A series of events led me to write this blog post. A friend of mine showed me an app called Make it Rain. All you do is flick dollar bills up on your iPhone. The amount of bills that you’ve sent out is tracked. There is no winning objective. You just want to see that number going higher and higher. Another app that does this is the cookie clicker. You just click to get cookies and you can spend cookies to buy things that help you get more cookies. It’s like a feedback loop. These games are addictive. I also related it back to Angry Birds and how there is no winning objective there either. I thought about what these things have in common. I’m using this entry to kind of list out those thoughts.
Simplicity is the most important.
You have to make the user experience super simple. Angry Birds was a super easy game to play - just one tap and stretch. When you tap incorrectly it’s pretty easy to see what you did wrong and start over. Make it easy for users to do a particular action - when they screw up make it apparent why and make it easy for them to fix their action. Don’t punish them - encourage them to try again.
Find a number that people want to brag about.
I can’t be the only one that looks at the number of likes on my posts on Facebook. I like it when those numbers go up. When I played World of Warcraft I liked it when my health bar always showed a higher number. Apps like cookie clicker just show your main score, and that number almost always goes up. Find a number that you think your users would like to see. Emphasize that number and let them know when they break new bounds on it. Let it be a number that they want to share with other people.
Make users feel like they’re missing out.
Successful startups often notify users to increase engagement. I believe that notifications sent via phone/email/etc. are what have made so many apps successful. You’ll get a Facebook notification when someone comments on your post. That’s all you know. The content of the post can only be viewed when you go on the site. LinkedIn tells you that people are viewing your profile. You go on LinkedIn to gain details on who it is. Remind people that things are happening on your app, but just enough information that makes them feel like they’re missing out. People hate missing out on something.
To view content you must produce content, but make producing content easy.
Another interesting concept is forcing people to perform an action before allowing them to see other actions. Almost every site does this - you can’t see content on a website until you sign up. But it can be taken further - you can’t see content on a website until you sign up and produce some content. This is a dangerous slope because this can lead to a terrible user experience. However, when done properly it can be a very powerful addictive factor. I believe the trick is to find an action that users can take that are super easy to make but provide genuine value. Here’s an example. You have an app that shows recommendations to different products. Don’t allow users to see recommendations until they recommend a product. At first glance this is bad because there is a lot of friction on the new user’s point of view. Make it easier for them - show them three products and ask them to pick the best one. Now it’s super easy - they just have to click. Now every user that sees a recommendation also has to recommend something else. You should probably only ask them to do this once as I can see it being annoying. But it’s just an example. You get the idea.