The problem with launching a bare-bones version of your product is that you could end up making a less-than-spectacular first impression. When your product does launch in fully finished form, some of those early users may not be interested in giving it another try.
For this article, let’s shift the focus to wowing users from the first time your product launches. Create this “minimum lovable product” by designing to delight to make that all-important good first impression for first-time users. Here are seven secrets behind this strategy to keep in mind as you work towards this goal.
1. Provide User Motivation Quickly
Even if your product is truly unique and offers solutions competitors can’t provide, first-time users will still need the motivation to stick around.
Anybody using your app as a new user is going to have the same fundamental questions they’ll want to be answered:
• Is this the app I wanted?
• What does it do again? (most product users are chronic multitaskers, so they sometimes need a quick reminder)
• How is it going to benefit me?
• How does it work?
• When can I start using it?
The best way to answer these questions is with a welcome screen and onboarding process that draws a user into your product’s experience right away.
Your launch screen, in particular, is the first thing a user will see, so it shouldn’t be an afterthought during the design process.
Your launch screen is also critical for first-time users because it’s where you’ll put any legal disclaimers or age restrictions that may be necessary. This transparency avoids any surprises later for users.
2. Maintain Your Onboarding Flow
The purpose of onboarding is to offer a quick intro to your product, and it’s leading features.
But first-time users are notoriously impatient. They just want to figure out how to do whatever it is your product is supposed to do.
Make the learning process as smooth as possible for new users by presenting info in easily digestible chunks. Avoid offering too many first choices.
An efficient way to introduce features is with bits and pieces of info that show up as features of your app are first used. Doing so allows users to only access info they wish to see when they want it.
The onboarding process can also be a time when you get to know more about your new user in a non-intrusive way.
Some apps do this by asking simple questions such as “What do you want to do first?” and then listing 2–3 possible tasks. What this does is instantly make the user experience personal before a user fully gets into your app.
Some other options to consider with your onboarding process:
• Ask users for their first name so you can add it automatically to the intro content
• Create a virtual tour guide to personalize the intro process
• Use game-like features (gamification) to make the product intro process fun (or even throw first-time users into a mini-game to encourage instant interaction)
• Include a countdown clock or periodically let new users know how much longer it will be until they can get started
3. Minimize How Much Info You Request
Consumers today are more willing to share personal info. But this is only true if they know they’re going to get something in return.
First-time users aren’t even sure your app will do what it’s supposed to do yet, so they’re more likely to be hesitant if you ask for too much personal info.
Get around initial hesitation by adding more functionality to the onboarding process to allow users to use some features.
More code will be needed to do this on your end, but the extra effort could pay off. It gives first-time users a chance to get comfortable with your app before you ask for a full sign-up.
4. Give Your Dashboard Some Pizzazz
It’s not unusual for an app’s dashboard (and other fields that are filled with stats or notifications) to be empty or have all fields set to zero when a new user first downloads your product.
The problem here is that first-time users may not feel like the app is personal or useful for them.
One way to counter this problem is to use filler graphics to minimize emptiness.
Another solution is to use animation during the onboarding process to illustrate the potential for your product to first-time users.
For instance, you could have an animated intro that shows what the app will look like when friends’ lists, message notifications, and dashboards are populated.
Pop-up prompts can also be used to remind new users to invite friends to download the app.
5. Ask for Permission During the Transition from Onboarding to Full Use
When users transition from the onboarding/product intro phase into full access to product features, you may need to collect more personal info.
For example, if your app is located-based, you’ll need to track the user’s location for features to be useful.
While this is entirely logically, asking for permission to do this shows more transparency on your part.
6. Follow Up with Interactions Outside of the App
After you have initial user info, keep your first-time users engaged with follow-up emails.
For instance, if you’re offering discounts on specific paid features, let them know this to give them an incentive to come back.
A beautifully designed and friendly welcome email can also encourage new users to become regular users.
In some cases, users may opt for “No, I don’t agree” when you ask for permission to do certain things.
But what if your product’s features won’t work with the user’s location info?
Increase your odds of getting permission when it’s necessary with a quick pop-up that comes up automatically after a “no” response to a permission request.
It will give you a chance to explain why permission is necessary briefly.
7. Don’t Assume Users Will Stick Around to Realize Your Product’s Potential
A lot of start-up founders have visions of how users will eventually be using their product a month or so after their first use.
You may know that it will take time for your mobile or web app to accumulate user data, for instance, but you “just know” that after it been used for a while, it will be even better.
The problem with this train of thought is that users may not stick around long enough to get to that point.
The fact is that roughly 1 in 4 users will bail on an app after the first use.
So, instead of focusing on what your product could eventually do for your intended users, focus on:
• How easy it will be to use
• What the learning curve will be for your product (the shorter, the better)
• Giving first-time users a compelling reason to keep coming back (and gently reminding them to do so with follow-up engagement)
• Generating positive feedback that doesn’t include a lot of suggestions on what can be improved (Do you want most of your first-time users saying, “It’s okay, but it would be better if it…”?)
Designing to delight with a “minimum lovable product” doesn’t mean skipping the testing phases that are essential to the design and development process.
You’ll still want to get input as your product goes from concept to completion.
You can even have your employees or a small group of friends try your product before its official launch if you want some feedback before you add your finishing touches.
What designing for first-time experiences means is putting a product out there that’s likely to make a good impression the first time anybody uses it.
You can always make additional adjustments and improvements later. But what you don’t want to do is rush something out there that’s only good enough to work.
You want that “wow” factor right out of the gate. It’s the extra attention to detail that often keeps apps from being forgotten after the first use. And happy first-time users are more likely to spread the work to other potential first-time users about your product.
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