Research conducted on rats in the 1930s found that the goal-gradient effect explains the surge of speed one sees from a rat when it’s close to reaching their food reward at the end of a maze.
Humans share a similar response when it comes to approaching finish lines, both literal and figurative. Studies with coffee rewards cards in 2006 helped support this.
Why is this important to know? As Susan M. Weinschenk, Ph.D. points out in her book: 100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People, “Always provide progress indicators so people know how much time something will take. The shorter the distance to the goal, the more motivated people are to reach it.”
Her studies also noted how several existing companies incorporate this approach on their websites (e.g., Linkedin’s Profiles, MailChimp, and LiveMocha).
What can we conclude from this? Include progress bars, steps completed or % left to complete notes/graphics in surveys or other online procedures. This will appeal to human motivations and should help increase completion rates. We’re also able to conclude that we sadly share more in common with rats than we would ever really want to admit.
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Source: 100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People, Susan M. Weinschenk, Ph.D., © 2011