Building the perfect website or app is simple. You just need the perfect idea, the smartest engineers, and the best designers. Let’s not even talk about the go-to-market aspect where you just need to be fortunate enough to create an amazing message so interesting that it will became viral and bring thousands of millions of people to your database. Investors will beg to be part of your project, and it will grow quickly into something solid.

If you have all of this in place you are on the cusp of success (and can probably stop reading this article right now). However, if you are part of the larger percentage of dreamers and still need tips about what makes people interested and excited about your product, I can share some with you now.

I’m assuming you want to create something unique and original—while breaking all the usual paradigms—and are hoping to become top-notch in your industry. If you are just looking to build “something for someone” with no innovation or differentiation, so that your project will move as quickly and as cheaply as possible, these tips won’t help you much.

I’m presenting the more strategic parts of the any successful project—not a step-by-step process but an approach that takes all of these factors into consideration, which will make you think about the most important aspects of your product and who is about to use it.

1. Onboarding: Manage Interactions and Expectations

Every time you start using a digital application (from now on referred to as the “product”) you expect to interact in a certain way that clicks with interaction skills you have already learned. You expect things to behave in a way that your brain already understands. If, as a designer, you’re planning to create something rule-breaking, make sure to guide your user. Think of your product as a game where the first phases are easier, and where skills are developed that will be used throughout the whole experience.

It can be very frustrating for you and your users if they can’t figure out how to use a very cool feature. Even worse, they will be turned off if they can’t correctly use your product because it’s not set up in a way they are used to seeing other places. I’m not talking about using the menu in a different position, but perhaps using the "hamburger" icon to represent a share functionality or an arrow pointing right that doesn’t go to the next page.

During the onboarding process your user needs to learn and love your product. They need to understand why you built it the way you did, and why it is better than what they might be used too. You should consider doing the following:

  1. Giving them tips
  2. Helping them through the first interactions using tutorials, if necessary
  3. Assisting them with navigation and making sure users know everything they need to know

This guidance will create greater user engagement and leaving users excited to learn something new.

2. The Importance of Giving Good Feedback

One of the easiest ways to lose users’ attention or to make them upset is by not providing feedback. Simple missteps like not giving a visual indicator that a screen is loading, or not showing the percentage of completion of a specific task can be easily addressed. Users will be much more likely to stay and wait if they know how long it will take or will be less bored with the loading process.

Make sure you always inform users about what is happening during every part of the navigation process. We all know that performance is sometimes a challenge so share this with your user, be transparent and you will win credibility.

This is a general rule that helps out a lot during the onboarding step, where the users are trying out your product, clicking around, and exploring your ideas. Don’t forget to keep it consistent throughout the experience so your user doesn’t feel lost in the future.

3. The Joys of Discovery: Give ‘em What they Want

A successful discovery process is all about your users being able to get excited and navigate through your product (and simply enjoying each part of their journey). Let them explore and make the experience consistent. Everybody likes to uncover things and have the feeling of being the first one to know something, so don’t make the structure and navigation system too fixed and squared. Instead, think about the ways that your users will discover things through a gesture or a cool transition.

More important than having any user is having a satisfied one

Lately, it seems like all of the coolest apps have something to be discovered. It could be something that happens when you scroll a page, like refreshing it, or a different kind of menu in your app, like the "slider" on Facebook or the "exploding" used at Path. Don’t make it difficult or complex, but make sure to have something unexpected and surprising for your audience. They will enjoy it and hopefully refer others to the app based on the simple fact that you have a cool product.

4. Feelings Matter: Be a Good Host to Your Guests

You want your users to get things done. You want them to have a good experience. To balance these elements, you need to constantly consider the tasks users are performing and the feelings they are having along the way. Ask yourself: Is this a boring task? Is this a small part of a long process? What about playing with content to make it less stressful? How about breaking it up in steps with nice transitions? These lines of questioning will uncover ways to let users enjoy your product and complete tasks with less frustration.

While your product might have some commercial purposes, you also need to think about how your user is feeling throughout the experience. Why and how will they keep an interest in your product? If you prioritize the completion of the task too much and forget that real people are using it, you have a greater chance of losing users.

Always think about rewarding users for every step completed, and make sure to be transparent and inform them about how far they are from their main goal. An example is how LinkedIn presents a progress bar indicating your status in the profile completion. They also break the tasks and make you input just the important information when it is necessary. They also try to understand when you are just browsing around and offer some small and quick tasks like endorsements or people you can connect with. That way your page will always be updated.

5. Question Your Motivation but don’t Forget to Make it Fun

We are much more willing to do something when we can have fun. That doesn’t mean we should forsake users’ needs just to make something fun, but the causal air of your product or the mood your content is transmitting can up the fun factor.

It could be how you can socialize and share information with other friends. It could even be the fun users have helping others. These types of things will create the motivation you need to keep your user loyal and coming back to your product.

You need to satisfy both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation finds you doing something because you want to and because you feel good about doing it. Extrinsic motivation compels you do something because of external motivators—something you need to do it because your job requires it, for example.

You want your product to be a platform but you also want to tell a story. You want your users to engage in a personal way and create an emotional attachment that will make them spread the word about your product, bringing more and more people to the product. Storytelling is the best way to deliver any message or to make connections with people. That’s how you make people care about your product and the things they are doing using it.


Keeping these pillars in focus will help you craft products and services that offer something unique and original—something that keeps your users happy. After all, more important than having any user is having a satisfied one.


Image of columns of the Temple of Apollo courtesy Shutterstock