6 ways you can improve your product’s engagement


Written by

Duncan Bell, Designer

How do you measure success?


When building a digital product, units sold, or users subscribed is often not enough and success will look different depending what stage your company is at.

What you will definitely want is a high level of engagement on your app or website.

It would be easy to say that getting high engagement is just about having a good well-marketed product that solves people’s problems.

But that’s not all that practical.

The question is of course how do you make a good product? Not just a good idea but something that works well and makes people want to come back to it time and time again.

A lot of the answers below have popped up in some of our previous blog posts. We’ll mention them when they come up.

There’s a number of ways you can get people to use your app. Here’s 6 of the best.

What do we mean by engagement?


First though, we better establish what we mean by engagement.

Engagement levels are one of those numbers it’s easy to get excited about but if they’re not actually improving the overall financial success of your business, then they may be less useful than you think.

These numbers are often referred to as vanity metrics. Follower counts, views, signups etc. All things that can make you look good but ultimately have no impact on your bottom line.

One way of getting people onto your app is using offers or discounts, only available if you sign up within a certain time frame or through a referral link.

But if the experience of the app itself is no good then those users will soon drop away and never log on again. Sign-ups might be significant but it’s not true engagement.

What we’re talking about is users coming back again and again and making the app or website a regular or significant part of their life.

A successful digital product should be aiming for retention of existing users, not churning through new ones.

So how do you do that?

Get in position


In a previous post on making a splash in fintech, we talked about doing one thing really well as a way of standing out.

You can read what we said about that here. It equally applies to improving engagement.

Attempting to be all things to all people is not only a poor way of attracting attention but it also makes it harder to create a good app.

On the other hand, delivering one niche feature for a wide audience or solving problems for a niche audience is much more likely to result in a quality experience because more time will have been spent researching the problem you’re trying to solve or the people you’re trying to reach.

It’s far better to have 10,000 engaged users than 100,000 people who sign up, use the product once and then never log on again.

Something else you’re likely to find out in that research stage is how much experience your target audience has with similar products or features. This should inform how much help they’re going to need to make use of the product’s features.

Make your forms accessible


Accessibility is key to increasing engagement in any product.

We looked at the wider topic of accessibility in our blog on UX changing people’s lives but nowhere is it more important than in the onboarding process of an app or when a user is navigating through forms.

There are a few ways you can make these bits more accessible.

One thing is improving the precision and responsiveness of your tap zones which makes for a much easier to use interface. Small and fiddly selection boxes and links will put people off quicker than you can say ‘uninstall’, especially if they keep accidentally inputting the wrong data.

Another is having appropriate inputs for relevant questions, a small but surprisingly influential design choice. When inputting dates for example, it’s far easier to type in numbers than select dates from a drop-down calendar. It’s even better if the field changes automatically when a number has been typed in.

We’ve also got to talk about sliders.

Cool to look at? Sure. Easy to use? Often not.

The thing is, sliders, for increasing budget or volume amounts are not actually that accessible. If you’re using a screen reader or you struggle with motor skills it’s difficult to input an accurate amount.

Even for a desktop user, sliders present an unsatisfying and sub-optimal user experience when using a mouse.

The main aim with improving forms is to reduce cognitive load and the time it takes to move between questions. The less that people have to remember and the quicker they can get through a form, the more questions you can ask.

Create holistic and frictionless navigation


Ever navigated to a page and hit a dead end? No way to get back to where you were before, and no clear way to get back to the home page or somewhere else more… familiar.

If you want people to return to your app or continue spending time on it, it’s important that your navigation is both frictionless and holistic.

And by holistic we mean an app or website that is interconnected and feels complete. At any point a user should be able to return home. They should also be able to return to a place they’ve been before and have any of their previous interactions remembered.

Think of social media platforms like Twitter. You can like a tweet with one interaction, go back to the home page, your profile or even turn off the app and when you return to the tweet your action should still be registered (obviously this is less good news for anyone who’s accidentally liked something).

Particularly in forms that require entering significant amounts of information, users want to know that if they ever dip out, they won’t have to worry about losing anything. This was a big factor in improving one of our clients conversion rates.

Allowing users to move around a digital product with ease is all about reducing friction. Removing unnecessary menus and decreasing load speed are good places to start.

Good UX Copy


One of the most important parts of UX design is actually the text!

This is something we looked at in our post on making money accessible. The words you use and the questions you ask can all have a big impact on how likely people are to return to your product.

How you ask the questions in your forms or onboarding process can massively change how likely people are to continue using the product. Monzo do this really well.

The gov.uk website is also a prime example of using non-leading questions that lead to absolute answers, therefore making it easy for anyone to use. Even the cookies banner presents two buttons with clear responses.

It’s possible to ask a question with 2 options where the answer you’re looking for isn’t actually that clear.

For example, when asked if you want to cancel a membership you might be faced with 2 options which sound like the same thing. ‘Yes’ to cancel the membership or ‘Cancel’ to cancel the action of cancelling.

This can be made far clearer by adding a few more words, and importantly, making it more human. For example, ‘Yes, I would like to cancel’ or ‘no, please go back.’

Other things that good copy can do is congratulating users for completing a section of a form filling process. As well as making them feel welcomed this gives them a breather to pause and offload previous information, so they’re ready to move on to the next question.

All the copy needs to be in line with your brand and be consistent across the whole product.

Accessible design doesn't have to look pretty. The UK Government website is a great example of clear UX copy and accessible design.  

Keep everything consistent


But it’s not just how you speak. The inputs and buttons you use require just as much consistency.

Web accessibility as a whole would definitely benefit from greater consistency when it comes to these things. When more and more of the same inputs are used across the web, you reduce the barriers to entry to digital products.  

You can contribute to that by creating a consistent navigation and input system in your product. That means a small range of input types, such as buttons and text.

But they also need to be appropriate to the app. For Instagram’s editing features, they only use sliders, but this works on an app that is mainly going to be used with thumbs.

When people don’t have to think too hard about the tech they’re using, they quickly become more familiar with it and are more likely to spend time using it.

Make it personal


What you don’t want is for this consistency to be robotic and replace the personality of your brand. Creating a personal connection with your users and making them feel a part of something is still very important.

Getting to know the user and remembering their preferences is a great way of increasing engagement. That might be done through personalised recommendations, customisation tools or simply dropping their name into the communication.

A lot of that connection is made through the copy, like we mentioned above.

Including affirmation in your responses and making it clear that the product is speaking directly to the user is a good way of making them feel comfortable.

As well as this more and more apps are using past interactions with the product to inform how they respond to the user. Data collection is obviously a concern these days but if you can communicate clearly that the information you’re collecting is only used to benefit their user experience, people are more likely to accept it.

Find out what to prioritise by testing


If your product is already out in the world and you’re hoping to increase engagement, you may want to check out one or more of the suggestions above.

You won’t necessarily be able to sort all of them straight away so it’s important to prioritise your actions based on what is going to have the most impact. How do you find out what that’s going to be?

You test. A/B testing is one of the ways we improve systems and processes for our clients, and it’s proven to help digital products find what works and what doesn’t.

Implementing incremental changes and seeing how users respond is the best way of finding out what’s best for your product.

Change is gradual but it can happen if you implement the right things.

Happy building!