Persuasive Technology for Web and Mobile Developers

Kendra Markle (Stanford Prevention Research Center)
Location: 2010 Level:
Average rating: ****.
(4.45, 11 ratings)

This workshop is taught by Kendra Markle and is broken down as follows:

  • 20 min – Intro, current landscape, future potential
  • 30 min – Brain science
  • 40 min – 5 persuasive techniques (of many)
  • Break
  • 30 min – Case studies
  • 30 min – Design process & exercises
  • 30 min – Summary, homework and questions

Intro: Tools and techniques for persuading people, quickly and inexpensively, are here. The platforms for persuasion are open to even those with limited technical skill. We’ll cover examples of persuasion on websites, mobile apps, texting, facebook, videos and games, and reflect on the trends and upcoming opportunities we see at the time of the workshop.

Brain science: Our brains are wired to stereotype, follow the crowd, learn from example, react to triggers, etc. With careful design, our technology can act like and exhibit the appropriate traits to persuade our brains and influence our attitudes and actions. For example, technology that volunteers ‘personal’ information before asking for the user’s info is likely to be more successful in obtaining it. Messages intended to stop the user from doing something are more effective when accompanied by a picture of a person of the same gender. We’ll talk briefly about why these associations exist in our brains and lead up to how they translate into web development.

Persuasive techniques: We’ll describe at least five of the most broadly applicable principles of persuasive technology, and the pros and cons of each. These include tailoring the experience, surveillance, operant conditioning, reduction, tunneling and self-monitoring, among others. We’ll talk about using technology in the role of a social actor that creates a relationship with the user, as a tool that increases the user’s capability and as a medium that provides an experience and how each of these can be persuasive for different types of behaviors. We’ll do a short exercise for each technique to give attendees a chance to apply the principle to their own work (and keep people awake and learning from doing).

Case Studies: Here we’ll delve into strengths and weaknesses of existing persuasive platforms, such as mobile phones and facebook, as well as some emerging platforms, such as persuasive video. We’ll look at good and bad examples of each and discuss ways that certain popular websites and services could be more influential. We’ll take give participants a chance to analyze an example that we provide with their neighbor to encourage them to think.

Design process and exercises: Our 8 step design process starts with determining the exact behavior you’re targeting and understanding it with our grid of 35 behavior types. Next, choose a receptive audience and identify barriers. Then, choose the appropriate technology channel, find relevant examples, imitate successful examples, test and iterate quickly, and lastly, expand on success. We’ll also show a model for behavior change that involves using brain science to increase motivation, removes barriers by breaking the behavior down into smaller, achievable pieces and finally sparks action by sending a trigger (see more at our website:

Next, we’ll apply this process as a group to a few potential applications, such as a virtual coach for a health condition, a trustworthy website of resources, etc. We’ll guide the audience through the design process, letting them decide on the features and platform for the app.

Photo of Kendra Markle

Kendra Markle

Stanford Prevention Research Center

Kendra builds persuasive technology tools for healthy behavior change. She works with the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University on mobile persuasion, the psychology of Facebook, and social networking for health. She does research at Kaiser Permanente using technology tools to help patients manage obesity and chronic conditions. Her company produces tools for mental health, including recovering from depression, learning mindfulness, synthesizing happiness and building willpower. You can sign up to play with her new tools when they get released into the wild as pilots at Check out to learn more about brain science and persuasive behavior change.

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Don Wilcox
05/03/2010 5:06am PDT

This session was great. Very fascinating stuff!

Picture of Kendra Markle
Kendra Markle
04/21/2010 4:57am PDT

I will post slides that summarize guidelines for web & mobile developers, though i think most of the value will be learning how to use them, which will happen in the workshop itself. hope to see you there!

Picture of Craig Palmer
Craig Palmer
04/20/2010 4:32am PDT

Hi Kendra. This looks like a very interesting workshop. Will you be posting slides once the workshop is over?

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