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Motivational UX: Motivation As A UX Tool

Hello! My name is Yuri and I’m a UX/UI designer. This is my pilot article on a series dedicated to design and everything connected with it. Today I want to talk about motivation as a tool for UX design.

What drives a person? What makes you choose this over that? Is it a conscious decision or is it unconscious? 

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Motivation is an impulse that leads to action. It’s a psychophysiological process that influences our behavior. And if it influences your users’ behavior, why aren’t you incorporating motivation in your UX design?

motivation to fuel a goal, "need" - "motive" - "goal"

Motivation is an important link in the decision chain where it is important to know the needs of the end user. In short, motivation is fuel to help achieve the goal.

Table of Contents:

Motivational UX Design Case Study

Let’s look at a case study to help put things in perspective.

A few years ago, a school with a focus on IT entered the market. 

To develop the right strategy and positioning, the company conducted a benchmark. As a result, two key users were identified – the child and the parents. 

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Despite the fact that children were the main audience, the key beneficiaries were actually the parents. They made the decision whether the children would study there or not. 

Providing education for the child, in this case, meant addressing the:

  • Need – in socialization and belonging to society (according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs)
  • Goal – to educate
  • Motive – to give a future for the child.

It was feasible to build from this knowledge. But for the strategy to work and achieve its full potential, this was not enough.

Generally, motivation tends to be of two types:

  • Obvious
  • Hidden

Obvious motivation is simple. You can take it at face value. As a rule, motivation answers the question “Why?”. Quantitative research is enough to determine it. 

Hidden motivation, on the other hand, requires a little more attention. Qualitative research is needed to reveal what lies behind the stats, the numeric data. 

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This is where the 6WHY approach comes into play. The main idea of 6WHY is to reveal the essence – to reveal the letters between the lines. 

In the case of motivation, this is the essence of decision-making.

6Why’s for User Motivation

How does this work? 

First, the recipient is asked 6 questions in sequence, each subsequent one clarifies the previous one. For example:

6Whys for user motivation

After the 6th question, we begin to approach the essence of the recipient’s hidden motivation:

Secure a future for themself and their children

Down the line, the advertising strategy was built on a targeted appeal specifically to hidden motivation.

Invest in the future today – get kids studying IT!

To be honest, it sounds egoistic, but we are not here to judge. We are here to understand the user’s motivation. Now that we understand the motivation is to secure a healthy financial future, we can begin to shape the user experience to better fit the goal.

6Why Takeaways for Motivational UX 


  • Know key target – to focus 
  • Know the need – to define the goal
  • Know the motive – to control the behavior

This is as well and fine for marketing a new school, but how does this apply to Shiny development? How can this be used in the development of applications?

Motivational UX Design Example

Let’s take a look at this, using budgeting apps as an example.

Most of them, at first glance, are designed to provide the user with convenient control over finances, keep records, set limits, receive statistics in the form of beautiful dashboards, and so on.

Let’s see an example:

Imperfect Motivational UX Design dashboard example

The second application example shows a similar concept albeit with different design elements:

Imperfect motivational ux design app example

Let’s look at the examples through the decision chain. In this case, we have:

  • Need – to ensure satisfactory finances
  • Goal – to save money by keeping track and analyzing statistics
  • Motive – to gain material wealth

Do these applications cover the need? Yes

Do they help you achieve your goals? Yes

Do they motivate users to budget? No

With no motivation, what’s the resulting use going to be over time? I doubt the long-term success. And yet, if these budget apps are so popular, why should you implement motivational UX at all? 

Why Implement Motivational UX Design?

Let’s look at the mechanics of the example application. 

The user needs to manually enter their expenses and incomes in order to receive output data. This takes a significant amount of time and effort. OK, maybe not so significant but enough to draw out the process and reduce motivation.

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The typical result is the user abandoning this activity after a couple of months. Such applications have a high bounce rate simply because the application does not pay attention to motivation. What’s the advantage of such an application over a spreadsheet?

Resolving Motivation for UX Design Issues

The motivation, in this case, can be: paying off a debt / paying out a loan / saving money for a new car/house/education/travel/treatment, etc.

Remember, motivation is the fuel to help the user achieve their needs, their goal.

Resolving motivation for UX

So how do you incorporate motivation in an app?

In this case, you can add a goal-setting system with progress visualization to the app. It’s important to remember, that you want to build an application that motivates the user.

Recording savings doesn’t motivate, watching the fundraiser meter go up does. So consider building around the implementation of where to spend the saved money (future goal), and not reporting where it is spent (past event). Thus, the focus shifts from a boring routine to the realization of a dream.

Motivational user experience example

Finding Your Motivation for UX Design

Understanding the motivation of the end-user provides a foothold for solving a particular problem. And more importantly, it gives control over user behavior. So what are you waiting for? Seek out your user’s motivation; uncover the hidden aspects driving their actions and create Motivational UX!

Curious about what Motivational UX Design means for R Shiny? Check out Appsilon’s R Shiny Demo Gallery.

To conclude:

  • Good design helps the user achieve their goals 
  • The best design helps user meet their needs 
  • Outstanding design motivates users to meet needs and achieve goals

So what’s your motivation for UX design? Share your motivational UX design with us on Twitter or comment below on what motivates the users in your app!