With Christmas trees getting wrapped up for the chippers and the feelings of celebration,rami-al-zayat-170349.jpg togetherness, and giving diminishing to their normal levels— comes that familiar feeling of buyer fatigue. Whether we’re questioning the impact or necessity of the gifts we gave, wondering if we’ve gone overboard or are simply just happy that all the running around is over. A lot of us are just feeling tired at this point in the season. Tired of just buying… stuff.

With my holiday now over, I sit here contemplating upcoming work in the weeks ahead and I can’t help seeing a connection. As a “creator” or “maker” of things I can clearly see how Designers like me are in some ways a big part of the problem.

Forgetting the Most Important Question

Tell me if this sounds familiar. You start with a brief that tells you Company XYZ’s App isn’t converting. They need you to help them sell more widgets to their customers. Or Organization ABC needs ideas for a new App or feature that is going help them improve user retention so they can attract investors or be more competitive… And then you jump into problem solving mode. You ask a ton of questions about customer journeys, intentionality, on-boarding, and so on… but how often do you contemplate the greater repercussions of actually bringing another thing into the world? Even when the target audience is already telling us that they are willing to open their wallets for it?

Do you know what the average download rate of new Apps on the App Store last month was? Its somewhere between 0 and 1.5 per device per month.

“But 1.5 per device per month is still pretty good” you might be saying. Which begs a follow-up question…

How many of those installed Apps actually get used? Here are some interesting stats from Apsalar.

“an average of 26% of app installs are uninstalled in the first hour. That uninstall rate rises to 38% in the first day, 64% in the first month, and about 89% over 12 months. Those figures represent the average across all app types.”

What does this say about all of us App users? I think it says that we often really love the idea of things but rarely ever think about how much we need them. It’s the age old problem of consumerism coming back to bite us in a new medium.

What IS the Most Important Question?

As a former product designer for more than one struggling startup, this topic is something that I’ve contemplated a lot. I’ve been in a few situations where the users cheered loudly for our solution, but rarely used it. Or would sign up and then disappear for months… sometimes never coming back.

Why would that be the case? Because while they loved the initial idea of the product adopting it into their every day lives felt like too much work.

Just like your New Year’s Resolution to get into the gym more often —we often love the idea of things, but we don’t always follow through with those intentions. Or if we do, we lose interest very quickly. 

Is this product something that contributes to the fabric of your daily life — or does it feel like work?

With that in mind, the questions we should probably be asking at the beginning of a project shouldn’t just be around how do we get more downloads and conversions. We should be going out and asking our users things like…

  1. What motivated you to want to try this App?
  2. What impact do you expect it to have in your daily life?
  3. Do you find yourself having to work at integrating it into your routine?
  4. Do you see yourself using this App this time next month? Next year?
  5. If not, is it because of missing features, roadblocks caused by conflicting processes, or a lack of required participation from others?

In short, is this product something that contributes to the fabric of your daily life or does it feel like work?

UXistentialism 101

Occasionally the answers you get will lead to a clear pivot and guide you toward excellent improvements. More often the answers you get won’t have a clear solution and will require a lot of experimentation and micro-pivoting before you get some clarity… good or bad. Either way, these somewhat existential questions need to be asked.

Yet, rather than asking these questions, some Product Owners/Managers aren’t as willing to go there for obvious reasons. How do you justify your job— or in the case of some tech startups— your very existence, if you discover that your so-called ‘product market fit’ is built on a foundation of good intentions but not much more?

The good news is that if you are willing to put it all on the line, you’re more likely going to hit upon something very special, if your solution solves a real problem. Asking those questions could very well lead to a solution that drives more deeply into the hearts and minds of your users than you ever would have in the first place. You may have to make a major pivot to do so, but if the potential for building something that actually improves your users daily lives isn’t enough motivation— I don’t know what is. After all, isn’t that the golden standard as Product Designers (thing makers) we’re all striving for?

The less-than-ideal news is that maybe you discover there is no real market for your product. Either you’re too early— too ahead of the curve, or worse… maybe your inventing a solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist. If that’s true you’re better off cutting bait and moving on.

Life is too short and already full of too much… stuff. Not only is it going to be better for you in the long run to move onto greener pastures (with a better tuned radar)—but it’ll also be better for potential investors who will be more likely to invest in your next product if you get it right. You just saved them from a bad investment after all.

More altruistically, it’ll be better for society. It should be considered a moral obligation to stop unnecessarily contributing to the noise in an already too noisy world of consumer choices.

Especially in January.

Online’s Digital Studio specializes in designing and building amazing digital experiences and products. We help businesses understand their customers better and to create compelling experiences through web and mobile applications that are purpose-built to deliver business results.

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This blog post was originally published on Medium.