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Make features better for users

Improve the features of your policy, product or service so that people are more likely to use it.

When to do it

Do this after you have done your initial thinking about what features to include in your policy, service or product (see the chapter: generate ideas to test).

How to do it

You should:

  • generate initial ideas for features

  • use the EAST (easy, attractive, social, timely) model to refine the features to be more effective

  • build a prototype and test it with users

Try this activity

This activity will help you refine your ideas so that users are more likely use your policy, product or service. It will give you a set of revised features.

Time, space and materials

  • 45 minutes

  • proposed features of your policy, product or service (see the chapter: generate ideas to test)

  • any space with a wall, sticky notes, paper, and pens for a face-to-face event

  • or for a remote event use a video conference and online whiteboard that will take the place of the wall and enable participants to add and move online ‘sticky notes’


  • make 6 columns each about 50cm wide and label the columns: feature, easy, attractive, social, timely, version 2

  • print or write the descriptions of the categories (see below in tips) and stick these under the label

  • add a sticky note for each of your proposed features to the column named feature

People to include

  • any number of people

  • your team

  • a facilitator to provide the instructions


The purpose of this exercise is to make your policy, product or service work better for users.

  1. Assign people in equal numbers to the 4 categories: easy, attractive, social, timely. The 4 columns show ways of improving features so that they are more effective for users. Everyone should read the description at the top of their column. You have 1 minute.

  2. One person from each group should tell everyone else what they have learned from the description. You have 1 minute each.

  3. Each of the 4 groups should now work through the list of features. For each feature, suggest ways to improve it. Write your ideas on sticky notes and put them on the wall. You have 15 minutes.

  4. Assign people to each of the features. The new task is to review all of the suggested improvements for your feature. Read all of the suggestions. Decide which are the best and how they could work in combination. Write new sticky notes summarising your proposal and add them to the final column named, version 2. You have 10 minutes.

  5. Each person should tell everyone else about the proposal for their feature. You have 1 minute each.

  6. Vote for any ideas that you think are deliverable. You can vote for a whole feature or parts of a feature. Vote by putting a big dot next to the idea.

  7. Everyone should go back to their original and change it based on the outcome of the voting. You have 2 minutes.

  8. Each person should tell everyone else about the revised proposal for their feature. You have 1 minute each.

  9. You now have revised features for your policy, product or service.


  • Easy

    • Harness the power of defaults. We have a strong tendency to go with the default or pre-set option, since it is easy to do so. Making an option the default makes it more likely to be adopted

    • Reduce the ‘hassle factor’ of taking up a service. The effort required to perform an action often puts people off. Reducing the effort required can increase uptake or response rates

    • Simplify messages. Making the message clear often results in a significant increase in response rates to communications. In particular, it’s useful to identify how a complex goal can be broken down into simpler, easier actions

  • Attractive

    • Attract attention. We are more likely to do something that our attention is drawn towards. Ways of doing this include the use of images, colour or personalisation

    • Design rewards and sanctions for maximum effect. Financial incentives are often highly effective, but alternative incentive designs — such as lotteries — also work well and often cost less

  • Social

    • Show that most people perform the desired behaviour. Describing what most people do in a particular situation encourages others to do the same. Similarly, policy makers should be wary of inadvertently reinforcing a problematic behaviour by emphasising its high prevalence

    • Use the power of networks. We are embedded in a network of social relationships, and those we come into contact with shape our actions. Governments can foster networks to enable collective action, provide mutual support, and encourage behaviours to spread peer-to-peer

    • Encourage people to make a commitment to others. We often use commitment devices to voluntarily ‘lock ourselves’ into doing something in advance. The social nature of these commitments is often crucial

  • Timely

    • Prompt people when they are likely to be most receptive. The same offer made at different times can have drastically different levels of success. Behaviour is generally easier to change when habits are already disrupted, such as around major life events

    • Consider the immediate costs and benefits. We are more influenced by costs and benefits that take effect immediately than those delivered later. Policy makers should consider whether the immediate costs or benefits can be adjusted (even slightly), given that they are so influential

    • Help people plan their response to events. There is a substantial gap between intentions and actual behaviour. A proven solution is to prompt people to identify the barriers to action, and develop a specific plan to address them

Next steps

  • consider reasons not to include any additional features

  • consider which features will provide the maximum impact on users with the least effort

  • build a prototype and test it with users

Further reading

Find out more about this topic by searching the internet for:

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