UIEtips: Playing Hard to Get – Using Scarcity to Influence Behavior – Part 1

Jared Spool

October 27th, 2010

Here in the northeast United States, we rely on the French Toast Alert System. This is how local, state, and federal emergency officials communicate the severity of an oncoming snowstorm. The alert system tells us how quickly we should get to the supermarket before all the eggs, milk, and bread run out.

The thinking is that once the heavy snows cut off the roads, fresh shipments of dairy and bakery products won’t get through. This thinking sends everybody rushing to the market to buy the remaining inventories, with some of the more nefarious market owners raising prices in response. All it takes is the whisper of a storm to create instant scarcity of these critical items.

While we don’t have an online equivalent of a French Toast Alert System, designers can use scarcity to encourage their users to take advantage of offers and functionality. In today’s UIEtips, we discuss what happens when we promote scarcity in our designs in the first of a two-part article written by Stephen P. Anderson. Stephen has been studying sites that use scarcity to their advantage, in turn making the sites more fun to use and more compelling to interact with. I’m sure you’ll find his examples as fascinating as I do.

Read the article: Playing Hard to Get – Using Scarcity to Influence Behavior – Part 1

Scarcity is just one technique we can use to take advantage of people’s desire for playfulness and their natural curiosity. Stephen is exploring several of these techniques in his upcoming online UIE Virtual Seminar, Leveraging Seductive Interaction Design on Thursday, November 4. We always find Stephen’s ideas to be
inspirational and thought provoking, giving us new ways to put fun into our designs. You won’t want to miss Stephen’s seminar.

Have you encountered designs that use scarcity? How about different ways to encourage users to act and participate? We’d love to see your examples. Share them below.

One Response to “UIEtips: Playing Hard to Get – Using Scarcity to Influence Behavior – Part 1”

  1. Barbara Bix Says:

    Hi Jared,

    What a timely post as we’re in the midst of a redesign of our website right now. First, we’re aiming to simplify our marketing messages and improve the navigation to discourage visitors from leaving.

    Next up, however, is tantalizing them to stay. So, please ask Stephen to also provide suggestions for professional services marketing sites.

    In the meantime, we like your idea of serving French toast. So, we’ve cleaned out the stores just in case a storm is brewing. After all, they always come before you get all the leaves raked up.

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