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Designing for how people use your product


Can I share something with you about my toilet?

It's about the buttons, which look like this...

If you wanted to use the half flush, which button would you press?

The button on the left, or the button on the right?


The fact that I'm asking suggests there is a problem here, doesn't it? The correct button should be obvious.

And indeed, the button on the right, the smaller button, is for a half flush.

So why do I find myself continually pressing the larger button on the left?

Because it is the shape of a half moon.

Half moon = half flush.


Designing for real behaviour

We're talking here about the need to design for how humans DO think, not how they SHOULD think.

In behavioural terms, the buttons on my toilet are designed for System 2 thinking. Slow, considered and effortful.

When I asked you the question, 'which button would you press?', and showed you the picture, I was provoking a System 2 response. 

And System 2 logic tells us the smaller button is for a half flush.

When I press the button, however, I am using System 1 thinking. Fast, intuitive and effortless. 

The association between the half moon shape and half flush is a stronger heuristic than smaller button = smaller flush.

This is a problem, not only for this toilet, but for you in your work.


How to design for System 1

In your work, the challenge is designing in System 2 but for System 1.

What do I mean?

When you are:

  • Writing an email
  • Crafting a policy
  • Designing a website
  • Developing marketing collateral
  • Creating a product

you will be using your System 2 thinking. 

Why? Because you are sweating the details.

You are, rightly, absorbed by minutiae.

Your recipient though?

They'll mostly be relying on System 1.

Where System 2 is the trees, System 1 is the forest. The gestalt. How things add up. How they feel.

To press your customer's buttons in the right way – to influence their behaviour – you need to design for System 1. 

How? Learn the behavioural science of Influencing Action.


Image of half moon: https://pixabay.com/photos/half-moon-lunar-surface-evening-2700786/ 

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