You’d Be Surprised By What Really Motivates Users

Lesson 1 — The Right Reward

In May 2007, entrepreneur and Internet celebrity Jason Calacanis launched a site called Mahalo. A flagship feature of the new site was a Q&A forum known as Mahalo Answers. Unlike previous Q&A sites, Mahalo utilized a special incentive to get users to ask and answer questions.

Lesson 2 — Frequency Matters

Think of the products and services you would identify as “habit-forming.” Odds are most of these services are used daily, if not multiple times per day. For instance, in December of 2013, a remarkable 61.5 percent of Facebook’s 1.23 billion monthly active users returned to the site at least once per day. A survey conducted by IDC revealed Americans checked Facebook an average of 14 times per day.

Lesson 3 — A Community of People Whose Opinions We Care About

We are a species that depends on each other. Social rewards are driven by our connectedness with other people. Our brains are adapted to seek rewards that make us feel accepted, attractive, important, and included. Many of our institutions and industries are built around this need for social reinforcement. From civic and religious groups to spectator sports and “water cooler” television shows, the need to feel social connectedness informs our values and drives much of how we spend our time.

Jelly: Sweet or Sour?

Will Jelly succeed where other Q&A services failed? It is always hard to predict the success or failure of new still evolving products. We hope Jelly and other community-oriented sites will take lessons from the examples above to provide frequent, meaningful rewards from a community that users care about. By looking to insights from psychology, product designers can increases their odds of forming new user habits.

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