If I have to work, I will. But, I'd rather not and I know the same is true of you. There is a part in all of us (as users) that wonders, "Do I really have to do this?" Sometimes, we're compelled to battle forward. Other times, not so much. At all times, we hate digital experiences that require too much effort.
Truly, "user" is a privileged role. We casually search and browse. We surf without care and close tabs with indignation - forever seeking satisfaction and speaking through clicks, purchases and hostile reviews. We want content, we want products, we want it all and we want it now! If there is any challenge, requirement, barrier or delay, our instinct is to bypass or quit. Instantly.
You and I are unique users because we are also in the business of crafting digital experiences for other users. For creators like us, our fellow user's wanton laziness is problematic and sometimes heartbreaking. We need folks engaged, active and happily completing processes (or work, as it were). Plain and simple: if our users quit, our business is in jeopardy.
Effectively encouraging users to work is easier said, than done. You can't just throw up a massive form, a big red submit button and expect every visitor to knock it out. No, the key is to craft pleasant digital experiences which minimize the user's perception of effort and maximize their reward. A massive form may be obviously daunting, but you would be surprised by just how low a user's tolerance for work really is.
The first bit of work the user will encounter is simply consuming your content. This may seem silly, but your content can very easily get in the way. Logical navigation and page layouts, obvious titles, short paragraphs, bullet points, pretty pictures, recognizable iconography and overt calls to action - these things help the user quickly assess what the hell is going on and if they should continue forward.
Most likely, all your content leads to a process of some kind. Users may need to fill out a form, confirm their contact info or manipulate something, in some way. Obviously, this is THE work we need the user to complete. There is nothing more depressing than seeing all your web traffic drop off on the credit card entry page. The truth is, this happens on every e-commerce website. However, there are ways to encourage completion.
Again, the key is simplicity - simplify processes and reward users as they proceed. Request data only if you absolutely need it, eliminate not-required form fields, break up big processes into smaller steps, encourage the user along the way and remind them of their ultimate goal. Try offering value added content, discounts, bonuses, points and gifts for each completed step.
Think carrot and stick.