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9 principles of motivational UX

9 principles of motivational UX Brian Marr

There's an engagement crisis, plain and simple. Technologies have made our lives easier, but they are also making it difficult for brands to connect to -- let alone keep -- users. Competition is fierce, attention spans are short, and new emerging digital technologies are redefining the way brands connect with their target audience.


The most disruptive trends are:


Micro-moment behavior
User attention spans are hovering around the eight-second mark, and with new technology emerging like the Apple Watch, short bursts of 10-second -- or less -- engagement intervals are what brands must capitalize on to connect with users.


Brand loyalty is decreasing
Roughly only 25 percent of users feel loyal to a product or a brand. With digital providing an endless barrage of interactions and experiences for users, the magnitude of choice has created a mindset of a "switching economy." Brand loyalty is so critical that decreasing brand loyalty loss by only five percent could result in an increase of profitability of 25-125 percent.


The Internet of Everything
It is estimated that by 2020 there will be nearly 50 billion connected products! Yet today's Internet of Things products face one of the highest abandonment rates of all consumer goods. Not considering how to get past this novelty cliff has a broader impact than just product abandonment -- it could create minimal incentive to purchase future versions.


The crisis has become so paramount that even established brands are suffering at the hands of so much consumer change. Take Domino's. During the economic crisis, the once-beloved pizza conglomerate faced high abandonment rates, poor brand affinity, and lacked digital innovation. Fast forward five years and Domino's now counts itself as one of the greatest turnaround success stories in modern business. So, how'd they do it?


The solution to create lasting engagement


We believe there is a very strategic approach to combating the engagement crisis. It's something we call "motivational UX." It's a customer-centric approach to innovation that applies decades of multi-disciplinary research in behavioral psychology, user experience design, and game design thinking to give brands a strategic edge over their competition.


Our framework for motivational UX draws from the intersection of great user experience, human behavior, and game design thinking, and groups them into nine principles designed to positively impact user behavior in any experience we design. Not all nine apply to every digital experience -- based on a brand's unique goals, different motivating principles are emphasized or deemphasized to create the best solution.


The 9 principles of motivational UX

Adaptive
Adaptive experiences automatically change as a result of individual user behavior patterns, resulting in a more personalized, richer, longer-lasting relationship between product and user. These experiences fit your user's needs through minimal effort by the user and maximum effort from the product.    

Self-express
Giving users opportunities to add their personal touch to an experience increases their investment in it. Just adding their name, uploading a selfie, or setting a background color lets users put their fingerprints on your brand, resulting in shared experiential moments that can create deeper, longer engagements and even brand evangelists.    

Exploration
People are born explorers. When an experience feels exhausted, they tend to move on. Providing areas that expand on the core experience or surprising them with something new at the right time can extend engagement and motivate further exploration. Exploration gives users the chance to dive further into your product and lets them interact with the environment you've created, resulting in further engagement by rewarding users to find that next hidden treasure.    

Challenge and reward
People are motivated by either being challenged or receiving an award. By creating an experience that has clear goals and defined outcomes, users are much more compelled to move through the entirety of an experience, which results in longer engagement.  

Aesthetics
Let's face it -- being aesthetically pleasing sells. How something looks, acts, and sounds directly impacts how we feel about it. Aesthetics have a huge impact on the perceived value and functionality of your product.    

Decision-making
We are constantly bombarded with choices. Simplifying the decision-making process by presenting the right choices at the right time not only helps the user make decisions more easily, but allows them to feel empowered to make the right choice.  

Belonging
It is innately human to want to be a part of something bigger than yourself. Within digital experiences, we not only connect with others, but we compare ourselves with others. Supporting people's desires to form positive relationships and social proofing will produce a deeper accord between product and user.    

Engagement loop
When we find something we like, we repeat it. This repetition is what builds familiarity with your product and keeps the user coming back to discover and participate time and time again.    

Content and story
Telling a story generates an empathetic connection between the storyteller, your brand and the listener -- your user. When we hear a well-told story, parts of our brain light up as though we're experiencing it, creating a strong bond between your user and your product.

Bringing it back to the success of Domino's, it's clear to see that it applied a selection of the core elements of motivational UX, quite possibly without even knowing it. First, it told it as it was -- Domino's owned that it was responsible for a bad product, retooled said product and, in turn, reinvented its story around it. By applying content and story, it was able to bring customers into the fold of its new experience. From there it applied the strategic tactics of engagement loops -- its mobile offerings are so user-friendly that the brand became top-of-mind when wanting the ease of ordering pizza; Aesthetics -- it created localized, relevant imagery that separated it from its competitor's outdated visuals, and last; decision-making and self-expression -- by empowering users to connect directly to its mobile and online sites, users are able to create their own pizzas at their leisure and liking, allowing for a completely personalized culinary experience where the customer is in charge.


With the digital marketplace moving fast, and your user's behaviors changing just as quickly, it is increasingly challenging to grab their attention and stay ahead of your competition. When addressed correctly, motivational UX has the potential to create incredible impact on your business… and an opportunity to leapfrog your competition.


Brian Marr is chief strategy officer of Smashing Ideas.


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Brian is a marketing strategist, business leader, and educator highly adept at discovering and applying the triggers that motivate customer behavior towards a desired business outcome. His strong history in software product management, digital...

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