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In the digital world, creating an engaging user experience is the key to success for app developers. But engagement doesn’t come from a mishmash of innovative features or a random collection of ideas; it comes from creative and strategic planning and execution.

Take, for example, the case of Spotify’s annual Wrapped feature. At the end of each year, users can see their top songs and artists, favorite playlists, and the number of minutes they listened to music and podcasts in the app. It’s easy for users to get excited about their own usage data, and Spotify does a great job of presenting it in an intriguing, easy-to-share format. The result? An engaging user experience based on strategy, purpose and direction.

When designing a mobile app, the approach should be similar: focus on personalizing the experience for the user. Keeping users engaged should always be a goal, and there are a few principles that help achieve this.

For starters, the action of making the app social. Allowing users to find a community, whether by creating content to share or incorporating messaging features, gives them a reason to stay engaged and return again and again. Along those lines, you should also try to provide positive reinforcement when users engage.

Everyone loves recognition, so it’s positive to consider using welcome messages or daily challenges to create even more rewards as part of the user experience. If the content in the app is static, users have less reason to return. But if the content in the app is frequently updated, small and dynamic, they will be more likely to interact consistently and for a long time.

Creating an engaging user experience in an app may seem like a challenge, but it’s a vital part of any successful product. As you work to drive user engagement and create a platform they love, there are three key steps:

  • Define high engagement for the product. 

Interaction with the ideal mobile app could mean different things for different products. The number of daily active users is a common starting point, but it is not universally useful. If there is a grocery shopping app, for example, even the biggest fans won’t use it every day. You may need to adjust the measurement of “active” or “engaged” users and instead focus on weekly or bi-weekly active users or time spent on the app to get an accurate measurement of engagement.

  • Perform affinity mapping or trend forecasting. 

Affinity diagrams highlight the relationships between information, opinions, problems, and solutions. Using these diagrams to convert research and data into actionable information helps forecast economic, demographic, and social trends relevant to a product. In the pandemic era, research may show that people will remain wary of large crowds for several years. By using affinity diagrams, you may find that in-app chat features are a better way to foster community and engagement than sponsoring concerts or events.

  • Know the audience and their needs. 

The goal is to design for primary audiences while accommodating secondary audiences. Know the demographics, objectives, pain points, behaviors and attitudes of the audience and use these to inform decisions about the most effective methods of engagement. If the audience is passionate about social causes, partnering with a nonprofit could generate engagement with the brand or app. Regardless of the engagement opportunity sought, ensure that it is relevant and valuable.

It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers, but not all apps should target the same kind of usage rates. If the app is designed to help users break bad habits, for example, you should expect that the product will eventually be so successful that people no longer need to use it. Whatever solution is created, processes should be in place to accurately track interaction with the mobile app and help you continually improve the product and user experience.


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