App research

Motivation for behavior change: Negative vs positive reinforcement

A study conducted in Bangladesh sought to find whether improved access to sanitation and other health technologies is better achieved through monetary subsidies or shaming techniques:

Negative reinforcement app:

GymPact ( Gym-Pact takes money out of your bank account when you don’t go to the gym. The money it collects is then redistributed to those in your network who actually went.

Positive reinforcement apps:

Zamzee ( is designed to increase physical activity using an accelerometer.  Games designed for kids.

Carrot ( organizes your short term goals and the rewards you set for yourself for accomplishing them.  Crowdsources encouragement from other users.

Culture differences:

“A crucial tradeoff arises in the model between the benefits of encouraging self-improvement and the benefits of promoting initiative and new investments. In this context, self-esteem maintenance (self-enhancement) and high sensitivity to shame emerge as substitute mechanisms to induce efficient effort and investment decisions, generating a \North American” equilibrium with overconfidence and low sensitivity to shame, and a \Japanese” equilibrium with high sensitivity to shame and no overconfidence. The analysis identifies the key equilibrium costs as well as the benefits of reliance on each mechanism, and the implications for welfare.”

Extrinsic vs intrinsic motivation:
Extrinsic motivation occurs when we are motivated to perform a behavior or engage in an activity in order to earn a reward or avoid a punishment.

Intrinsic motivation involves engaging in a behavior because it is personally rewarding; essentially, performing an activity for its own sake rather than the desire for some external reward.

3-D printing custom consumer products

As new technologies make personalization of consumer products more feasible for the masses, I’m sure more companies will be cashing in on it like this company Protos:

Who wouldn’t want something customized to perfectly fit your body, preferences, and style?


Personally, I tend to have a hard time shopping for anything because I usually have such a specific idea in mind of what I’m looking for.  Then nothing in the stores measures up to what I had imagined.

Protos used a crowdfunding campaign to get their feet off the ground.  They raised their goal of $25,000 that will help them develop a web interface and sell their products in high volumes.  Their custom frames and lenses cost $399.

I remember when Levi’s first started selling custom fit jeans back in 1995.  But for whatever reason, it didn’t seem to catch on.  Maybe it was the price?  Do you the average consumer is willing to pay a significant amount more for something that fits a little bit better?

IDEO visit notes

Met with Ashlea Powell at IDEO, 28 Mercer Street today.
– IDEO differentiates itself by solving bigger problems and asking bigger questions. Where is the world going? Not how do I make this line wait time shorter?
– Paradigm shift: Weight Watchers is organized around the idea of loss (negative connotation). Instead, focus on the positive (feel better, gained friends, more sleep, etc)
– Ashlea has a creative writing background and business/spanish undergraduate degree. Talked about combining left brain thinking with right brained thinking.
– Have to “go slow to go fast.” Good ideas are everywhere and you have to be aware of things that aren’t in your direct path.
– Admit they are not industry specific experts. Have to collaborate, but also bring a unique perspective/background.
– Multidisciplinary teams. Everyone is T shaped: have specific disciplines that know well and then have broad capabilities that cover a variety of topics. Projects average 12 weeks
– Portfolio: show real world problem solving
– Prototype becoming a broad term: For Peruvian bank, took over a different bank to prove or disprove a hypothesis
– Visual communications design: includes outward facing materials to the end user (an app), but also communicating the process and the project to the client
– Designers today not only trying to make things pretty. They look for an unexpressed need. Identify the piece that’s missing and that will add value.

The neuroscience behind website design

FastCompany reported on a company called EyeQuant that used data from eyetracking studies to develop an algorithm that can predict where a viewer’s attention will go when they load a website.

For example, the website Groupon used EyeQuant:


And found out that users weren’t focusing on their sign up form.  By redesigning this page by resizing and changing the color of certain elements, they helped increase Groupon’s conversion rate by 52%.

How did EyeQuant analyze my blog?


Not bad!

I think this kind of technology will soon move into the retail setting.  But Fabian Stelzer, the company’s CEO, points out that “Retail is different because of angles, the physical size of customers, and if they’re freely roaming around. It’s less than perfect incremental data.”

Until that data is perfected though, I’m sure we’ll see more companies increasing the use of eyetracking data into their design and advertising strategies.