Boost User Motivation with the Goal-Gradient Effect in UX Design

Craig Barber
September 13, 2023
mins read

Welcome to another exciting post on the fascinating world of UX design!

Today, we’re diving into a psychological phenomenon called the Goal-Gradient Effect and exploring how it intertwines with UX design.

So, fasten your seatbelts as we embark on a journey to uncover the magic behind user motivation and engagement.

What is the Goal-Gradient Effect?

What is the Goal-Gradient Effect

The Goal-Gradient Effect, initially observed by psychologist Clark Hull in the early 1930s, suggests that the closer people get to achieving a goal, the more motivated and engaged they become.

In other words, as we approach the finish line, our drive and commitment intensify, propelling us forward with newfound vigour.

Goal-Gradient Effect video explainer:​

Real World Examples of the Goal-Gradient Effect

To better understand this intriguing concept, let’s consider a few examples:

Coffee Shop Loyalty Programs

Coffee Loyalty Programs​
When customers only have a few stamps left, they buy more frequently!

Think about your favourite coffee shop’s loyalty program.

Typically, these programs offer a free coffee or a significant discount after a certain number of purchases.

Notice how you might be more motivated to buy that extra cup of joe when you’re just a few stamps away from earning your reward?

The anticipation of achieving the goal spurs you on, resulting in increased engagement and frequent visits.

Progress Bars

Progress Bars​
When people can see their progress, they are more motivated to finish!

Have you ever noticed how satisfying it feels to watch a progress bar fill up as you complete a task or a download?

The closer you are to completing the action, the more motivated you become to finish it.

The goal, represented by the progress bar, keeps you engaged and focused until you reach the desired outcome.

Gamification in Fitness Apps

Gamification in Fitness Apps​

Many fitness apps leverage the Goal-Gradient Effect to encourage users to stay active and achieve their fitness goals.

By incorporating challenges, badges, and leaderboards, these apps create a sense of accomplishment as users progress.

The closer users get to their fitness milestones, the more determined they become to cross the finish line, resulting in higher engagement and long-term adherence.

Using the Goal-Gradient Effect in UX Design

By understanding this effect and harnessing its potential, designers can create more engaging and motivating user experiences.

Here’s some examples of how you can use it in your UX design:

Progressive Disclosure

Progressive Disclosure
Showing users their progress inspires them to complete tasks

Designers can leverage the Goal-Gradient Effect by employing progressive disclosure techniques.

By gradually revealing information or features as users make progress, they create a sense of accomplishment and maintain users’ interest.

For instance, a goal-tracking app might unlock new levels or features as users achieve milestones, providing a sense of progression and increased engagement.

Visual Feedback

Visual Feedback
Progress bars inspire users to finish tasks faster

Visual feedback, such as progress bars, badges, or achievement notifications, can tap into the Goal-Gradient Effect, enhancing motivation and user engagement.

When users can visually see their progress towards a goal, they are more likely to stay motivated and persist in their actions.


As we conclude our exploration of the Goal-Gradient Effect and its impact on UX design, we realise the immense power it holds in driving user motivation and engagement.

By implementing techniques like progressive disclosure and visual feedback, designers can create experiences that keep users motivated and propel them towards their goals.

So, let’s embrace the Goal-Gradient Effect and use it as a catalyst for crafting user-centric designs that captivate and inspire.

Happy designing, and may your users continue to chase their goals with renewed enthusiasm!

Want more laws of UX? Check out our post here on the 9 laws of UX.

You may also like

Double diamond design process

The Double Diamond Design Process Explained

Elevate your design game with the 4 stages of the Double Diamond process
Landing pages

You're Doing Landing Pages Wrong. It's Killing Conversions. Here's How to Fix It.

Discover data-backed ways to make the most of your landing pages to score maximum conversion rates every time
User story

Your Ultimate Guide to User Stories in UX Design

Unlock the hidden potential of User Stories and propel your UX design process to new heights