Product Design Lessons

Interface Design Sketching  |   Lesson #130

Getting users to complete tasks

How to use design triggers part 7 of 10

This week we’ll be focusing on part seven of our ten part series on psychological triggers and patterns. In this lesson, we’ll be covering how you can use the Zeigarnik Effect to get your users to complete necessary tasks within your website or web app.

What is the Zeigarnik Effect?

Humans love to complete things. Tasks that remain uncompleted can linger in people's minds even after their attention has been focused towards new goals and It's often easier to recall details of uncompleted tasks – the closure gained from completing a task frees you from the responsibility to remember it.

Since its original discovery, the Zeigarnik Effect has been shown experimentally to have an affect on short-term memory, and also our drive to seek closure by completing tasks. It’s possible to take advantage of our tendency to seek closure. Once the initial hurdle of starting something is overcome, the internal tension caused from not completing a task can be a great motivator.

How you can use it.

Consider how the Zeigarnik Effect can affect user behavior on your site. Try to reduce the uneasiness users will feel from having uncompleted tasks, by breaking down long or complicated tasks into a series of smaller steps. Make it easy for users to pick up uncompleted tasks later by giving them a place to live. Use a progress bar or confirmation screen to give users a sure sense of closure. You can also take advantage of the Zeigarnik Effect by giving users more than one option for where to start a task--once they start, they’ll be more likely to finish.

LinkedIn does a great job of getting users to do things with its stepped approach. It uses notifications to inform users of how complete their profiles are, as a percentage. This plays on users' desire to finish things and encourages them to figure out how they can reach 100 per cent completion.

Next Steps

The key is to get people to start something so they want to complete it. Make barriers to entry low and vary the length of steps to keep people motivated. Keep your users up to date on where they are and what they need to do to come to complete closure.

The responsive web is still a huge part of your product success and ZURB Foundation is the best way for your team to build your future web product. We’ve accumulated our experience in creating 100's of websites and web apps for our clients into Foundation for Sites so you can build freely and worry less about cross browser issues. If you want to hone your skills as a Foundation expert, be sure to check out our ZURB Intro to Foundation Course.

About the instructor


Brandon Arnold is a Foundation mastermind. He contributed several key components of the latest version of our framework, and walks you through getting started with Foundation for Emails.