If you want to create a long-lasting experience that people like using (and will continue to), motivation is a key factor. With motivation we mean: “the general desire or willingness of someone to do something” (there are various other definitions but for now, this one suffices). Before we make the connection to experience/service design, it’s important to stress there are two types of motivation:

  1. Extrinsic motivation: this is the result of a reward or punishment for doing – or not doing – something. Examples include: you do your best at school because you want a good grade, you have to clean your room or else your parents will punish you, or you want to make use of 50% discount quickly before it ends.
  2. Intrinsic motivation: this form of motivation is more internalized and fundamental. It refers to a notion whereby doing the activity is satisfying by itself and you don’t need any externalized reason to do (or not do) a certain activity.

Why is this important for creating engaging experiences? For that, you need to know what anĀ engagingĀ means:

An engaging experience exceeds customer’s expectations. It triggers advocacy, is personalized and causes emotional connection with the brand.

As you can see, it holds a large emotional (and thus subjective) factor: people need to be truly ‘touched’ the experience before they are willing to talk about it with family and friends. In my one of my previous posts I wrote about cool brands and what they have in common. Needless to say, most of these brand achieve such engagement. For this to happen, intrinsic motivation is crucial.

Self-determination theory

The self-determination theory is a view on how people take decisions in life to increase intrinsic motivation. It outlines three important principles in determining to what degree people can make self-motivated and self-determined decisions. By applying these principles in the right way – thus making people feel they take take a fully deliberate, free and rightful decision in a service, you achieve engagement, as a result of an increased intrinsic motivation.

The 3 principles are:

How do these three principles (or ‘psychological needs’) apply to designing a better service?

  • Relatedness: ‘make me feel part of a community.’
    Peer comparison (‘other people like you did [x]’), wanting to interact with others, being connected and having a sense of social interactions, are key here. Facebook, blogging and vlogging, comparison stats, sharing videos and live chats are just some examples that contribute to a sense of relatedness.
  • Autonomy: ‘give me the feeling that I have the freedom and autonomy to make my own decisions’.
    Self-service, full mobile on-boarding, personal dashboards, presenting different options app/website layout and other forms of empowering users to make decisions whenever, wherever, are key here.
  • Competence: ‘give me the feeling that I’ve mastered the content and understand the consequences of my actions.’
    This is a very important one. Especially in finance (in which I work a lot), truly understanding financial choices and content can be very hard. That’s why people don’t risk to invest, don’t change banks (the banking sector for long has had the most loyal customers of all, and that’s mostly because switching is perceived as complicated, a tedious process and risky). Making people understand their actions, for example by visualizing behavior (e.g. visualizing different investment scenarios, or automatically showing expenditures by category). Also, gamification is a hot topic to achieve this, for example by earning badges after you got to the next level in Duolingo (a language learning app).

In the image above (click to enlarge) you see some examples of different extrinsic and intrinsic motivational quotes that could apply to your service. If you want to start exploring these factors in your project, organize a brainstorm session with your team and formulate useful design challenges, for example:

  • Relatedness: How can create a solution that connects and empowers users with similar user profiles?
  • Autonomy: How can create a sense of freedom and personalization in our service?
  • Competence: How can we make people that use our app, feel truly in control of […] decisions, and visualize the consequences (also called ‘feed-forward’)?

You’ll be surprised how this lead to inspiring new ideas and improvements for your product. Good luck in trying it out!