Multimodal Mondays: Changing User Behaviour with Anna Bohn

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Multimodal Mondays: Changing User Behaviour with Anna Bohn

Multimodal mobility is fast becoming the biggest opportunity for us (as service providers and operators) to design seamless-interconnected journeys and to reimagine movement within urban cities. Multimodal mobility is the term used to describe integrated transport – seamless connectivity between different modes of transportation, such as buses, ferries, trains, trams, ridehailing, bikes, e-scooters and even walking.

Welcome to the August edition of the Multimodal Mondays micro-webinar series. This month Sandra is joined by Anna Bohn Co-Founder and Creative Director fromEtho Studio where they discuss the ‘Lighter Footprint’ app that Anna is developing with BCIT and the best ways to change user behaviour.

Watch the micro-webinar below! Keep reading to learn more about the guest panel and for a brief summary of their multimodal discussion. Check out episode three here.

Guest Speaker

anna bohn user behaviour

Anna Bohn

Co-Founder and Creative Director at Etho Studio, Creator and Design Lead of the Lighter Footprint App (in partnership with BCIT, technical lead)

Anna graduated from Emily Carr with a Communication Design degree and although art school won out over getting a degree in environmental conservation, she still wanted to bridge her passions and contribute to society in a meaningful way. Established by Anna Bohn and Robin Oshiro, Etho Studio is a graphic design business located in Gastown’s Dominion Building. Minimalists at our core, they shed artifice in favour of simple, clear creative that makes a bold statement. As a studio, they have a passion for sustainability and wellness. Their personal projects include an app that helps people form better habits—for themselves and the planet—in partnership with BCIT Director of Institute Sustainability, Dr. Jennie Moore.

Multimodal Monday: Changing User Behaviour

Tell us a bit about your background?

Local Vancouverite (North Vancouver to be exact) Anna grew up with an affinity for nature, but chose graphic design as her career path. She has created apps, websites and ad campaigns that have appeared all over the world. She had an awakening moment when she went backpacking across Europe, and stumbled upon a highly polluted factory town. She found it difficult to breathe and at times couldn’t see 20 feet in front. When she left that place, she couldn’t stop thinking about the people that call that place home.

When she got back to Vancouver, she wanted to help in some way and knew that she was part of the problem. She went to a talk by Dr. Jennie Moore of BCIT and as part of her research who did an in-depth analysis of Vancouver’s footprint, but also other cities around the world. She had all the answers to Anna’s questions and it made her wonder who to make all this great data accessible to everyone. Which later came to form the Lighter Footprint app. Jennie agreed to help lend her data and expertize to the project with BCIT becoming the technical lead. The first draft was tested with hundreds of people across BC.

How the app works, is that each user takes a 10 minute lifestyle quiz that generates a super localized footprint, then users are given suggested milestones on how to reduce their footprint which they can track over time. It encourages a healthier and happier lifestyle with both diet and exercise playing a key role, as well as living in a minimalist environment.

What are some of the ways the app simplifies the vast information that Dr. Jennie Moore discovered?

The first thing was that most people didn’t understand where to be focusing their efforts, and by basing your decisions on super localized data, people can actually acknowledge where they are making an impact.

In working with the app and BCIT team a few rules of thumb have come up to help people focus:

  • Most of the items impact comes from the production of that item, not how you dispose of the waste. Appox 90% comes from production. It’s far better to be focus on ‘zero waste’ rather than worry about how to recycle the item and buying second hand is more beneficial.
  • It’s more important what type of food your eating, rather than how it is packaged or whether it’s organic or local (although that is also great as well). Some foods that have super high footprints are beef, lamb and cheese, so by really paying attention to the production of the food you eat, you can decrease your overall footprint.
  • Around 80% of our trips in Vancouver should be by bike, foot or transit. Having shared mobility solutions allows for such diverse flexibility and makes this 80% actually achievable.

What type of messaging would you say has worked to create positive behaviour change?

Framing things in a more positive way has worked. Underlining ‘co-benefits’ – the positive side effects of these climate actions has been successful. Often in climate change messaging you’ll see phrases like ‘cut-back’ and ‘sacrifice’ and ‘reduce’ which makes people feel like their freedom and choices are being taken away. Instead by promoting positive messaging, and alluding to a healthier, happier lifestyle, this will have a more positive impact on behaviour change.

Research by One Earth and Sitra has outlined multiple motivational profiles for people, each with its own reasons for going green. It’s all about finding the right motivation for the right user group. For example, some older people have thrifty and conservation values, and other people may have spiritual reasons for living with less. By finding and promoting the right messaging, you can broaden the pool of people who are motivated to fight climate change. In their prototype, Lighter Footprint found that talking about the plus side of lighter living has gotten great results.

Framing things in a more additive way has also helped. From a gamification perspective, it’s not super motivating to see your footprint go down compared to getting more points and leveling up. Another thing they are doing is to include a number for how much carbon the user is saving and now they are trying to figure out how to make a real life equivalent to that. For example, X is the equivalent to how many cars being taken off the road or how many trees planted etc. So the number goes up and there is a physical, tangible metaphor for what that actual means.

How do you remove friction and makes things easier for people?

This is about the fundamentals of user experience design. When it comes to an online shopping experience, it has been documented time and time again, that any point of friction or inconvenience correlates to a drop off customers and abandon carts. If it isn’t an easy user experience it becomes a big barrier for people. We often don’t have a lot of time or bandwidth.

For the app there is a 10 minute intro quiz, but because they are focusing on lightening the users footprint, there are a lot of questions that need to be asked and information that is needed to be inputted. To combat this, they have tried to make it a streamlined as possible, for example only including simple units of measurement when possible. Instead of including kilometers travelled (which many people don’t know) they just have to slot it the start and end points of their journey. Also, not asking people information that they don’t have top of mind, because if they have to leave the app to go find out their electricity bill, it won’t be the most fluid experience and can deter people. They have also included tools to help people make an educated guess at some questions, again, for example, for the electricity bill.

Have you introduced friction anywhere to change behaviour?

Nothing comes to mind, but one thing generally is that society isn’t really designed for people to make the ‘right’ more environmentally friendly choice. For example, if coffee shops removed all their to-go cups, it would force people to bring their own and change their behaviour, otherwise they would not be able to buy coffee. A good example of this is the Netherlands. They decided to pass a law that would require people to have to ‘opt-out’ of becoming an organ donor. Only 20% of people opted out, whereas before, only 20% of people opted-in. Basically, the numbers suggest that only a small amount of people are active in this decision making process and the rest go with the flow. The main takeaway from this is that if you have can have your system designed in a way that ‘go with the flow’ is the thing you want most people to do, then that would be very helpful.

What are your milestones for the Lighter Footprint app?

As a society, the target we need to reach is a difficult one. The first version of the prototype app showed the 2050 target in comparison to where the person’s footprint is today and there was a huge gap, which was very demoralizing. They found that wasn’t the best way to approach it. Now they are giving people shorter term goals to reach. In game theory, it can neither be too difficult or too easy for people otherwise they will loose interest. By breaking down the long-term target into manageable goals and by giving people a short-term wins, it has been much more motivating.

As it is a process, they also have to help people plan. One thing they found useful, was giving people the tools to allow them to imagine/forecast what their footprint will be if they change this certain behaviour now. Planning/forecasting in general, has been very helpful with savings and weight-loss programs and the Lighter Footprint app is tapping into this.

How do you tap into the innate sense of ‘want’ that people have to complete some sort of internal checklist to make them feel better about their lifestyle and what they are contributing to society?

There has to be some sort of balance between how dire the climate change situation is, and nihilist behaviour. This is not a psychologically easy thing to do. But by breaking down, and showing people what they can have control over and the change that they can affect, it can help change behaviour for some people.

Is this innate sense of wanting to help and do good the same in every demographic and country is there a difference?

There hasn’t been too much a difference in the small pool of app users so far. The app team have an idea for the app (not in the prototype yet) of people within their behaviour change, earning a donation fund. The idea really motivated people more so than personal gain. In general however, in groups where the basics like security and shelter are the immediate concerns, the bandwidth just might not be there to think about these bigger issues.

Do you have any last words for the movmi audience?

One of the things that has come up repeatedly, is that people who have children as less excited about getting out of their cars, so there is a real barrier for young people wanting to adopt new mobility solutions. Something that could be included more in bike shared schemes for example would be bikes that have a baby seat on the back. In the Lighter Footprint app, they have tried to capture these barriers for the benefit of the cities they are working with and BCIT for their research. Interesting little regulations have popped up that prevent people from doing certain things, like not being able to hang dry clothes on the balconies of certain strata buildings and just the realities of every day life.


If you would like to watch more of our #MultiModalMondays webinar series’ visit here.

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