Creating Guiding Principles

The aim of guiding principles is to highlight how the intervention will address key issues crucial to engagement in the specific context of the target users.

To achieve this we:

  1. Identify the specific user characteristics likely to affect engagement, such as their views, needs and capabilities (see first column of table below).
  2. Identify key intervention design objectives to improve engagement – what the intervention design must achieve to meet these specific needs or overcome these specific barriers
  3. Identify key features of the intervention that will achieve those objectives. Key features can include behaviour change techniques (from intervention planning - e.g. goal setting), delivery characteristics (e.g. video format), implementation setting (e.g. schools), communication methods (e.g. framing), navigation methods (e.g. tunnelling, self-tailoring), or any other aspect of the intervention that could affect engagement.

The golden principles of Guiding Principles are:

  • They draw on an in-depth understanding of your target user group
  • They focus on making the intervention engaging – persuasive, meaningful, enjoyable
  • They can be revisited and refined throughout development
  • They provide a brief summary of what should be especially appealing and useful about this particular intervention for this particular group of users and their context

This example shows the guiding principles for designing a digital intervention to encourage older people to become more physically active.

User Context
Key Design Objective

In older people:

1. Levels of physical activity are low and often unchanged by interventions

2. Improving health not usually a strong motivation for physical activity

Encourage engagement with and intrinsic motivation for physical activity

Offer novel activities, ensure compatible with lifestyle and identity:

  • Lifestyle activity
  • Strength and balance training
  • Breaks from sitting

Rather than framing activities in terms of reducing risk of health conditions, highlight benefits that have immediately evident and noticeable outcomes and are known to be valued by the intended user group

e.g. keeping mobile, maintaining independence, enjoyment, reducing pain, social connection, enhancing mood, general quality of life

Some examples of Guiding Principles:

Essery, R., Pollet, S., Smith, K.A. et al. Planning and optimising a digital intervention to protect older adults’ cognitive health. Pilot Feasibility Stud 7, 158 (2021).

Pollet, S., Denison-Day, J., Bradbury, K., Essery, R., Grey, E., Western, M., Mowbray, F., Smith, K., Slodkowska-Barabasz, J., Mutrie, N., Little, P., & Yardley, L. (2020). A Qualitative Exploration of Perceptions of a Digital Intervention to Promote Physical Activity in Older Adults. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 29(3), 442-454.

Bradbury, K., Steele, M., Corbett, T., Geraghty, A., Krusche, A., Heber, E. D., Easton, S., Cheetham-Blake, T., Slodkowska-Barabasz, J., Muller, A. M., Wilde, L. J., Smith, K., Payne, L., Singh, K., Bacon, R., Burford, T., Summers, K., Turner, L., Richardson, A., ... Yardley, L. (2019). Developing a digital intervention for cancer survivors: An evidence, theory and person-based approach. npj Digital Medicine, 1-13.

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