The 7S for Persuasive Mobile Apps – and the Functional Triad

In 1998, which is, of course long before mobile “apps” were wide spread, BJ Fogg suggested a “Functional Triad for persuasive computers”. The triad is, as the name suggests, focused on computer based – rather than mobile app based – persuasion. Fogg suggests that there are three”basic ways that people view or respond to computing technologies”. These three basic ways  in turn can be used to classify the 7S Framework into three “meta categories”:

The first  category encompasses “tools” which help an individual’s ability to achieve a specific behaviour. For example, a calculator enables a person to compute quickly and to correctly compute complicated equations.
The 7Ss also provides three tools to enable people to achieve a behaviour:
Simplify – makes complex tasks accessible and easily performed.
Sign-posting – enables the user to find out more information at a later stage as the user starts to search for supporting arguments for the behaviour change
Suggest – engages the user in constant goal setting

The second category “social actor” focuses on relationships. Fogg originally envisaged this as mainly a tool for creating social presence of computers. But, of course, with social networks computers (or apps) can actually become a virtual form of real-life social links. Therefore:
Socialise – enables people to use the tool as a means to engage with (non-)virtual social actors, while in
Support –  the app takes the form of a virtual “friend”, for example by congratulating or cheering the user on when achieving behavioural goals.

The third category, “medium” provides an experience, for example a virtual environment in which  to learn, review or practice behaviours.  This is probably the most complex part of the triad to replicate in apps – as it is hard to, for example, create a virtual space in which to “try out” exercise. However,  it is important not to forget that an experience can not only be “trained” beforehand, but also, be relived as a means of rewarding oneself. Therefore, self-supervise fits this concept (fairly) closely:
Self-supervising – gives the user the ability to relive and review the behaviour – or even to plan ahead, for example by using tools such as MapMyRun, where users can plan their next run.

Of course, the mapping of the components of the 7Ss to the functional triad is not hard and fast fact: it is perfectly possible to argue that, for example, “suggest” may actually function mostly as a social actor rather than a tool. However, given that Fogg’s triad has been used and documented extensively, it is likely that an app that uses all three categories (and the 7Ss) is more likely to have maximum behaviour change potential, than an app that ignores one or several of these.




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