In designing KiNVO, our attendance improvement and parent engagement app, we aim to create the best conditions for our community. However, even the most simple interface is not always enough to engage users.
We work with schools and districts to build a community-wide effort to change student attendance behavior, to which parent behavior is also often a contributing factor. Teacher and student services staff KiNVO utilization is extremely important, as it affects data accuracy within the app. To help maximize KiNVO use, we look to the psychology that underlies the process of initiating and performing a behavior.
BJ Fogg’s behavior model states that for a specific behavior to occur, three elements must be present at the same time: motivation, ability, and triggers. Fogg’s model states that a behavior is most likely to happen when a person feels sufficiently motivated, is able to perform the behavior (for example, they want to message families, and they have access to the app), and is reminded to perform the behavior by a trigger.
KiNVO triggers take various forms, such as notifications that remind teachers to record attendance, or visual cues, like students walking into the classroom. The model, as the graph below shows, stipulates that triggers work effectively only if the person’s levels of motivation and ability are sufficiently high. Simply reminding someone to record attendance, even if they know how to do so in the mobile app (i.e. their ability is high), will not be effective if there is no access to the Internet, and the person has little motivation to do it.
We’ve discovered that simply ensuring that the three components are present might not be enough to create an effective, easy-to-use interface that encourages increased use of the app and results in our end goal (i.e., more school staff using the tool). In addition, school staff can be motivated in several ways, and the factors that motivate one group may not necessarily motivate another. Similarly, comfort levels and technical abilities vary, so we design triggers for varying skill levels, and allow our users to choose between different customizations of our model.
Our top three design strategies are as follows:
- Map Users’ Motivations: Why do they want to change their behavior now and not tomorrow? Whether a school has been tracking attendance and using family engagement strategies or not, we work with them to either understand and refine or craft new strategies through our Professional Development services.
During this time, we assess the strategies that they have been using, and determine what has and has not worked for them in the past. Are they motivated by extrinsic or intrinsic factors? We are gaining a deeper understanding of our users and how they interact with KiNVO to create an interface that is both usable and valuable.
- Assess Ability and Lower Barriers: We work with schools in different districts and school environments, so we ask ourselves–where will our users most likely be when they use our product? What tasks will they most commonly perform? What pain points might they encounter? How do they feel about their capacity and skills?
The answers to these questions inform the standards that KiNVO’s interface must meet. The best way to gather this information is through contextual inquiry. We conduct feedback sessions with our teachers and administrators and observe as they use KiNVO. We also reveal features that are in beta to some users, and track their interactions to see where they are making mistakes. hen, we use this information to inform new iterations.
We went through this process when we released our attendance recorder to NYC DOE schools. We began with a simple attendance recorder that allowed teachers to take attendance in real-time as students walked in, but through contextual inquiry we realized that teachers do not always have the time to record attendance as students walk into class. We learned that we needed to simplify the ability to record attendance retroactively. Updating the attendance recorder to meet teachers’ needs has resulted in an increase in attendance recording and more accurate data within the app.
- Identify Triggers: We are always trying to understand what motivates our users and how we can adapt our product to their ability levels. Regardless of how much we love a new interface, our interface must cater to users’ needs. Our teachers are motivated to improve attendance and inspire positive change in their students’ lives, and we want to turn their good intentions into tangible outcomes. To do so, we must trigger behaviors that will help enact these changes. Our teachers are motivated by different factors at different times. Rather than flooding them with triggers, we give them control over (and options for) what types of triggers to receive.
KiNVO allows attendance teams to send notifications to teachers at precise times–to direct the user’s attention to the app in order to perform a desired action. Given the sheer volume of notifications to which users are exposed to and the diversity of schools with which we work, we provide administrators with the ability to schedule these messages in a way that is non-intrusive, but still allows teachers to record attendance with enough time to conduct appropriate interventions afterward if necessary.
Fogg’s behavior model shows that triggers are most effective when the user’s levels of motivation and ability are sufficiently high. This means that timing is crucial; a notification about your daily exercise routine while you are on your way to work will probably not make you turn the car around, and will more likely be perceived as annoying.
At Kinvolved, we gather all of our design strategy cues from our users. Our product team conducts interviews with teachers and administrators over the course of the school year to help us to determine their motivations. The feedback we receive from these exercises is used to design features that the same teachers will be motivated to use.
Runy Pswarayi is the Creative Director at Kinvolved. Runy has freelanced as a designer and photographer for various non-profits in the US and Africa.