Posted by:Ranjani Rao June 9th, 2016

Apps these days are able to do things we had only imagined years ago.  With the onslaught of novel  features provided by leading mobile platforms and a good deal of mobile hardware to match up, there are new kinds of apps taking our lives by storm  and setting in habits that define lifestyles and social context.

As app makers, we have a collective responsibility to ensure we develop apps that lead to better lives and encourage positive active and passive behaviors in users.  This stems from the app inducing a feel-good factor in the user (also a part of good UX) and encouraging them to achieve their goals associated with the app. When an app resonates with a person and makes her feel like it’s a part of her journey to the goal, that’s when a truly good UX can be said to have been achieved.

Now the goal doesn’t always have to be something lofty – it can even be something simple that your app is meant to help the user do – for example, help them find songs they like from a massive music library.  Your app must demonstrate a willingness to understand the user’s taste and make suggestions accordingly. Having an app establish a ‘human connect’ with your user is vital to them returning to the app and with the kind of technology available today, it is getting easier to build app features that will make people feel the app ‘understands’ them.

So how do you make your app bring about a human connect in a subtle way? Here are a few tips:

  • Show empathy
Your app should reflect that you understand your target audience well. If your app helps practice meditation, you should expect that new users will tend to wander away mentally. Have a mechanism that helps steer them back to the app. It could be a simple voiceover or subtle vibration alert that checks on how they are doing and brings their attention back to focus.
  • Motivate
Motivate users in a way they will come back to the app to accomplish their goals. There are several ways you can do this. Show progress charts. Express positive feedback on actions and recorded data. Say something encouraging when the day’s goals are not met.  Once a level is accomplished, show them the next possible level they can achieve.  The mechanism you use could be based on what your app does, but make sure it motivates people to come back, retry and complete tasks.
  • Make outcomes apparent
People like to see the fruits of any labor they put in and the same is true for using the app. While it is up to people to experience the benefits of your app, it does help them mentally register benefits better if you make them more apparent. For example, if you have a fitness app, and you have recorded that, over time, the person is able to sustain longer duration of intense exercise; you should make that apparent on the app. It’s wonderful to see tangible results coming out of putting in effort to do something and giving that information to users will help strike a chord with them.
  • The sense of community
Allow people to share results of using the app, on social media and through other means such as email or SMS.  It gives them a sense of belonging to the app’s user community to let people know how they have fared and also seeing how other people have fared with the app. This also helps because people often end up guiding each other with tips on getting the most out of the app.  Community buzz keeps users more engaged with the app and the app developers, and more often than not, paves the way for awesome enhancements and improvements in the app.  Accept constructive criticism in the right spirit and welcome the involvement of users in making the app better.
  • Go the extra mile
And finally, what is your app doing that wasn’t done by the other 1334242 (just a number) apps out there? Is it ‘human’ enough to know when the user is ‘tired’ or ‘sad’? Is it intelligent enough to predict behavior based on the user’s contextual factors? Can you rely on the app to provide the best advice when your friend is not reachable?

Things to think about. Apps can never be totally human but in a world where users are increasingly getting things done on the mobile, the more of a ‘human side’ your app portrays, the more popular it gets.  They say the process of evolution is constant and this statement couldn’t be truer for mobile apps!

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