I want to learn when a user's motivations are high or low while using an app so I can present the right messaging to them and have a higher rate of completion.

Is there a research method which uncovers when a user is motivated to perform a task?

  • No idea on research - but I'd look at the timing of their interactions ( ie if the time they take to do a pre-determined task starts to slow down then they are probably getting demotivated ) With a mouse driven interaction its easier as you can watch the mouse pointer start to wander.
    – PhillipW
    Jun 4 '15 at 8:32

First of all you can't be 100% sure when your users are motivated, but there are several key points-theories that we should mention.

Flow State

A flow state refers simply when we are really focussed on a task that we are trying to complete (eg. biking, painting, filling a wishlist etc).
So the following tips have to do with our efforts to cause a flow state on our users:

  1. Have a distraction free task.
  2. Set a clear goal to complete.
  3. Let the user has control over the system. (implement back functions, save etc)
  4. Keep continuous feedback. (think of your task as a talking human)
  5. Use calm colors. (In general design a feeling "safe environment)

Also have in mind that triggering a flow state may be different for each person, so the previous points are not bulletproof. (Furthermore to have a clearer view, I suggest to view this nice tedx: flow the secret to happiness by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a great researcher on user flows)

Lastly note that while we are trying to set a flow state on a user, if he get distracted from anything, he will stop experiencing the flow state. For that reason have in mind the following:

  • People prefer things that are started for them. Also know as the goal gradient effect, this can really motivate people on starting & completing a task.
  • People will try harder when they focused on what is left to complete the task.
    Research on that is done by Koo & Fishbach How (Un)accomplished Goal Actions Affect Motivation
  • Variable rewards are awesome. If you can introduce rewards that are served unexpected, then you are setting some great motivation factors. Have a look on this easy to follow article

In fact the list can grow much more, but I'd like to set some starting points, to prevent information overload.


Try to set a flow state on user, and use the techniques that are previously described.
If your app lacks some of the above points, then probably your users will feel less motivated, and you may have to take action.

By the way, if you like, feel free to contribute with more bullet points on comments

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