Webdagene: The Usage Lifecycle

by October 6, 2010

In his The Usage Lifecycle and three big problems of application design presentation at Webdagene 2010 in Norway, Joshua Porter outlined how analyzing usage lifecycles can help Web applications manage and resolve thorny issues like user acquisition and retention. Here’s my notes from his talk:

  • Design is hard because use is complicated
  • We have a lot of different ways to look at use in order to understand it. There are whole fields devoted to understanding usage. Almost everyone has his or her own approach.
  • There are many examples of lifecycles that outline the moments that manage our transition from one hurdle to the next. Examples: Human lifecycle, technology lifecycle, etc.
  • For Web applications, we can outline a usage Lifecycle with major stages like: unaware, interested, trial, customer, passionate customer, and moves on (on one axis). And hurdles that move you between stages: referral, visits site, sign-in, first use, purchase, renew subscriptions, evangelizes, and visits (on the other axis).
  • A usage lifecycle shows the real scope of our problem when designing user experience. It also provides a path people can take in order to have a great experience with a product. Usage lifecycles can be measured and explained over time. They also involve the entire company not just designers and are easily understood and communicated to others.
  • Companies need to design a rich and vibrant lifecycle that is reproducible for each prospective customer.
  • 80% of your time should be spent on refining the most important features. 20% of your time should be spent on new features.
  • Hurdle: The sign-up problem = people seem interested in your service but aren’t motivated to give it a try.
  • Immediate engagement turns the sign-up problem on its head. Get people using the product first then have them sign up later.
  • Loss aversion: we don’t want to loose something we already have. We assign more value to things we already have. People value things three times more when we own them. Have people create something and at they point they own it -ask them to sign up.
  • Blip.fm frames things as an invitation not as a sign up –this is a subtle difference but potentially quite impactful.
  • Hurdle: First time use = people give your software a try but don’t know how to get going.
  • Don’t start people from zero –get them going with something already there.
  • Tumblr breaks the steps for getting going on the service into a series of small actions: make a post, edit it, use the bookmarklet. Slowly unravels the value of the service as you go. Follows up with congratulations message.
  • Hurdle: Ongoing engagement = will people continue to use your app over time? “I kind of forgot about it, nothing really bringing me back.”
  • The magic number: once a FriendFeed user found five friends, they became active users. Created opportunities to add friends up front.
  • A cohort analysis allows you manage engagement over time. Allows you to see how the changes you are making have an impact.
  • Net promoter score: How likely are you to recommend the service -6 or below: considered not to be a promoter.