Improving User Experience through The Psychology of Motivation

So you’ve created your website, it works well, the kinks are out, you’ve launched, and… nothing.

It’s extremely frustrating to take the time to invest in a stellar website and get no conversions, or for that matter, users not behaving the way you expected. So now that you’re live, how can you increase conversions?

In my experience, the best way to increase conversions is to positively influence user behavior.

In the industry of digital marketing, we talk a lot about User Experience (UX). What I don’t think we talk enough about is how we determine the factors that will create a positive experience for your users. While they help, when it comes to driving conversion, we need to dig deeper than just the “best practices” of web design and development. To truly understand how to motivate our users to convert into customers, we must first understand a bit about human behavior and psychology.

I’ve been a marketer, in one shape and form or another, for many years. But in college, I earned a degree in psychology.  While my first position out of college was with a community mental health organization, every position I’ve held since had various intentions on influencing human behavior – through in-depth training for sales staff, effective team management, sales, and yes, of course, business marketing. If there is one thing I’ve found to be true in every role, it is that understanding your audience’s motivations and what unique factors affect their decisions is vital to influencing them in positive ways.

In this post, we’re going to explore a research-backed behavioral model and teach you how to apply its principles to encourage your users to interact with your website in the ways that you want. Moreover, we’ll show you what it takes to attract and retain a desired type of user by understanding the psychology behind their motivations and appealing to those motivations through effective UX strategy.

Let’s Start By Understanding User Motivation


The science of studying the mind tells us there are two types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivations come from external sources. You can offer a reward for completing a task, such as: complete this survey and get a $50 Visa Gift Card. On the other hand, intrinsic motivations are those that come from the individual internally. For instance, most people can be motivated to write a positive review for you by the sense of satisfaction they receive from doing so (hint, hint).

So how do you understand your users’ motivations, and appeal at both an extrinsic and intrinsic level to bolster their perception of you or your product/service and therefore their propensity to convert?

Introducing Fogg’s Behavioral Model:

According to Dr. BJ Fogg’s  model (of Stanford University), three factors have to be present for a chosen behavior to occur: motivation, ability, and triggers. So, if you want to increase the downloads of your content, you must ask three primary questions:

  • Are they Motivated: Do they have a need for that content? Is it valuable to them?
  • Are they Able: Can they easily download your content? Is it a universal file like a PDF?
  • Have they been Triggered: Have they been called in some way to perform the behavior? Do you have a “Start Here” or “Download Now” button? Are you following up with them after they’ve looked at supporting information reminding them to download if they haven’t already?


(Source: BJ Fogg’s Behavior Model:

Explaining What This Graph Means for You and Your Users

It might seem like common sense, but the greater the motivation of the user, combined with the ease of use of the trigger, the more likely the trigger is to incite the behavior you are hoping to encourage. In other words, make it easy for the most eager of users to make a decision and you’ll get conversion.

How You Can Utilize This Model To Appeal To Different Users

Let’s say you have a “request a quote” form. If your model is to require only a name and phone number, it’s okay if motivation is a bit low because the ease of the trigger makes the behavior land above the action line. However, if your form is a bit more in-depth, you will need a more motivated user to create conversion.  

This is when triggers and types of motivation begin to be more valuable. For those that are intrinsically motivated, a multi-stage conversion process might work well. As an example, your remodeling company’s “request a quote” form asks for simple contact information first, followed by an initial submission. Then, a new set of form fields arrives, with the headline, “You’re one step closer to a more beautiful home!” requiring slightly more in-depth information, before the final submission. This method encourages motivation in a way that affirms the user’s motivation to initiate the form in the first place.  

For extrinsically motivated users, the technical process could be similar, i.e. basic information to initial submission, followed by more in-depth information and final submission. But the motivating trigger would change to something like, “Fill out the rest of this information NOW for 15% off installation.” This way, users are being motivated by earning something external.

As a side note, this multi-step conversion model is valuable to you and your user for multiple reasons. For your user, your conversion element reaches them where they are in their “buyer’s journey”. In the example above, if they’re interested enough to fill out contact info, but not quite ready to get a full request, your process allows them to depart before committing too heavy too soon. This process is valuable for you because you’ve still attained the contact info of a warm lead with whom you can continue to follow-up.

Different Users Are Motivated By Different Things

The type of motivators you use on your website will help determine the type of users that will interact with your online presence. For example, promoting a dieting app by motivating users to eat more healthy with badges and prizes will attract an audience that are extrinsically motivated, while promoting your app as one that cheers them on as they diet will attract users that are intrinsically motivated by losing weight and feeling healthy. Using one motivator or the other will attract a certain type of user, and increase the positive perception of your brand. It is crucial that everything from your copy and imagery on your sales material to the process in place for conversion, to even the experience of the product or service motivates these two types of behavioral models.

In Conclusion

By understanding these types of motivations and what encourages human behavior you can drastically affect how your users interact with your brand – which will increase conversions. By keeping these principles in mind, you can be sure that your product or service is effective to the user, even AFTER they’ve made a purchase.

Would you like more great insights? Reach out to us! We’d love to talk about what you are working on.