Wanna build insanely addictive apps? Tips&tactics. Bonus track: The Manipulation Matrix


Let’s do a simple test. Be honest and reply YES or NO to the list of questions below:

  1. I never turn my mobile off Y/ N
  2. I often send text while walking Y/ N
  3. I’m compelled to make calls even in quite places like cinema or library Y/ N
  4. I regularly make personal calls while I’m at work Y/ N
  5. I post social networking updates during work meetings Y/ N
  6. I sometimes use my smartphone while in the toilet Y/ N
  7. I use my phone to avoid social interactions Y/ N
  8. I use my smartphone instead of watching TV Y/ N
  9. I get up in the night to check my Twitter, Facebook, Instagram… Y/ N

If you replied YES to 7 of those questions, welcome to the tribe: you are a smartphone addict. No worries, you are not alone: 5 in 10 people have confessed it. It means 49% of population. Before you ask: yes, I am. I admit it. I have the 7 signs of  smartphone addiction.

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 17.58.11

Why some apps are more engaging than others? Could we isolate some common characteristics making an app a hooking app? This is the last post of the series dedicated to the effort to understand how to conquer the world transforming your genius app into an insanely addictive app. This post has the aim to list the main findings which seems to rule human motivations and actions when interacting with mobile apps:

  1.  Gamification is not the solution to everything. Ok, whatever is related to gamification will be one of the growing future trends. Anyway remind it: gaming mechanisms can work only as a support and only if you or the user really want to achieve an objective. An app won’t make you  lose weight, it can trigger and motivate you to exercise and to count the calories you intake.  MyFitness Pal.
  2. Trigger, trigger, trigger. External triggers (rules, rewards, prizes) are less powerful than internal triggers. Do some efforts to engage your users: find strong internal triggers linked to positive emotions …like learning or belonging. Owning an app could mean that you belong to a subculture. Are you addicted to  Instagram and Pic Stitch? Never heard about Hipsters
  3. If you use frequently an app it’s because you feel gain, not pain. Negative emotions could be an effective trigger…but not so strong and long-lasting like apps linked to positive feelings. I personally recognise that Glympse shines for its utility: people waiting for me could be notified, in real-time, about where I am and that I’m late. Anyway, when talking about geoloc apps, I do prefer Swarm: I get the narcissistic gratification and maybe a FOMO effect on my social media friends. I can show off the cool places and events I am in…without the pain of the mixed guilty-ashamed feeling of sharing that I’m late! If you are curious to discover if you are Yolo, Fomo or Jomo take the test here.
  4. Give people a real motivation to keep using your apps. The most engaging motivations are: Autonomy: your user is in charge. That’s a key human driver: when you feel like you’re in charge, you stick to your goals for a longer period of time. If you add as well some fun…well you get  Dubmash Competence: the better you get at something, the more likely is that you’ll continue doing it. That’s why your app should be simple and focused on one of the abilities your users would be proud of excelling in: time, money, knowledge, brain power, social recognition.  Try Trivia Crack. Value and commitment: it could sound obvious. You’re more motivated to complete a goal when you value it. We are always at risk to spend our time doing things because influenced by incidental needs or driven by what other people or society give value to, things not meaningful to us. Many productivity apps, in the effort of minimising your set up time, offer you a drop down menu with pre-filled categories to choose from…slightly pushing you to go on auto-pilot. Full, for instance, is a productivity app sending you gentle reminders but avoiding all the easy mechanisms to push you in a direction you could not be fully committed to pursue. No to pre-populated categories, no to automatically broadcast your progress into social media, no to rely mainly on social control to reach your own goals, no to transform your personal achievements into a collective affair. The logic behind Full is that your goals should be meaningful to you and to reach them you should cut off the noise and be focused on the result.Fig5.1_Intrinsic_extinsic_motivation_illustration
  5.  Implement a rewarding system, but don’t buy your users. The technique of offering a prize is a short-term trigger. Prizes should be part of contests and marketing campaigns, it shouldn’t be your main users acquisition strategy. To keep your users you should associate simple actions/motivations (autonomy, social rewarding, competence…) to an easy and intuitive rewarding system. Yes, it’s gamification again! Remember KISS. Keep it simple and stupid. Try aa or zigzag.
  6. Let people do efforts within your apps. An investment is often based on what is called the Ikea effect: if you built something by yourself you will be emotionally attached to it. It is called cognitive dissonance: we have the tendency to review the past based on our present actions. I invested on it = it must be worth.
  7. Be clear about the service you are offering. To provide a useful and valuable service is one of the best way to build a habit. Think about Waze.
  8. Likes are addictive: You tweet, scroll over, see how long it takes to get some love. And if nobody loves your tweet…you’ll be thrown down into a deep sense of disappointment. The 2014 Ford Consumer Trends report  found out that 62% of adults claims to have better self-esteem after a positive social-media feedback. Our social media persona is in constant need of instant gratification. We live in a world where faster is better and if I want something I must get it now. Consider it when building your app. The Lovematically experiment  proves how much likes are addictive and how much could be easy to hack social apps. Back to 2014 Rameet Chawla developed a bot, Lovematically, for automatically crawling his Instagram feeds and AUTOMATICALLY liking every single picture that every single person he followed posted. He become extremely popular: he got as average more than 30 new followers per day, the number of likes to his pictures went up to the roof and he created a huge amount of leads. #Instafamous.

Bonus track: The Manipulation Matrix

For building addictive apps a must read is Nir Eyal’s blog. He built an easy model called “the Manipulation Matrix” that would like to help you answer not to the question “Can I hook users?” but to “Should I attempt to?”. First, as the creator of the app, you are the maker. And you should ask to yourself: “Will I use the product?” The second question to ask is: “Will the app improve users lives?”

Manipulation matrix

Farmville is a dealer app: it DOESN’T materially improve people lives and its makers don’t use it.

Check the Nir Eyal blog for more insights!

About the author /

Related Articles

Post your comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *