Aug 6, 2014 0 Comments

User Engagement vs Product Complexity


Creating a meaningful product has to reinforce a goal or task that the user is trying to accomplish. For nibl, that means selling digital files in an easy way. Besides ease of use, creating or establishing an emotional connection with a user keeps those users coming back to use a product again and again. However, for a product to be meaningful (especially one for buying and selling) it needs to have a wide variety of options and configurations to give the user the tools needed to complete their tasks. This balance between product complexity and user attachment can often be solved at the same time.

Strong Data, Strong Connection

First off, how do we establish an emotional connection? Simple. We let you build a portion of yourself into our product to make it your own. This starts with a simple seller profile, but the more you customize and tweak nibl to your liking and preferences, the more you “settle in” to nibl. Like many sites with a social aspect, nibl only gets better as more and more people participate. You can tell the nibl community who you are, tell your customers about yourself, set a location, and connect all your social media accounts. After adding all these things, the user becomes more and more attached to using the site, because the site now better represents them and is no longer generic. A recent blog post did an interview with now Dropbox designer (used to be Facebook designer) Soleio Cuervo where he states quite simply:

When people can build an identity with your product over time, they form a natural loyalty to it.

Also, the more ways people have to store their data, the more value they give to the product. Simple things like remembering usernames, recently used tags, or anything that lessens the mental load for the user are means to achieving greater user attachment.

The only downside to having all these things to fill out and customize, is that there are a ton of things for the user to do before they even start selling if they want the best experience. These numerous tasks set the initial cognitive load very high. Users will often forgo filling out this optional data (like filling out a seller description or the name of their Marketplace store) if it seems like a huge burden to do so. Finding the balance between what is required for initial setup and what users should fill out to make the experience better can be tricky.

Don’t Force, but Steer the User a Bit

For a pleasant system, you don’t want the user’s first experience with the site to be full of forms and settings switches, even if these options are usually filled out just one time. You want to have the user get right into that important overall task (selling digital goods), so the first thing the user does in nibl, is add their first upload to the marketplace. Since this is core to using nibl and these items fuel all the rest of the features like analytics and payments, we want the user to get used to this process right away.

The more work you make each decision, the fewer decisions you will get.

However, to those using nibl only to buy content, the initial user engagement benefits from a content creator going to the trouble of providing as much information about their product as possible. With that in mind, the creator also benefits, because adding a cover image, a proper description, and adding extra information leads to more sales and happier, more-informed customers.

So, even though the user wants to get on with the more meaningful, engaging tasks, there is some necessary initial setup – making the subsequent tasks all the more meaningful. So we have to steer the user down the right path, but just a little. The user needs to be informed that there are a set of tasks for initial setup that are not mandatory, but highly encouraged. The user needs to see them as they are learning how to use the main feature, so they are not instantly opposed to doing a little extra work. It is too much to ask that a user go find all the places on their own, but it takes a light touch to get them there as to not turn them off of the product.

There is a very fine balance between mandatory steps and other steps that are there to enhance the user experience and aesthetic of nibl.

Proud Users

One of the best ways to get people to go to all the trouble to engage fully in a product is to give them a reason other than intrinsic value (and obviously more sales in the case of nibl). Give the user badges. It could be as simple as letting them verify they are who they say they are (like Twitter or Pinterest) or as complex as giving awards for reaching certain sales goals, shares, or number of likes. Xbox, Game Center, and just about every video game platform or tutorial site) uses accomplishments to keep people excited about participating and coming back over and over. These badges, for the most part, do nothing to unlock features or make the product better for the user, but it serves as motivation and makes engagement skyrocket. Users are proud to know what they have accomplished, especially if they can show it off a bit.

The best thing about badges, is that the product doesn’t have to function in any different way and users will still use it the same way. All the stats for awarding badges are built into sales analytics, user data, purchase history, and product count. They just need to be exposed to the user as a goal creating that lasting connection and providing a slight gaming experience. Badges don’t require the user experience to be more complex.

Simple & Powerful

Creating something that is simple and still powerful is a difficult thing to do. A simple product can be very engaging when the learning curve and tax on brain power is low. A more powerful product often has more features, which often takes away from the simplicity and makes the product harder to use. For nibl, we are always trying new ideas to give the user more control while over their own experience, while still maintaining a level of simplicity so that new users will not feel overwhelmed. We are always thinking about how to make buying and selling digital content easier and more engaging. New features are on the way, old features will be tweaked and made better. The way forward is to continue to balancing user engagement and product complexity.