Behavioural Science
Designing With People In Mind

Dr. Dan Lockton, Senior Associate at the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the Royal College of Art, took to the stage at Nudgestock 2 to make the case for behavioural design. More often than not, Dr. Lockton says, design lets people down and actually produces barriers to behavior. Thus, he maintained that good design is about helping people solve their problems better, rather than seeing people as the problem in the first place.

An innovative new product that embraces this concept is PullClean, from the “Agency of Design”. Research from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has shown that 1 in 25 patients in U.S. hospitals obtain an infection during their stay, and the existing range of hand sanitizer bottles and wall mounted dispensers have proved ineffective. Staff simply forget to use them. So what’s the solution?

PullClean is a simple column that can be fitted on any pull door; it has a blue paddle on the bottom that dispenses a dab of hand sanitizer when pushed. The main insight of PullClean is that it combines the behaviour of sanitizing with a behaviour hospital workers do every day, opening doors. It is designed so people use it automatically; they default to pulling the door and dispenser in one simple motion. The paddle itself was behaviourally designed to include subconscious cues to get passers-by to push it; tapered slightly outwards so it stands out and bent slightly forwards to invite passers-by to flatten it.

The most recent clinical trial of a similar product to PullClean increased sanitation compliance from 24% to 77% amongst hospital staff. By building on a previous behaviour, making the product salient, and using clever design to entice people to push the paddle, dramatic results were achieved. It wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t designed with people in mind. As Dr. Lockton noted, design should be about “paving the cowpath”; making things people are already doing simply easier for them to do.

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