How to motivate the user to complete progress? -The effect of secured progress

TGI Fridays is a great place to eat your fill, especially considering the size of the portions served. Plus, they use one little trick that keeps me coming back – the reward system. I get 1 point for every dollar spent, and after I accumulate a certain number of points, I get a free meal reward!

They also offer a free snack right away when you join the Fridays rewards program.

This gave me the motivation to keep collecting points in the reward system.

This is the effect of ensured progress in action.

What is the “effect of ensured progress”?

The idea is that if you give people artificial progress towards a goal, they will be more motivated to complete the task.

In 2006, Joseph C. Nunez and Xavier Drese demonstrated this idea in a study called “The Progress Effect: How Artificial Development Increases Effort”… They handed out loyalty cards to regular customers of the car wash. Each car wash will be counted by a stamp on the card. Customers could get a free car wash by receiving 8 stamps.

The buyers were divided into 2 equal groups:

  1. Group A: received cards with 10 slots, but two slots were already redeemed (progress 20%).
  2. Group B: received cards with 8 slots, of which none were redeemed (progress 0%).

The researchers found that 34% of the participants in group A (experimental group) completely redeemed their cards, compared with 19% of participants in group B (control group). In both cases, it was necessary to pay for the wash 8 times, but most of the experimental group group with a handicap completed the task. One step is better than nothing at all – I felt inspired

In short, the participants who were given the lead on the way to the goal (2 stamps) felt like it took less effort and thus more motivation to reach the finish line.

Why does it work?

Let s now dive deeper into what basic concepts contribute to this effect.

Zeigarnik effect:

Skyrim s task list would keep the player awake by continuing to pop up in his head until he completed it (Source)
How to motivate the user to complete progress?  -The effect of secured progress
“6 of 69 problems solved” and “81% completed” shows the user that the tasks have not been completed yet

Have you ever stopped in the middle of watching a great thriller? Or paused in a video game without reaching your goal?

People remember unfinished or interrupted tasks better than completed ones.

This effect was noticed by a Lithuanian psychologist Bloom Zeigarnik in 1927. You can read about her experiment and findings in the research article. Completed and unfinished tasks“.

Whenever a task is not completed or is completed, it disturbs us, creating tension, and it continues to float into our consciousness until it is completed. But this tension will disappear as soon as we complete the task.

Consequently, people are more motivated to complete the current task. We want to get satisfaction when we see “100% complete” or a huge green check mark at the end of a task.

This trick works great with TV shows that use a cliffhanger at the end of the episode, thus leaving the viewer guessing what will happen next.

With this effect, designers can force users to complete a task that they would not otherwise be doing.

Target gradient effect:

How to motivate the user to complete progress?  -The effect of secured progress

The desire to achieve the goal increases as you approach it.

People are motivated by how much is left, not how far they have come.

In the example above, the coffee shop rewards its customers with free coffee after 9 purchases. As the buyer gets closer to the goal, their purchases become more frequentto get the coveted free coffee.

In addition, by watching Joseph C. Nunes and Xavier Drese s car wash experiment, customers who earned a head start of 2 free stamps achieved their goal fasterthan customers with a regular card (despite the fact that both groups had to pay for the car wash 8 times). “Handicap” gave impetus to the first group, and it took them less time to make 8 purchases. The time between 2 purchases decreased as you got closer to the goal.

This can be a great user retention tool. If you re designing digital products and looking for where to apply a target gradient effect, look for areas where users tend to slip.

Target rendering effect:

How to motivate the user to complete progress?  -The effect of secured progress
Progress bar encourages users to complete the profile

Visualization of the goal, as you approach it, improves its achievement.

Cheema and Bagchi

Basically, when users can visualize the finish line, they are motivated and put more effort into crossing it.

A progress bar or bar is a great example. It can help users shape expectations by indicating what steps have been taken, where the user is, what are the next steps.

LinkedIn makes perfect use of this technique in the signup process, telling users which part of their profile is complete and also recommending steps to take, such as “Add a profile picture”.

These tools have proven to be useful in a product designer s arsenal for increasing user engagement, retention, and task motivation. Used wisely, they can improve the onboarding experience. This can delight users by making them spend more time on your platform, which in turn improves conversions and overall usage. After all, who doesn t like an easy start and the sweet feeling of completing a task?


  • Progress effect can induce users work towards achieving the goal.
  • Artificial promotion makes users believe that they have already made progress, and therefore they are more likely to complete the task.
  • Reframe tasks so that they look incomplete rather than not started at all (for example, “Signing in” as step 1)
  • Than closer users to complete a task, the faster they work to achieve it.
  • People remember unfinished or interrupted tasks better than performed.
  • Motivation can be enhanced visual representation of progress and the finish line.

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