Ability - Make behavior simpler to do

My Fogg Behavior Model has three main elements, one of which is Ability. In order to perform a target behavior, a person must have the ability to do so. That seems obvious, of course. But designers of persuasive experiences sometimes assume people have more ability than they really do.

There are two paths to increasing ability. You can train people, giving them more skills, more ability to do the target behavior. That’s the hard path. Don’t take this route unless you really must. Training people is hard work, and most people resist learning new things. That’s just how we are as humans: lazy.

The better path is to make the target behavior easier to do. I call this Simplicity. In my Behavior Model I sometimes replace Ability with Simplicity. I hope this isn’t confusing. Ability is the correct general term in the model, but in practice Simplicity is what persuasion designers should seek. By focusing on Simplicity of the target behavior you increase Ability.

Below is a 12-minute video that explains my framework on Simplicity. Warning: This video is just me talking, with a few graphics. Nothing fancy. That said, I think the content is good. But it’s not HBO. (That’s me playing ukulele at the start.)

Key insight: Simplicity is a function of your scarcest resource at that moment. Think about time as a resource, If you don’t have 10 minutes to spend, and the target behavior requires 10 minutes, then it’s not simple. Money is another resource. If you don’t have $1, and the behavior requires $1, then it’s not simple. The video explains more.


BJ Fogg on Simplicity from BJ Fogg on Vimeo.