April 26, 2024
min read

Redesigning UX for SaaS Adoption: Zeigarnik Effect

Learn how the Zeigarnik Effect, a powerful psychological phenomenon, transforms SaaS adoption. Discover how UX/UI design strategies like progress indicators, microinteractions, and gamification tap into this effect, creating an immersive user experience. Explore real-world examples that showcase the Zeigarnik Effect in action, driving user interaction and satisfaction. Elevate your digital adoption game with this insightful approach to redesigning UX for SaaS success.

Written by

Marc Chia

In the ever-evolving landscape of digital technology, the success of a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform depends not only on its functionality but also on how well users can adapt to and adopt its features. User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) design play a crucial role in this process, and one psychological phenomenon that holds significant potential in optimizing SaaS adoption is the Zeigarnik Effect. In this article, we will delve into what the Zeigarnik Effect is, its application in UX/UI design, and provide examples of how to leverage this effect to enhance user onboarding and engagement.

Understanding the Zeigarnik Effect

The Zeigarnik Effect, named after psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, refers to the psychological phenomenon where people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed ones. In essence, our brains tend to hold onto incomplete tasks, creating a state of cognitive tension until those tasks are resolved. This phenomenon is often used to explain why individuals tend to remember cliffhangers in stories, unfinished puzzles, or even a to-do list with pending tasks.

Applying the Zeigarnik Effect in UX/UI Design

When it comes to SaaS adoption, understanding and harnessing the Zeigarnik Effect can significantly impact user engagement and satisfaction. By strategically incorporating elements that trigger the Zeigarnik Effect, designers can encourage users to explore and use the platform more extensively. Here's how it applies to UX/UI design:

  1. Progress Indicators: Incorporating progress indicators can tap into the Zeigarnik Effect by highlighting tasks users have started but not completed. This approach can be particularly effective in onboarding processes or multi-step workflows, as users are motivated to complete tasks they've already invested time in.
  2. Intriguing Microinteractions: Microinteractions, such as animations or subtle visual cues, can create a sense of intrigue and curiosity. When users interact with these elements, they initiate a task that remains incomplete until the microinteraction concludes, prompting them to stay engaged until the end.
  3. Unobtrusive Reminders: Gentle reminders about incomplete tasks or actions can subtly encourage users to return to the platform. These reminders might manifest as push notifications or notifications within the UI, bringing attention to outstanding activities.
  4. Gamification Elements: Gamification leverages the Zeigarnik Effect by introducing challenges, quests, or achievements that users strive to complete. The desire to finish these tasks keeps users engaged and invested in the platform.

Examples of Zeigarnik Effect in Action

Let's explore some real-world examples of how the Zeigarnik Effect can be applied in SaaS UX/UI design:

  1. Project Management Software: In a project management tool, when a user starts creating a task but doesn't finish it, the task could be visually represented with a dashed outline. This subtle cue encourages users to return and complete the task, reducing the likelihood of forgotten or abandoned tasks.
  2. E-Learning Platforms: E-learning platforms can utilize the Zeigarnik Effect by implementing progress bars that show how far a user has progressed in a course. The incomplete progress can create a desire to finish the course, satisfying the cognitive tension associated with the Zeigarnik Effect.
  3. Health and Fitness Apps: Health and fitness apps can use the Zeigarnik Effect by sending reminders for uncompleted daily goals or workouts. These reminders serve as a nudge, motivating users to engage with the app and complete their fitness tasks.
  4. Collaboration Tools: Collaboration tools can incorporate gamification by introducing challenges or team-based goals. For instance, a design collaboration platform could encourage users to complete a certain number of design reviews, triggering the Zeigarnik Effect as users strive to meet the challenge.


The Zeigarnik Effect underscores the power of human psychology in shaping user behavior and engagement. By understanding and strategically applying this phenomenon in SaaS UX/UI design, digital adoption platforms can optimize user onboarding, encourage interaction, and boost overall engagement. Progress indicators, microinteractions, unobtrusive reminders, and gamification elements are just a few strategies that can leverage the Zeigarnik Effect to create a more immersive and compelling user experience. As the SaaS landscape continues to evolve, integrating these psychological insights into design can pave the way for more successful and user-centric digital adoption journeys.

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