Little by Little

A more advanced topic today: the Zeigarnik effect.

I say more advanced because it doesn’t really influence the first impression of your website. It’s something more engaged users will benefit from.

In short, the Zeigarnik effect states that people tend to remember tasks in progress better than finished tasks.

Showing clear progress helps them to keep moving.

It’s a bit like Newton’s first law of motion: a body in motion will continue moving unless acted upon by another force.

So image this situation: you’re reading an e-mail with two interesting links. You click both. The first leads you to an article in The New York Times and the second to a Techcrunch+ article.

This is what you see first:

I can start reading the first one, but the second is immediately blocked from view. I’m out.

Only when I’m well into the first article, I have to stop reading. But I’m already invested by now, so I’m much more likely to pay.

This is Zeigarnik’s effect at work.

You see it with (smart) newspapers, paid newsletters etc.

I wonder if it would work for other gated content such as e-books etc. You rarely see it.

Anyway, there’s another element to Zeigarnik’s effect: progress bars.

Progress bars are common while reading. I can’t think of a website where you don’t see a scroll bar on the right that shows your progress.

But even more important is the progress you see when checking out or signing in. Showing where you are and what’s left to do keeps you in the middle of the task. It keeps you active.

Found this interesting?
Learn more about the Zeigarnik effect here.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *