Think about what it takes to train a dog…

If you can get your dog to sit when you say the word “sit,” then you know how to design behavior.

Even if you can’t, we can use everything below to find out why.

Let’s break it down.

Behavior Design Fundamentals

“First, help someone (or your dog) do what they already what to do (their aspiration)
help them feel successful.” – BJ Fogg

Behavior Design in 2 Minutes

Behavior Design Examples

In 2018, Starbucks ran a promotion: $40 for and 30 days of coffee + a FREE Tumbler.

Their goal was to turn someone that might be a infrequent customer into a customer that makes a purchase every day.

What Causes Behavior Change?

A behavior happens when: Motivation + Ability + Prompt come together at the same moment.


When a behavior does not occur, at least one of those three elements is missing.



Motivation is the emotional backdrop and the goal is to tap into it without artifically creating it.

There are six core motivations that are in three groups:

Sensation (Physical) – Pleasure/Pain (The result of this motivator is immediate). Game designers use this motivation by offering badges and points when learners change their behavior.

Anticipation (Emotional) – Hope/Fear (Fear is the anticipation of something bad happening, often the anticipation of loss). An example would be: people will accept pain (buying home insurance) in order to overcome fear (anticipation of your house burning down.

Social Cohesion (Social) –  Social Acceptance (Belonging/Rejection). People want to feel like they belong.


A person must have the ability to do something.

The goal with each of these “Elements of Simplicity” is to minimize them as much as possible: Time, Money, Physical Effort, Mental Cycles, Social Deviance (Conformity), and Non-Routine (sits outside of a daily routine).


There are three types of prompts: spark (high ability, high motivation; loud alarm clock), facilitator (high motivation, low ability; email newsletter), and signal (high ability, low motivation; post-it note).

Prompts should build on each other similar to learning to swim. This would look like small steps that lead towards larger success.

If you prompt people at the right time = joy.

If you prompt then when they lack ability = frustration.

If you prompt people when they don’t have motivation = annoyed.

2 Kinds of Prompts: Hot and Cold

Hot prompts are things you can do right now (e.g. button saying “Get it now” or “Download now”).

Cold prompts are things which one cannot act on right now (e.g. an add that you hear on the radio while you are driving).

Put “hot prompts” in the path of motivated people. – BJ Fogg

What If A Behavior Isn’t Happening?

Anytime you want to better understand why a behavior isn’t occurring, all you have to do is simply walk down the list and ask:

Are they amply motivated?

Are they truly able to perform this behavior?

Are we just forgetting to remind them/ask them to perform the behavior?

Next Steps To Learning Behavior Design

BJ Fogg created a free program called

While most people think it takes 21 days to create a habit, will show you create results in just a few days.

Two of the most popular habits to design for are:

  1. To tell yourself “Today is going to be a great day
  2. To floss one tooth

Prefer to read more? BJ Fogg also has a book and you can buy a copy of Tiny Habits on Amazon.

I help entrepreneurs, business owners and freelancers solve problems. Whether you need me to guide you or solve something before me, I’ve got your back. Click here to learn more.
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Further Reading

  1. Why is Everyone So Fat, Broke and Busy? Jeff Gaines at TEDxAlbany 2010
  2. Fogg Behavior Model in 2 Minutes
  3. Understanding Behavior Design with Facebook as and Example
  4. Behavior Design Videos by BJ (camp)
  5. School of Persuasion
  6. Tiny Habits in Success Magazine (a summary)
  7. Intro Doc for Tiny Habits
  8. BJ at RWJF
  9. Interview at Habit Design event
  10. New Rules of Persuasion article
  11. 3 Steps to New Habits (6 Slides)
  12. BJ’s video on simplicity (ability factors)
  13. Fogg & Hreha Behavior Wizard paper (8 pages, easy to read, updates key concepts)
  14. 15 Ways Behavior Can Change
  15. Top 10 Mistakes in Behavior Change
  16. Behavior Model website
  17. Behavior Grid website
  18. Behavior Design website
  19. Behavior Wizard website
  20. Motivation Wave video
  21. Lasting Change flipbook
  22. PAC Person Expert Guide
  23. Read Chapters 1 and 2 of Don’t Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor
  24. Persuasive Technology – BJ Fogg
  25. Mobile Persuasion – BJ Fogg
  26. Texting 4 Health – BJ Fogg
  27. Influence – Cialdini
  28. Willpower Instinct – Kelly McGonigal
  29. Getting Real (creating products quickly)
  30. Purple Span Behavior Guide (an integration of behavior thinking & design
  31. Henry James on Habits (historical perspective)
  32. BJ Fogg on Twitter
  33. Designer Scott Jenson‘s concept of the UX golden rule, that Value > Pain
  34. Lily Cheng at Fogg’s Stanford lab describing how the Facebook newsfeed effectively puts “hot triggers” in the path of people who are motivated to respond to those triggers
  35. Growth Engineering’s “BJ Fogg’s Behavior Model”
  36.’s “How to Use Behavioral Design for Boosting Conversions (Using The Fogg Behavior Model)”
  37. applies the Fogg model to Internet marketing