The Tasty Telling of Motivational UX™, Through the Kitchen of The Great British Baking Show

By Anna Ho, Strategist

If you haven’t yet acquainted yourself with The Great British Baking Show (or The Great British Bake Off for those of you in the know), the TV phenomenon recently imported from the U.K., you need to add it to your queue in Netflix right now. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

This baking competition for amateur bakers is a refreshing contrast to the cutthroat atmosphere and highly dramatized storytelling that is characteristic of modern reality TV. Though a competition at heart, the show is a celebration of craftsmanship, creativity, and the power of cake.

The undeniable charm of the show had me wondering what about the show made it so brilliant. There are at least a dozen baking shows currently on air. What is so special about this baking show that it has me blathering on about its greatness to anyone who will listen? That’s when it struck me that the show encapsulates all 9 principles of Motivational UX™. It hits all the key elements of an engaging and lasting user experience — or in this case, engaging viewer experience.

For those new to the concept, Motivational UX™ is a customer-centric approach to innovation that applies decades of multi-disciplinary research in behavioral psychology, user experience, and game design thinking to technology solutions, giving companies a strategic edge over their competition. Basically, it’s the missing ingredient!

Let’s take a look:


From cutaways to the pastoral English garden in which the competition is set, to a retro kitchen and scrumptious shots of cakes, breads, pastries, and biscuits, the show is first and foremost, a feast for the eyes.


Challenge & Reward.

With a mix of challenges that test the bakers’ technical and creative skills, the show does not shy away from challenging the chops of the amateur bakers. Each week a series of 3 challenges pushes the limits of what each baker is capable of, all for the ultimate reward of becoming the star baker.


Content & Story.

Subtly woven into the competition are brief asides about each contestant, shedding light on how dedicated each baker has been to honing their baking skills in between school, work, or family life, and in effect, furthering your respect for each and every contestant.



You will unlikely encounter such a likable cast of contestants, judges, and hosts on a single reality television program. The earnestness and good humor of the cast instantly invites the viewer to share in this tiny community of amateur bakers and their pursuit of becoming masters at their craft. Even for the culinary-adverse, the sense of belonging makes everyone feel as if the world inside the bright white tent was their own.


Decision Making.

A key part of the show’s appeal is the even-handed presence of its two judges, Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. A collective fount of knowledge in all things baking, Paul and Mary provide critical commentary that guides the viewer in determining things like the terror of a “soggy bottom.”


Engagement Loop.

Shepherded by the wit and sass of comediennes, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, each episode features a twist on three different challenges: signature, technical, and showstopper that keep you coming back to see what they’ll have the contestants produce next.



As much as the show emphasizes the importance of classical technique, it also showcases baking as a form of self-expression. The show values the diversity of its contestants and allows them to bring in their own ingredients and tools and assert their own unique approach to baking.



Adaptivity is an essential part of succeeding in the competition and is what makes the show so exciting to watch. Whether it’s unseasonably warm temperatures or a cake that didn’t rise enough, the show underscores the importance of being able to adapt recipes and adjust outcomes. But whatever you do, don’t just throw your imperfect confection in the bin.



From a Baked Alaska to a prinsesstårta, the show lets viewers explore a range of baked goods and techniques from around the world that broadens your culinary knowledge and maybe even inspires you to whip up something in your own kitchen.


For both the baking contestants and the viewers vicariously watching at home, The Great British Baking Show is in essence, about letting talented bakers tackle interesting challenges. The engaging nature of both the show and competition speak to what we here at SI have learned about building engaging digital experiences. Much like baking, the key is to blend best practices from art and science to serve that main objective.

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