UX ‘Negging’

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As I was doing my morning writing, I was thinking about UX neggging. Like how the 750 words interface ‘dings’ me when I don’t live up to its assumptions.

It assumes:

  1. there is a certain value in writing everyday and maintaining a “Streak” (which I’m ok with, as I do enjoy daily writing to clear my head), and that
  2. writing has more value at a certain word count.

Failing to write to that word count gets a “ding”. A single line in a box, but not a satisfying X. If that X  were a sound, it would sound like a can of coke being opened. A sound satisfying enough to feature in Coke’s ads.

Design for Addiction

Withholding that reward, that dopamine hit we get from completing a task, is part of the UX design for addiction – like real life negging, it’s intended to makes us crave the withheld reward even more strongly, but it’s actually just demotivating and annoying to continue using this tool for writing, since I feel I’m being unfairly penalised on days I simply have less to write. Conciseness is hardly undesirable in writing.

This is my main problem with all lifestyle apps that aim to make themselves part our daily routine. They are all dinging us for having real lives that don’t always match their developers naive assumptions.

  • That we don’t always have time to fit in a HIIT workout while travelling across the globe.
  • That we won’t log our meals & calories on our wedding day, or even while on that 12 hour flight where we’re frankly not even sure what’s IN our plate to even log it.
  • That sometimes, we only start our meditation at 5 mins to midnight, meaning we end our session the next day, and break our “streak”.
  • That writing can be most powerful when short.
  • That we don’t want to do lists that pester us to keep our lists topped up in perpetuity. Or which pester us to keep “doing” something every single day of the year, including weekends and major holidays. Real life isn’t like that. But software makes it so enjoying Christmas or a long weekend comes at the cost of getting dinged across several lifestyle apps.
The screen from Any.do when all tasks are ticked complete. Slacking off? After I just checked off a bunch of stuff? Just..no.
By comparison, here’s the screen from todoist when you’ve checked off all your tasks. Feel the difference? You can tell from the features inside it – streaks are optional, task reminders can be switched off for scheduled days- that these guys actually use it daily, and have done so for years.


The result? Instead of creating routines that are fulfilling, multiple apps that all apply these neggs means we are chaining together an ever more time consuming system for feeling like a failure when life happens.

It’s wild to me that people feel burned out from their own self improvement efforts, but if the very tools we use reinforce an inflexible pass/fail mentality, I can see how it makes sense.

Bad UX = Habit Breaking Design

Poorly executed ‘habit forming’ UX isn’t habit forming; it’s discouraging. I uninstall the app immediately.

  1. There’s always a competitor that will not do this shit.
  2. There’s always a non-digital option which isn’t using my data in some creepy way. If you’re doing to spy on me, at least make me feel special. ???

For almost a year now, I’ve preferred to use paper tracker for logging habits.. It’s non-opinionated, non presumptuous, flexible, and doesn’t need admin to accept when I’m off work/sick/busy.

And as a bonus, it’s great for making into a symptom or meds logger if you need either of those.

As for 750words, I think I’ll go back to using flowstate for my daily writing, set to 5 minutes so it’s always doable. I don’t have the “Write every day” option enabled.


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