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Pleasurable and delightful experiences are one of the top goals for any successful product. Products nowadays – and with the increasing awareness of the importance of the user experience – are aiming for more than usable and easy to use products.

Usability clears the way for a good experience by eliminating troublesome interface distractions, but a great experience stems from something more—an awareness of why people could or do are. – Seductive Interaction Design

Revolutionary products focus on the experiences of their users, how to make their product emotionally engaging, how to motivate their users and encourage them to use the product and how to create a value for users from using it.


User Experience Hierarchy of Needs model


In his book Seductive Interaction Design, Stephen P. Anderso introduced the user experience hierarchy of needs model, From bottom to top is a basic product maturity continuum: a top to bottom focus starts with the experience you want people to have.



Uncertainty Boosts Motivation To Complete Tasks


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People invest more effort, time, and money to qualify for an uncertain reward.


Eighty-seven college students from the University of Chicago took part in a study. Their task was to drink 1.4 liters of water in 2 minutes for different cash rewards. There were two kinds of rewards: certain rewards and uncertain reward.

In the certain-reward condition, if the participants drank down the 1.4 liters they would
receive $2.  In the uncertain-reward condition, if the participants drank down to the indicated
amount, they would receive a reward. The experimenter would then flip a coin to determine whether the reward would be $2 or $1.

70% of the participants in the uncertain-reward condition successfully completed the drinking task, whereas only 43% of the participants in the certain reward condition successfully completed the task.



Unexpected Rewards Releases Dopamine


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When we are surprised or faced with an unexpected rewards, our brains releases dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional responses, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them.

When the rewards are predictable, we know accurately what we are going to get and our dopamine levels stay as it is. But when rewards are variable and unexpected, our brains release dopamine and we work for the next reward.

Dopamine do these to our bodies and brains:

  • Boost motivation
  • Feel more pleasure
  • Better learning
  • Increase attention and focus
  • Boost creativity


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Slot machines with its lights, sounds, and unexpected behavior arouse dopamine in the brains of its players. They want to play more even if they lose money, and when they win, they don’t stop, they seek more and more.

It’s not about the money, it’s about the action of the game and the hope of winning.



Examples From Digital World

Pokemon GO


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Pokemon GO the game that has been released in 2016 and made over 100 million downloads around the world used the uncertainty to make users online more time.

They offered a number of unexpected rewards that made players around the world seek for more and become more addicted to the game. For example, when hatching an egg, you dopamine level arouse waiting for the unexpected Pokemon you will get and praying to god to get a rare one.

Also, moving around and looking for places to find Pokemon there is another kind of unexpected rewards.




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Our brains are adapted to seek rewards that make us feel accepted, attractive, important, and included. – Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products

There are over 2.13 billion monthly active Facebook users for Q4 2017, and we must admit that Facebook is addicted by millions of people who open it daily.

Facebook benefits from the uncertainty when users are motivated to use it for exploring what are their friends sharing on the timeline or what is new on the news-feed. Also, the “Like” on your photo will keep you posting more photos.




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Duolingo, a language learning app with 200 million monthly active users, uses gamification to make language learning fun and engaging.

Duloingo is based on levels and once you pass a level, you can go to the second one. They offer many expected and unexpected rewards which make their users engaged and delighted.


Summary: Use uncertainty and unexpected rewards to encourage good behavior for people and to help them achieve their goals.

What are the examples you find interesting that offers unexpected rewards for its users? Share with me these examples 🙂

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