goals are of each and every interaction. In order for a project to not just meet aesthetic and functionality needs but also truly enhance business objectives, a deeper understanding of human motivation is critical.

It’s not just about what we designers or business owners want people to do [i.e. our goals] — it’s about the goals of that person engaging with the experience. What is their end game? What can we do to make that digital journey memorable, enjoyable, and seemingly effortless? How can we meet their needs in the most engaging way — whether that’s to improve processes and profitability through training disciplines, get a product into consumers’ shopping carts, or provide countless hours of entertainment through a gaming experience?

To do this we bring together our experience in game design thinking (400+ games and counting), add in a healthy dose of UX methodology, and blend in our understanding of human behavior. This combination leads to the development of a custom tool that meets the unique needs of both the target audience and the project.

To dive a bit deeper into each area of Motivational Design, we bring each of the following areas of expertise into the approach:

Game Design Thinking. | Create satisfying experiences that utilize the power of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards to achieve short and long-term engagement.

UX Methods. | Successfully meet the needs of your customers’ decision journey by adhering to research and design.

Human behavior. | Trigger moments that are innately human in how we experience and interact with the world around us.

All of this starts with existing research, using real data to drive what’s called the Experience Mapping phase of the project. We then identify gaps in the research, identifying those areas that still need additional information and questions that still need to be answered.

From a mountain of color-coded sticky notes, our Strategy Team distills down the data to key findings, paving the path for Lean UX, rapid prototyping, and a final design that’s specifically formulated for the very people who will be using the digital experience the most.

While it might seem more obvious to see how this could apply to retail-facing enterprises, one of the areas of business where Motivational Design shows the biggest impact is in employee training and education. What’s particularly interesting and exciting about this area of design is how on-site, contextual, and ethnographic research shapes the design strategy.

Here’s how.

It starts with our Strategy and Creative teams digging in to the current training protocols: What are the materials? How are they accessed? What are the users’ views of the materials? What are the feedback loops? How is success measured? How long have the training materials been in circulation? And along with a plethora of additional questions, what are the core business goals and metrics of success that form the impetus of the training system?

After we document and review business goals, training materials, and systems, our team goes on-site to observe the training process in its natural environment. This contextual research is then combined with individual user interviews to create both a series of experience maps and user personas or archetypes that further feed the data sets used to guide the design process.

Through this process we begin to identify problem areas, inefficiencies, gaps in process, and information that then leads to the determination of a minimum viable product, or MVP. This set of product features is designed to get the digital training product into market, with the data and analytics on the backend to further inform the design team for the rapid development of a V2 release. V2 will include a richer feature set and additional organizational benefits.

So what are the outcomes of using Motivational Design in the context of employee training? First and foremost, employee buy-in. The right set of tools aimed at increasing certain behaviors and business practices leads to increased efficiency, productivity, intrinsic motivations, and job satisfaction, which directly correlates to corporate loyalty. Therefore, the direct impact of Motivational Design is an increase in overall productivity and profitability throughout your organization.

It makes sense to build something alongside the people for whom you are building it, doesn’t it? Build it and they will come…as long as you have the right promotional infrastructure in place. But build it with them and they’ll keep coming back, time and time again.

Originally published at smashingideas.com on February 18, 2015.

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