Most mobile apps tend to lose their users before the users can see value. Its vital to get the value proposition of the app right! The steepest drop in users is in the initial seconds/mins before the user can see the value proposition of the app and then it starts to taper. There a lot of simple patterns that an app can employ which can go a long way in minimize that drop off. I have experienced this at my startup as well. Here are mobile patterns that can help out.
Using mobile apps is a lot like dating - loads of similarities! While you have to provide value quickly a.k.a be interesting enough to date, you dont play all your cards on the first date! aka unviel your features as the user engages more.
As a recent returnee to the iOS platform, the examples below will focus on iOS. However the themes are quite similar on Android and can be extrapolated to the platform.
Frictionless First Time Experience
A good number of apps make the cardinal mistake of putting their content behind a wall. In a good number of cases there is a high chance you lose the customer unless you have a familiar brand or quite a compelling ecosystem (like whatsapp) that the user knows about. So even while you might want to tie most of your content, offer the user the ability to play with your content as a guest. For instance App Annie (on the left) could have offered statistics for a common app like Facebook to allow folks to get a feel for their service. Contrast this to Kicksend (on the right) which allows users to experience the service as a guest and sounds inviting!
Introduce the app quickly
Introduction to what the app can do is part of the frictionless experience. In a good number of cases the mobile user is experiencing your service for the first time. Think of it as a 5 second pitch of your app. While AnyList
(on the left) expects the user to keep swiping through 6 screens to review all the features, Square Cash
(on the right) introduces the 3 features in one screen. Guess which set of features are you going to remember? One on the right!
Mobile user isn't just focussing on your app.
Don't get the user to fill all of this information out because your web service demands it! Ask for what you need the least.
Remove roadblocks & offer alternate pathways
Not everyone has every sensor or setting enabled when your app is fired up. And it some cases you haven't earned their trust yet. In some cases not every service needs to know the exact location to provide a good experience. Don't make this a road block! TripAdvisor
does just that! You might lose the user and will have to work extra hard to get him/her back. Instead look at how KickSend
provides the user with a simple alternative (zip code). Get the least information you need to provide the best experience you can. Its vital on mobile!
Ask for whats needed & Tell them why you need it
How often have you opened the app for the first time and you get a barrage of permission requests! I would like access to notifications, contacts, location services and more! All during the first opening instance of the app! Now what would you do if on the first date the woman asks you about your ex-gfs, your habits, your mom and more! You would run for the hills! The likelihood of a user doing the same is high! So pare down to what you need to get the user to experience the app.
Even after you pare down to what you need, ask them nicely and tell them why you need it. Uber
(on the left) asks for it blindly while Circa
(on the right) explains why it needs it.
Guide them through unfamiliar territory
As smartphones start to permeate through the populous, not everyone is a mobile savvy user. A good number of them are usually quite overwhelmed by the barrage of permissions & instructions when using the app for the first time. Use this constraint as a opportunity to guide them through it. MyTime
(on the left), while telling the user how to enable the location services doesn't make it easy enough for the user. IFTTT
(on the right) on the other hand guides the user through how to enable the settings. A simple change that goes a long way in encouraging the user!
Nail the main screen experience
By now the user is a excited to experience the app. Will he/she want to land up on Patch
(on the left) or Pocket
(on the right)? No brainer! Mobile app experience is like peeling an onion. Let the user peel it layer by layer instead of being overwhelmed with everything that you want them to see! Dont Stuff the screen with information because you can! Show them enough to keep them interested and excited!
Every Screen is an opportunity to delight & communicate
Especially early in the user's interaction, its an opportunity for you to delight them and effectively communicate with them. They have enough on their plate already. Communicate in the simplest of terms and in a manner that they can understand. Typography and Icons go a long way in helping communicate with the user but it can be a double edged sword if its not used right. Feedly
(on the left) uses a barrage of icons some of which even the most savvy mobile user will not comprehend. Compare this to Evenbrite
's (on the right) use of icons & Typography, an absolute joy! I have seen many mobile leadership teams ignore typography and iconography to their own detriment. Its because the in most cases these aren't measurable. Apps that have paid attention to detail and design have been rewarded by AppStore features. KickSend, Eventbrite, Pocket, IFTTT have all been featured. Don't ignore it.
Reward users so they engage more
Most apps cater to extremes when it comes to their demands from their users - either beg to spread to word(etc) or right on the face "Sorry you have to pony up" to use the advanced feature! While this has worked till now, users have been much more conservative in catering to these offlate. The quintessential comparison that is often made with apps is this - people are ready to pay 5$ for a coffee while they think many times to buy an app. While this has largely been true, it boils down to perceived value. Many mobile apps don't reveal their value before encourage users to upgrade. Apps like Evernote do a commendable job getting users to upgrade. I have had to upgrade to Evernote
premium to pen this blog entry (as pictures have caused me to overshoot the monthly upload), I gladly did so.
(below) probably has one of the best ways rewarding users while getting them to do something for the service. Lisgo is a text to speech app which supports Pocket. I migrated from Android where Text to Speech is supported by default in Pocket. Lisgo fills this void on iOS. However the free version of the app provides certain number of minutes to listen to every day. When one hits the limit, most apps would have asked me either upgrade or try again the next day. Lisgo gave me the option to evangelize while offering me something in return. Win-Win for both parties. I was more inclined to upgrade. Look for opportunities to engage users!
Engage them with Insights not Data!
Notifications are most often the first opportunities to engage users with your service yet again. In the dating world, its the time that you call the girl after the first date to ask her out again. Don't squander the opportunity by calling her and asking her if she can meet you tonight (without context). Unless you are a stud (a.k.a a brand in the app world) or you did something right (aka nailed the first experience right) the answer is likely NO! Use insights & contexts as hooks to get the users attention to lure them back on a second date. Insights go a long way than data, especially for notifications! More and more apps screw up this opportunity. Lift
(on the left) loses this opportunity by providing some useless data. Do I really care that I got props from Stephen Keller for good posture? Look at how Argus
(on the right) approaches notifications, urging me to have a glass of water as it has been 3+ hours since I updated the app or I have forgotten to drink water. I am most likely to act on that insight and update the app that I had water. Mission accomplished.
Asking for feedback too early!
In the eagerness to climb the app store rankings quickly, there are a long list of apps that have fallen by the wayside by asking for "Ratings" too early. Just because I used the app a couple of times or for a few minutes doesn't mean I am going to rate you. And most times Apps ask for ratings at the most inappropriate times and too early. While you might get away with casual daters you are most likely to get incorrect ratings/comments from others. Take Umano (on the left) for instance, the app asked me within the first few minutes of using the app! Sorry but Im not a casual date! Pocket (on the right) does it perfectly right after an update. User has some affinity towards the app & has taken the step to update (in iOS7 with automatic updates this can no longer be assumed). Also the user has opened the app after an upgrade, the likely hood of rating the app is quite high! Find hooks like those to ask the user to provide feedback to your app.
Feel free to share any of your experiences/thoughts below. In the next post I will be looking at 5 ways to increase app retention -a holy grail discussion these days.