The difference between action and motivation

I just finished reading an old TechCrunch article about an app called Everest that shut down in 2014. The article sites usability issues, bugs, crashes, absent key features, confusing and difficult interactions, ill-timed touch points, and a tedious experience as the main causes of the decision to stop work on this particular product. 

The founder said that his solution and approach to solving all of the above problems was by addressing payment models, purchase behavior, premium features (obviously more strategic than improving the features you already have?) or by thinking about an "alternative" business model.

Articles like this make me so sad. I'm sad that so much effort and good intention was lost behind a lack of focus on what is really important for the success of any product - focusing on people rather than systems and strategies.

I never used Everest, can't speak to the exact problems, but this article reminds me that so many times we spend time fixating our own problems and need for success rather than actually addressing people’s innate behaviors and motivations. Ultimately people don't care what kind of business model Everest has. People don't care about the premium features and subscription offerings. People used Everest, I would guess, because they were interested in achieving a goal that they once thought was out of reach. People realized that was something they couldn't do on their own and saw a way to finally fulfill their unmet needs, aspirations, and desires. Subscriptions and business models were the things they had to put up with in order to do that.

When you're building a product whose foundation is goal setting and achievement the most important problem to solve is not one of tooling or modeling, but one of motivation. Deep down everyone has TONS of aspirational things they want to do. Just because you give them a way to take action, doesn’t mean they're actually going to feel motivated to do it. And building an entire business off of people's good intentions is probably ill-advised.

There is a difference between designing for action versus designing for behavior. Action is tied to physical activity (swiping a credit card, for example) and behavior is what motivates our actions. ("I am always scared to swipe my credit card because your website doesn't feel safe.") All of our behaviors are in some way tied to our past experiences and current needs to feel healthy and whole. ("I need to feel safe because one time I got scammed.")

As designers, we cannot design the actions without taking both behavior and experience into account. We can't design ways for people to achieve goals without thinking about all of the other experiences they have had that tell them that achieving their goals is hard work and that stasis is the safer and easier option. Designing for behavior is a lot (A LOT) harder than designing for action, and we need to be smart about how we translate these interactions into a digital environment.