"*As published on Forbes.com here"

If you’re in the world of design, you know that customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX) are all the rage right now. Whether you’re designing an interactive art exhibit or building a small business website, it’s critical to understand the entire experience and thoughtfully design it so that it’s usable, easy, and connects with the customer or user on an emotional level.

I was recently at a conference where speakers discussed using behavioral psychology in marketing to create emotional experiences. I was eager to hear how marketers could put these ideas into practice, but all I got were superficial answers that were nebulous and complex.

Looking back, their answers were lacking because nobody has put forth a unified approach to creating emotional engagement in user experiences. At least, not until now.

If you want to nail CX and UX with any experience you design, the key is behavioral design. In this article, I’ll show how this works for any experience, then hone in on building websites.

Every Experience Is a Series of Moments

The key word in both CX and UX is “experience,” so let’s start there. When you deconstruct an experience, it’s a series of peak moments that are either high points (fun), or low points (not so fun). In the end, we remember experiences by only two or three peaks, so when you design for these peak moments, you can create an experience that is engaging and memorable.

Chip Heath wrote about this strategy in his book, The Power of Moments. He discussed the Magic Castle Hotel, which is the highest-rated hotel in the Los Angeles area despite looking like a budget motel. The magic comes when you pick up the red phone located poolside, order a popsicle from the “Popsicle Hotline,” and a staff member wearing white gloves brings you the popsicle on a silver tray moments later. It’s a simple moment, but magical nonetheless. 

You could try to create a “popsicle moment” of your own with a random, experimental approach, but that can be frustrating. Thankfully, there’s a comprehensive, predictable approach that produces far better results. Let’s see how this process works with designing a website.

Trigger Points and Mindstates

The key to this approach is identifying trigger points and designing for mindstates. Let’s define those terms. Trigger points are moments in any experience where there’s high-emotional arousal and you rely on nonconscious, emotional factors in decision making. In these moments, you flow effortlessly and everything feels intuitive.

You’ll smile without realizing it because you’re experiencing a euphoria that’s similar to a runner’s high. Time flies by in these moments because you’re in a state of flow.

Build three or four trigger points into your website and you can create a state of flow that keeps a user interacting without realizing it because they’re lost in the moment. Sometimes you hit on these trigger points through trial and error, or you use a trick that’s worked in the past.

But to consistently activate a flow state for website visitors using subconscious triggers, primes, and frames, you must tap into a field of behavioral design called “mindstate design.”

When do you, people will be happier with their experience and your satisfaction ratings will go up. People will talk more about you, buy more from you, and even return fewer items they buy since their purchases—made in a state of flow—were psychologically intuitive and effortless.

6 Steps to Mindstate Design

Let’s bring this all together. Here’s how to use mindstate design to create a killer website:

#1: Identify the Trigger Points

Looking at the journey users will take on your website, find your possible “popsicle moments.” Focus on moments that you can control, are the most emotional, and offer a unique experience.

#2: Identify the Mindstate of Users

Along with a few trigger points, you need to know the mindstate of your website users. Two of the components that comprise a mindstate are core motivation and regulatory approach, which is either optimistic (striving for success) or cautious (seeking to avoid failure). The nine core motivations combine with the two regulatory approaches to create eighteen mindstates. I’ll cover a few in the next step, but visit this website for briefs that explain each mindstate in detail.

#3: Design Around that Mindstate

Here are a few examples of ways to build a website around mindstates:

  • Optimistic Achievement: build in small wins to encourage users who make progress
  • Optimistic Competence: provides nuggets of knowledge throughout the experience
  • Cautious Empowerment: let users choose the way they experience your website

#4: Eliminate Barriers to Flow

Once your website is designed, study beta users to see if there are barriers keeping them from flow, or points of friction that take them out of flow, then remove them. Illegible fonts, too many choices, and information that’s not chunked into digestible pieces can all disrupt flow.

#5: Offer Clear Directions

When users reach a decision point, be clear with what you want them to do next, such as “give your email” or “purchase now.” Guide their mind so things feel effortless and intuitive.

#6: Leverage Psychological Triggers

Here are six behavioral design hacks (with examples) to take your website to the next level.

  1. Social validation: show other people who’ve taken similar action (Rotten Tomatoes)
  2. Reciprocity: give something away, people feel indebted to return the favor (Ebates)
  3. Scarcity: when something won’t last, it inspires immediate action (DailySale)
  4. Commitment/consistency: small actions make bigger ones easier (Fitbit)
  5. Loss aversion: it’s yours, so long as you take this one action (Audible)

Story: our brains are hardwired to crave stories, so offer them (Greenpeace)

Putting It All Together

Chip Heath was right: memorable moments are powerful. Now, you know that behavioral science and mindstate design are key to creating these moments. When you identify trigger points and mindstates, design your experience with those in mind, and drop in neurological best practices, you’re likely to get people into a state of flow that leaves happy and wanting more.


Attend a Mindstate Training Workshop or Mindstate Application Workshop to learn more. In either workshop, our team will break down Mindstate Marketing and provide practical tips and strategies you can follow to get consistent results for your marketing.

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Topics: Branding, Behavioral Design