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What is the Zeigarnik Effect?
The Zeigarnik effect is a psychological theory that states that people remember incomplete or unfinished tasks better than complete ones. In UX design, this principle can be used to increase user engagement and create user interactions that are more memorable. We will discuss a couple of ways this concept can be used.
To encourage user engagement and task completion, visual responses play a valuable role. By incorporating visual cues such as dynamic animations or
color changes when certain actions are completed, this consistently reinforces that the task is yet to be completed. This keeps the user engaged and motivated to complete the task.
Loading animations such as a loading screen with a circular spinner or hourglass to indicate to the user that the action or task they are trying to complete is still in progress and needs time to load. They are incredibly useful since they consistently reassure the user that their action is being processed, which reduces user frustration or impatience. As a result, this creates a more positive user experience that keeps the user engaged.
Identifying and displaying errors when an action cannot be completed notifies the user that their task was unable to be accomplished successfully. As a result, this creates a sense of attentiveness and trust because it shows that the application is actively checking and processing user actions. To prevent frustration, it is also important to provide the user with a solution to the error when possible. This motivates the user to continue with their task without annoyance as they now know how to avoid the error and continue on with their progress.
Measuring user progress is a great example of how the Zeigarnik effect can be applied to UX design. A progress bar that shows how far along the user is in completing their task is a valuable visual signal that consistently reminds the user of their progress and helps them estimate how much is left to finish. Seeing that progress provides encouragement to the user to complete the task.
Here is an example of a progress bar:
The above progress bar displays that the user is 75% done with their task(s). This creates a sense of incompletion and disatisfaction, which motivates the user to continue until they would receive 100% completion.
Achievements and Rewards
Awarding users with special rewards once they complete their task can also motivate users to stay on task. Not having the reward serves as a reminder that the task is incomplete, which can be very unsatisfying. This creates desire for completion and will encourage the user to continue using the application until they reach their goal.
Notifications and Reminders
Notifying the user through pop-ups and messages, we can remind them that there is still a task yet to be completed. By bringing their attention back to the uncompleted task, this will motivate them to come back to finish it. This is incredibly useful because in the case that they do forget about the task, notifications immediately remind them again.