Sometimes the motivations of user are not directly related to behaviors that the designer is attempting to encourage.

For example, if Twitter discovered that following 30 people is more likely to lead to long term engagement, then they will try to encourage that regardless of the users actual motivation. In the long run, this could benefit the user too, but the user doesn't know this and usually would not take action based off a purely rational argument. So the designer needs to encourage this behavior another way, perhaps by indirectly harnessing other user motivations.

We have terms like "reduce friction" that encompass some of the things that a UX designer does. Is there an analogous term for this sort of design challenge?

  • If the designer's goals are related to a business goal, you call it a business driver. If the designer's goal is artistic, then you call this a frustrated artist who doesn't understand that designing is about design constraints, not artistic freedom. This is a bit tongue in cheek. :o
    – JeromeR
    Oct 7 '15 at 9:38
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    Hmm. That's helpful, but "business driver" seems to be the term for a goal -- not for the "design problem" of achieving that goal given different user motivations.
    – avv
    Oct 7 '15 at 16:46
  • This might be about persuasion, or about increasing conversion. Try watching this short video about Persuasive Design to see if this is the kind of phrases you're looking for: youtube.com/watch?v=Z1y-VcZ3JB8
    – JeromeR
    Oct 7 '15 at 20:33
  • When people are not making rational decisions, you are basically talking about trying to herd cats. Since people usually do not, and do not need to, make rational decisions, this is a skill not much developed (or necessary) and so good luck with motivating and predicting outcomes! You are basically talking about how to manipulate people without their understanding. "For their own good" at that. We could solve a lot of problems, for example in healthcare, if we could manipulate people into "doing the right thing." We could also become despots, but I digress.
    – user67695
    Jan 18 '18 at 14:45

I don't think there is a common term for this in UX specifically. In psychology, this is called "motivating behavior change". To me, the most sensible ux term for this would be "encouraging user behavior".

On the other hand, the most common methodological term for the situation in UX design where user behavior needs to be steered in a certain direction is "gamification", as it's the most popular method of encouraging users' behavior in engaging way.

  • 1
    "Motivating behavior change" is close, though it feels a little too general for me -- it seems like it's about changing behavior in the external world as opposed to within the product itself (google results agree). I wonder if there is something more specific. Also I agree that it's likely that a term for it may derive from other fields such as psychology -- or perhaps even marketing?
    – avv
    Oct 7 '15 at 16:53
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    Perhaps approaching it from the other direction could be helpful. Gamification is definitely one example of how people accomplish this -- what are others?
    – avv
    Oct 7 '15 at 16:55
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    Or gamedev, or healthcare, or elsewhere, depending on which industry gets to formalize the method. Gamification happened to be such an umbrella term, it includes many various techniques. Other methods can be categorized in too many ways. For starters, those should be split into encouraging/discouraging methods. Former are giving positive reinforcement to desired actions (toasts, in-app messaging, credits, discounts, inside sales, thank you emails, personalized items), latter are giving negative reinforcement (sound UI jingles on user errors). Positive ones are more constructive, though.
    – Zoe K
    Oct 7 '15 at 18:15

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