The Three Dimensions of Human Behavior
Typically, we design products for a specific end state. For example, someone has an idea that a large beanbag can function as a chair. Or someone imagines how improving a paperless payment system can work more effectively than a manual system that is currently in use. Or customer feedback leads to the optimization of a Web site workflow that helps people complete their tasks more quickly. But in each of these examples, the focus is on things other than the essence of the actual people who will use the products—whether that focus is on the application of a particular material, on using technology to make a process easier, or responding to customers’ feedback to keep them satisfied. As I previously described in Part One of this series, the intentional attempt to satisfy people’s internal needs and desires simply isn’t there.
While the five States of Being are vital to understanding the depth and potential of customer engagement, at an even more basic level, we must attune ourselves to the three Dimensions of Human Behavior:
- Analytical—related to the mind
- Emotional—related to feelings and/or spirituality
- Physical—related to the body
Everyone has needs and desires in all three of these dimensions, but each of us differs in our experience, preference, and proportion of these dimensions. For example, hard-core gamers are often more comfortable with and drawn to meeting their analytical needs and desires, whereas people who enjoy extreme sports typically prefer taking care of their physical needs and desires. Meanwhile, people who are involved in a lot of community groups and organizations are usually more attuned to their emotional needs and desires. In any case, all of us have needs and desires in all three of these dimensions.
While, in our personal lives, we might have the luxury of planning and making decisions that we target very carefully to the idiosyncratic preferences of people that we know—for example, planning more physical activities for one person while crafting a more emotional gift for another—business and design contexts rarely afford us this luxury. We need to stay true to the core of what it is we are designing and/or its possible contexts of use, while at the same time being mindful of all three dimensions of human behavior.
Consider that, in a vast majority of cases, there already exists a vision of what we need to design. This means there are relatively limited opportunities for us to affect the overall constitution of what we are creating or to stretch in different directions. For example, if you were designing a mountain bike for extremely physical use and contexts, while you might find creative and innovate ways of expanding the vision—such as incorporating compatibility with a portable digital device that lets riders access the Internet, thereby stimulating customers’ analytical needs and desires—business and marketing constraints like manufacturing costs or a maximum list price often limit such possibilities.
Still, as designers, even if we are in a position where our ability to deviate from the core of a clearly articulated product vision is limited, we must remain aware of and actively think about all three dimensions of human needs and desires. Rather than simply considering a product and how customers will use it, be conscious of the fact that people ultimately need each of their analytical, emotional, and physical needs met. Is there any way you can stretch the product vision in a way that effectively meets additional dimensions without compromising or unnecessarily muddying the essential purpose of the product? Asking these sorts of questions and focusing on the things that make people who they are creates valuable opportunities for designing products that are truly innovative and have the potential to be far more effective for both your company and your customers.
Another aspect to consider is how different each of these three dimensions is from the standpoint of its impact on experience design. For instance, playing analytically rewarding games is often marked by concentration over a long period of time and the ability to make progress in comparison to your past performance or the performance of others or against a game’s built-in structure, as when filling in the squares in a crossword puzzle. Such activities are more likely to be solitary as opposed to social in nature, and they lend themselves to daily, routine, or otherwise repetitive behavior. Understanding these characteristics is extremely valuable. If your product planning is outcome based and your goal is to become part of customers’ daily lives, tapping into analytically based needs and desires can be extremely powerful.
Emotionally rewarding activities are either social or introspective in nature. Rather than focusing on tasks or accomplishing specific goals, such activities focus on communication, personal expression, and internal exploration. Activities that have an emotional basis are more likely to be memorable and enduring than other activities and tend to result in stronger and/or ongoing relationships between participants. The most meaningful outcomes for most people also tend to involve getting their emotional needs and desires met, regardless of their typical preferences.
Physically rewarding activities also tend to be social, but in most cases, can be solitary as well. They tend to be extremely intense, often occurring in a very compressed time when compared to analytical and emotional activities. In popular culture today in the United States, the physical is often glorified—particularly in youth culture and most notably in the highly sexualized nature of entertainment content. Other than in software, physical needs and desires are the easiest for designers to meet, given the tactile nature of all interactions that people have with physical products. Even in cases where a product or experience is heavily geared toward the analytical or emotional, designers can take advantage of tactile interactions in an attempt to stimulate or even bring pleasure to users.
Analytical, emotional, and physical dimensions: People ultimately require and respond to each of these. If we are cognizant of this and actively consider all three when planning our products, marketing, and experiences, we are much more likely to enjoy design success. These three dimensions are also notable for being an important component of mapping out explicit human needs and desires.