For web and mobile apps, the highest point of attrition is within minutes of the user experience. A user downloads the app, and takes a tour of the product, or creates a free trial and starts to use the system. Either way, the success of retaining that customer hinges on the customer’s ability to find value in your application. The biggest problem in the way of most applications is the same for all applications: complexity.

How Your App Is Now

Right now, it is very likely that you created an app using all the brain power and might of your development and user experience team. They created beautiful interfaces, and your app does some amazing things. But many teams neglect acquiring any positive user feedback or analytic data to make real informed decisions during the building process. Instead, they tend to make “operational” decisions based on the collective professional experience. Yet the requirements, the process, and the language all add to the overall user experience, and those are generally not addressed until after launch.

Each application has what we call critical success points for adoption. This means that there are certain actions, tasks, or experiences that the user goes through before they find real value in the application. The more of these they pass through, the higher the likelihood of retaining them. Take a look at our visual below.

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 2.17.50 PM

In this diagram, we see the user has to progress through seven steps before they can complete a to-do in our mock application. Completing the to-do is the success point. If they get lost, confused, don’t have the right information, are not ready, etc., they can abort the process and never get to the final destination. This is how most apps are built. This puts the onus on the user for the success of the app through many invaluable steps.

How It Should Be

Wise app creators know that leaving anything to the user for the success of the app is not a good plan. Instead, they look to minimize the steps a user needs to take to reach that final destination. Additionally, they look to simplify and condense any steps they can, by making creative assumptions on process. For example, in our process above we have a step called “create first list”. This would be a list that a to-do item belongs to. Now, we all know that the list name needs to be customized at some point, but it is not necessary for the first to-do or during this orientation time. The focus needs to be on moving the user to the success point as fast as possible with as little friction as possible. If you take a look at our revised flow, you can see what this process might look like.

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 2.24.18 PM

The new process includes automated steps (hollow circles) showing the app doing the work to reduce friction and the steps needed. For example, you could use a creative assumption and simply call the list “First To-Do List”. It removes a step the user has to take, and brings delight in simplicity. We’ve also eliminated steps that were not needed (profile creation), or items that got in the way of reaching the goal. These changes flatten the user experience to two or three simple actions before they start to realize the benefit of the application.

Put It To Work

Every mobile app or web app could use a thinking process like this. How do you do it? Here are some simple questions to ask of your process to flatten the experience. Create a map of your entire user narrative or process in a timeline, like I have above. Then ask yourself…

  1. What is the goal / value of your app? You need to get the user here as quickly as possible. It is not always the end – it might be just the best part of your app. It should be close to the front, actually.
  2. Is this step needed to reach the goal? If not, remove it or move it to later.
  3. If a step is needed, can you make a creative assumption, or bundle it with another action? Take more work away from the user.
  4. If you make an assumption, make sure it fits with the theme/spirit of your app and tell the user about it.

Happy app building!