Concept development and Case studies

After having explored several aspects of the storyboard, the concept has been developed in detail. The many explorations from sketches and thoughts have been condensed into a final concept description.

Further concept explorations

The product consists of a bowl with a number of coins. The coins each contain an assignment related to the happiness strategy that the user is adopting (when buying the product, the user can choose what strategy he would like to adopt, and receives the associated coins.)

The assignments on the coins are small, specific examples and suggestions that aim to offer the user a new experience. They try to keep the threshold as low as possible, by being small (little physical effort), specific (little brain cycles trying to think what to do), offering a new experience that seems good (authenticity) or fun (hedonism) (instilling hope and wonder in the user), and by giving an example (the user can easily visualize it, and can visualize himself doing it).

Examples of assignments include:
– Write a letter to someone you haven’t spoken in a while and send it (nurturing relations)
– Do not eat meat for one week (committing to your goals)
– Try to say ‘thank you’ as often as you can for one day (gratitude)

After carrying out an assignment, the user logs into a special website, using the unique code that is printed on every coin. He then types a small testimonial, describing what act he committed and how he found the experience. After having finished the testimonial, the user should give the coin to a friend or stranger, who should then also complete the assignment, type his own testimonial, pass it on, etc. If this system works, slowly a story will start to emerge around the actions witnessed by a single physical coin.

The coin may spread from town to town, and cross various groups of peers and family along the way. After a few pass-overs, it is bound to belong to someone unknown to the initial user. The system can have a number of benefits. For the initial user, any act that follows upon his act in the chain is a reward, since he has set the chain in motion. For the recipient of a coin, the previous testimonials can be an inspiration and motivation to continue. As the chain grows larger, the reward and motivation increases, and the coin gains mythical stature. The fact that the chain is formed by a physical object traveling through the real world, makes it much more special than if a virtual object were to travel through the digital world.

No matter how low the threshold is for exercising the act, the chain is bound to stop somewhere. This is not a bad thing. Say that the initial user buys a container and 30 coins. If 20 chains stop immediately after the coins have been passed over once, there may still be ten chains left that can be tracked. When buying the coins, the user buys new experiences. The chains are bonuses.
Even if a chain is broken, a coin may pop up after a while, and continue its journey. From the locations of users in testimonials, the coins can be tracked across towns, countries and continents. There is a great factor of serendipity in this system. People that by chance receive coins from friends or strangers are suddenly part of this intriguing network.

There is no predefined order or planning for the execution of the assignments. The user can himself decide in what order and tempo to exercise them. This makes the product very flexible. By placing the container in the home environment, it acts as a silent reminder of the user’s commitment to adopting the strategy, and will no doubt evoke an emotion of guilt when the user neglects to exercise an assignment for a long time.
The container acts as a clear goal at the same time, and observing how it slowly empties may motivate the user to keep on going. During the completion of the assignments, chances are that the user will already get some feedback of chains that are growing, which will be a further motivation. After having emptied the container, the user has experienced a lot of new things, has given this opportunity to other individuals, and has been able to review some of their experiences. And all this in relation to the happiness strategy that the user is adopting.

Case studies

After having developed my concept, I’ve looked in on similar available product-services on the market. As it turns out, there are some products that are very similar to the concept. First of all, this is a sign that the concept might work in practice, which can support my design decisions. However, it also makes the concept less unique. This graduation project has to add value, and therefore it may be wise to differentiate the concept from product-services that are already on the market. I will try to draw some lessons from these case studies, and describe a way in which my concept can be improved and differentiated, while still fitting the design vision and research outcomes.

Case study 1 – Boom Boom Cards
http://www.boomboomcards.com

Boom Boom Cards

Boom Boom Cards are cards that stimulate users to commit acts of kindness. A user buys a pack of 26 cards, which all contain a different concrete assignment. Some are small (buying a stranger a cup of coffee), and some require more effort (going outside and filling a plastic bag with litter from the streets). The user can choose in what order and tempo to commit the acts. Once the user has completed the assignment on a card, he tells about the experience on the web, using the identification code on the card. He then passes the card on to someone else (friend or stranger, openly or anonymously). The recipient of the card is stimulated to do the act as well, and share the experience on the Boom Boom Cards website. As such, the chain of kindness continues, and the card’s path can be tracked online.
The text on the cards is written in a positive uplifting tone. Most assignments contain a subscript that invites the user to embark on a more ambitious mission. This will require more effort of the user, but will be more rewarding.

'Revolutionizing it'

A smart thing about Boom Boom Cards is that they focus very much on doing kind things for others, instead of presenting their product as a happiness-boosting strategy for the user. This gives the product a more authentic appeal, and makes it more meaningful, which may potentially increase the happiness of users even more.

The system of Boom Boom Cards is very similar to my concept. There are two main differences:
– Boom Boom Cards focus mostly on practicing acts of kindness, expressing gratitude and nurturing relations. Other strategies of Lyubomirsky are not included.
– Boom Boom Cards are paper cards, while my design concept uses coins as a carrier for the assignments. It would be interesting to know the different implications that these carriers have for the use of the product.

Having studied the testimonials on the website of Boom Boom Cards, it seems that people having bought the cards use them frequently, yet successive use is quite rare. Of all the 261 first acts that have been registered on the website in the last four weeks, only 12% have witnessed a successive act. This figure does not change much when observing cards that have been in play for a longer time (giving the recipients of cards more time to perform and register their act of kindness). Of all the 224 first acts that have been registered over a year ago, only 18% have witnessed a successive act.

Table of successive use

This passing-on system does not work as well as it should ideally. One can imagine that initiators are naturally motivated to perform the acts; otherwise they would not buy the product. However, recipients of single cards still need to be motivated, and the only agents able to do that are the person giving them the card, the card itself, and the website supporting it.

Case study 2 – Akoha
http://www.akoha.com

Akoha mission cards

Akoha is an on/offline game, where users commit kind acts in the real world to score points in the virtual world. It is quite similar to Boom Boom Cards. Users complete an act described on a card, and pass it on to the recipient of the act. The recipient goes online, acknowledges the act of their predecessor, and the predecessor receives points for it. The recipient can then himself also carry out the act, pass on the card, and receive points. Play continues as the card is passed on and on. Besides the intrinsic reward of being kind, which is also offered by Boom Boom Cards, Akoha adds an extrinsic reward. ‘Karma points’, which are essentially experience points, can be exchanged by the player for prizes, access to events, and other things.

The system of Akoha is very similar to my concept and to Boom Boom Cards. There is one major difference:
– Akoha features an elaborate virtual rewarding system where players can score points and appear in rankings. This competitive approach may decrease the authentic character of the game, although it may also increase motivation.

Design implications

A lot of things that were learned from these two case studies are relevant for my concept. The system of Boom Boom Cards is very similar to my own concept. It focuses mainly on the strategies of practicing acts of kindness, expressing gratitude and nurturing relations, thereby validating that for these strategies of Lyubomirsky, such a system can indeed help people with their adoption. The intention of my concept is that it will be suitable for the adoption of many more of Lyubomirsky’s strategies. Therefore, it is important to further develop my concept for strategies other than practicing acts of kindness, expressing gratitude and nurturing relations. During this development, Boom Boom Cards will be regarded as a benchmark product.

Observing that the participants in my context research have mainly been students, and knowing that this group has a preference for the strategies of increasing flow experiences, savoring life’s joys and committing to your goals, it would be wise to focus on exactly these strategies.

Students' results of the Person-Activity Fit diagnostic

Two things that are good about Boom Boom Cards and will be used in my design are:
– The communication of the product. By presenting the product as meaningful cause, instead of a happiness strategy, the concept becomes more authentic and meaningful.
– The principle of ‘revolutionizing it’. By suggesting possible elaborations of the assignments, the more ambitious users are challenged, making the product more fun for them.

The greatest challenge will be to make the passing-on more successful, by increasing the speed and length of the chains. This will be the main point on which my concept will differentiate from Boom Boom Cards. I believe that it is key to focus on the experience of the secondary users (the ones that receive the cards from others, instead of buying the product themselves), and increase motivation for them.

One way to do this would be to include an extrinsic reward, such as the Akoha system does. However, this could decrease authenticity, which would be a shame. Instead, I think that out of the three agents that can motivate the secondary user (the person giving them the card, the card itself, and the website supporting it), there are two that can be improved:
– The carrier of the assignment could be a physically more appealing and intriguing product.
– The website could offer a more compelling story that could spur the user into action.
These two elements should create a kind of ‘wow-experience’ that increases motivation of the secondary users.

In the next stage of the project, I will present the new design of the carrier and the website, and work towards a prototype that can be tested with real users.

References
http://www.boomboomcards.com
http://www.akoha.com

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One response to “Concept development and Case studies

  1. Hi Hans,

    Thank you for mentioning Akoha in your post!

    Your research sounds interesting – I’m curious to see your next step design and website.

    We’ve learned a lot from our beta phase – testing the concept in the real world – and will soon be introducing our redesign.

    Feel free to reach out to us if you have questions about what we do 🙂

    Alain Wong
    Community Caretaker
    Akoha

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