How to CREATE Experiences that Spur Users to Action



I worked with Dr. Steve Wendel, who is our Head of Behavioral Science.  He literally wrote the book on designing software for behavior change.  In that book he outlines his CREATE frameworkthat suggests there are 5 hurdles you need to overcome to get a user or prospective user to take an action, and that at each hurdle, you’re going to lose a few people (hence the funnel shape).  Let’s take a look at the funnel in greater detail.


You’ve gotta prompt your user to take the action you want – be it an email, push notification, or ad.  This is the one I think most product development squads forget.  They focus so much on building a great user experience that they forget how and why the user would come to their product in the first place.  (if you build it, they will NOT come)


As you may have read in books like Blink, our minds use shortcuts to make instantaneous judgements in response to a cue.  You should be aware of how your audience might react to your cue.  For example, if you’re telling them you have the greatest budgeting app in the world, be aware of what people think about the word “budget” (mostly negative reactions, as it implies work or an unpleasant realization that they’re spending too much).


If you can get past the knee-jerk emotional response, then you have to get past a more rational cost-benefit evaluation.  If you’re asking them to switch to your product, this is the point in time in the Jobs to be Done framework where they might decide whether your product is superior to what they’re using today, and whether the switching costs will be worth it.


Your audience has to have the ability to take the action you’re asking them to take.  For example, if you send an email asking them to log in to your app and check on some changes but they’re in a cellular dead zone on the subway, they’re not logging in then (and chances are, they’re not going to remember to log in later, unless they open that email again).


Which brings us to the last step – even if the person can take the action, you have to convince them why NOW is the time to do so.  For example, in my line of work, getting younger employees to save for retirement is hard – there are more immediate financial goals like buying a house or paying off student loans that feel more urgent that something that’s 30 years away.

Here are a couple behavioral techniques that can help create urgency:

  • Scarcity: you might have seen Amazon do this with a message like “only 3 left in stock” under a product’s description.  Or with a limited number of beta invites for an upcoming app launch.
  • Deadlines: you may have seen this on TicketMaster – a clock that counts down saying that the price for those Bieber tickets you’re thinking about buying will only stay locked in for 3 more minutes.  Same idea with limited time offers.


This one is not on the visual, but the last step is actually taking the action.  This is where you give your user a virtual high five for taking an action that you both wanted her to.