Zeigarnik effect

Synonyms: unfinished task trigger

Users remember unfinished or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. Moreover, they will continue thinking about them over and over again. The Zeigarnik effect is being used in design to onboard users faster and effectively.

Who is Zeigarnik

Bluma Zeigarnik was a Russian psychologist. She conducted experiments to find out how memory works. Zeigarnik asked participants of the experiments to complete a number of tasks for a certain time. Some of the people were not able to complete them all as they were interrupted. Then she asked them to list all the tasks they remember. It turned out that people remember unfinished tasks twice as well as unfinished ones.

In Practice

#1 – To improve retention rate

Show users that you have more content and services to provide. This will create some interest to return to your product. 


That is how it works. A user sees more opportunities and even if he is not ready for them right now, he is likely to remember them and return later.

This is how we show all the opportunities of our product. Even if a user is searching for a sitemap tool, probably later he will use other our services

#2 – To motivate users

Uncompleted tasks create more motivation. For example, you know that you need to exercise more, but sometimes it is hard. Different services can help you to solve this problem.  

For example, Apple Watch and it’s Activity App with circles. During the day you can see unfinished tasks. Thanks to visualization you have a strong image of what you need to do to complete the task. 

Here we can see that we have a lot of work to do. These empty circles can motivate us to fill them. In case you complete the task you feel satisfied and motivated enough to try the next day

#3 – To improve engagement

That is all about gamification. Setting goals, creating progress trackers to show how close the users are to complete their tasks — these elements can help improve engagement. 


The more obvious example is multi-step forms. When you show all the steps and users’ progress it is more likely that he will complete filling the form.


Gamification help people to save motivation. Designed by Tomáš Sebastián

Key Takeaways

  1. Give users more information to create more interest in your product. 
  2. Provide information about unfinished tasks to keep users’ motivation.
  3. Add some elements that help to track users’ progress.


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