Complementing the technical architecture, the ‘cultural architecture’ is the structure of all the visual and experience design approaches, tone of voice, incentives and propositions that we have used to attract people to the platform and tools, making them attractive and rewarding to use. The core intent of the engagement architecture is building value and removing barriers for the maximum number of users.

A large number of users were attracted to the platform by the points and prizes, which operate as an overarching benefit that applies to all the tools and most of the actions, and encourage trying out of additional tools. We found that there were actually many distinct kinds of user motivations going on around points and prizes — some people were motivated by the competitive aspect of winning more points than other people, some by the individual pleasure of acquiring points consistently, some were motivated by getting prizes and some by giving money to charity. Many different kinds of users felt satisfied in different ways while using the tools.

The prizes mechanism was not designed to operate like a shop, where you spend money and buy products, but more like a game where you can shoot for prizes when you have enough points. On the one hand, this allowed us to present prizes more as a treat than a purely transactional ‘bribe’, which could reduce the transferability of behaviours when users are in places where prizes are not available. Also, this mechanism enabled us to leverage the prize value and reduce the cost of delivering prizes. It created some races between users who were after the same prize, striving to get as many points (by doing as many different actions) as quickly as possible. The number of users who were principally motivated by prizes was small though, and we believe that the value of incentives — in the pilot, approximately £3.50 per employee per year — could have been higher than necessary to drive savings. Further experimentation will help to establish optimal levels for different audiences.

The idea of allowing different propositions to attract different groups of users was key to attracting more users. Defra (2008) A Framework for Pro-environmental Behaviours.While some people are attracted to ‘green’ propositions, across the UK many people actively avoid them⁠. While the tools could have had a purely eco-focussed proposition, in the end all but one of the tools that we built during CarbonCulture at DECC focussed on a different user benefit. Some people wanted to adopt a habit of having healthier lunches, while some were more interested in a comfortable evening workspace. The architecture allowed us to build different tools that would each attract a specific ‘segmentation’ of the audience.

Freedman, J. L. & Fraser, S. C. (1966) Compliance without pressure: the foot in the door technique. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.We found that many people who had been attracted by the idea of one tool started using others regularly as well. The overall shape of the uptake showed that launching a new tool would attract new users to the platform, who would go on to use all the tools. As the platform grows, it will be possible to make large numbers of tools, so that each offers a specific benefit to attract users who might not initially be attracted to other tools or the platform in general.

Two very important factors were the visual language and the tone of voice. We were very conscious from our research that the tone would be critical for engaging people — and could also be a powerful way of alienating them. We designed the platform to accommodate different brands and tones within the tools so that some could be straightforwardly fun, while others could feel more serious and businesslike.

While individual tools are targeted to distinct segmentations of users, the platform needed to feel attractive — or at least palatable — to everybody. This was one of the hardest challenges we took on, and we designed a style for the core platform that was as neutral as possible while still having character.

The design of the platform was quiet enough not to override individual tools, and simply set out to humanise energy and carbon. This was achieved with open and simple language, the use of cute characters (‘peeps’) showing people how to use the platform, playful avatars and informal language for the tools themselves. People responded very warmly to this look and feel. We noticed people had pinned up postcards of the CarbonCulture peeps and several of the CarbonCulture mugs that we left in the fifth floor kitchen disappeared to the homes (we assume) of enthusiastic users.

We found a strong distinction between perceived ease-of-use and actual ease-of-use, particularly with Scrunch, where there was a powerful perceived barrier around sleeping and moving a DECC laptop. The process for doing this efficiently was not widely known, leading to a delay in work that could stretch to fifteen minutes when having to move a computer. When we consulted DECC’s IT department, we discovered it was possible to move a laptop from desk to desk in a few seconds (we put instructions out on a cute little leaflet and a blog post). Many users reacted to this extremely well — and some started scrunching on the basis of how useful that information had been.

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