Designing for usability vs. motivation

Keeping your site usable is like keeping your home clean; it’s all about hygiene. It only becomes a problem if the hygiene is bad. If not, good usability won’t even get noticed, but be taken for a given.

Categorized in: usability, joshua porter, seductive ui, friction, motivation, seduction, design

Although making your website easy to use is critical for its success, there is more to it than just that. How do you ensure that your users experience exactly what you want them to experience? There is another important dimension to consider other than reducing friction: increasing motivation.

Lets examine designing for usability vs. designing for motivation.

Designing for usability

Making a website usable is about reducing friction. It is about making it easy to use, and making sure that the user can find what he or she needs without any considerable effort.

A focus on having a usable website is critical to whether your visitors will stay around or bounce on to the next site. Usability is critical to whether users want to engage with what you have to offer and critical to whether the business model your website builds upon will work.

Having a website that is easy to use is of utmost importance to your business. It can be your competitive advantage when your competitors fail to do the same. However, having a usable website does not provide positive satisfaction to your users, although dissatisfaction results from its absence.

Keeping your website usable and frictionless should however always be considered important, as increased friction will decrease returning visitors.

Every single change made to your website can be reason to new friction, why testing the health of your website’s usability continuously, is critical to retaining your users.

Enhancing usability will give your users an instant kick of happiness and satisfaction. The good feelings are however short-lived, as whether a website is usable or not does not determine whether it provides satisfaction or not. It is the subjective values a user sees in the product a website offers that determines its satisfaction.

Keeping your website free from unnecessary friction is like keeping a restaurant clean. Good hygiene will make sure your visitors do not run scared away, but not in itself create a positive attitude. It will help prevent dissatisfaction, but not by itself create motivation.

Designing for motivation

Although making your website easy to use is critical for its success, there is more to it than just that. How do you ensure that your users experience exactly what you want them to experience? There is another important dimension to consider other than reducing friction: increasing motivation.

How do you motivate your users to undertake the journey you have planned for them? How do you guide them and how do you convince them to spend more time and money on your site than at the competitor?

Two forces, each pulling the user in opposing directions, can be defined (Joshua Porter, 2009).

Friction vs. motivation

The first is friction, which can stop any user who otherwise had the momentum to complete a certain task. Friction brings momentum to a stop and therefore pulls the user backwards. Reducing friction will ensure a smooth journey in a steady tempo.

The other is motivation. Motivation pushes the user forward and adds even more momentum to the game. If correctly motivated, users will be positively satisfied and be able to easily jump the hurdles set up by friction. Examples of motivating factors are recognition, achievement, or personal growth.

As long as the motivation is bigger than the friction, the user will keep moving in a forward motion. However, at any given point in time, the user may experience enough friction to turn the motion backwards.

Friction can be thought of as hurdles the user needs to pass. The more hurdles, the more tired the user becomes and the more cumbersome the process gets. Experiencing that one hurdle after having forced several other ones may be the tipping point that makes the user leave.

About the author

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Anders Toxboe builds websites with an outstanding team at Benjamin Interactive in Copenhagen, Denmark. He also founded UI-Patterns.com and a series of other projects.

Published on 5 Jun, 2010
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