Your apps are easier to use with progressive usability

May 2, 2024

The key to functional mobile apps is their usability. Software has evolved over the last decade and how they have changed through the years in terms of usage of apps. From the early days of creating idiot-proof apps, which are designed for non-techy people to use, apps with progressive usability are what is trending today.

Progressive usability defines as when we adapt to the changes users need in an app. Think about the latest banking or food delivery apps, it releases new updates to make the app more usable for the needs of users. If there are features that aren’t easy to use, the more it will be frustrating for users or a reason to switch to a different app. Progressive usability is important when building apps because you put your customer first, you think about how users will navigate through the app.

Our Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dave Overton and Chief Design Officer (CDO) Dan Pantinople both share their thoughts on leveraging progressive usability.

How to get users to enjoy your app?

Dan, Chief Design Officer of Symph

In life, there is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, in UX there is Aarron Walter's Hierarchy of User Needs. It talks about meeting basic user needs that interfaces must fulfill first before more advanced needs can be addressed. On the fundamental level, it’s about making your product satisfy your user’s needs and be useful - it should be functional first. The second is reliability where the interface should always work as expected. Next is Usability where it’s about making it easy for users to discover, learn and use all features. These 3 are prerequisites in order for your product to become delightful and make users have an emotional experience which takes me to the last level - Pleasurable.

Designing for emotion or making the experience delightful or pleasurable is key to having users enjoy your app more. There are a lot of ways of making it delightful, some basic things you can do on the surface level are animations (when done correctly), microcopy - where you can establish a persona or a voice or add in some humor to your UX copy, beautiful imagery, and more. On a deeper level, when all of these prerequisites are met, users start to go be “in the zone” or achieve a state of “flow” wherein users are so immersed in using the product. This state of deep delight is what all products should aim for.

Dave, Chief Executive Officer of Symph

"In the growth stage of a startup, you're looking at expanding. Through the classic Crossing the Chasm type of advice, you're looking at starting on a beachhead and expanding through that, and as you expand, you go into the mainstream market. I think one of the things that block a mainstream user is the non-techy users, such as the older generation. For example, I understand why my parents think about things a certain way because it was different from how we grew up. It’s important to get their perspective so you can also understand their behavior in an app.

With cryptocurrency, getting started is so complicated and requires some techie-ness. If I tell my mother to go sign up for a crypto wallet, she might be able to create a Coinbase account because they've done a lot to make the older generation understand it. For a crypto wallet, she might get lost along the way (Mom, I love you 😂) especially when it comes to making an address. Using this example and thinking about things from that perspective can be very valuable as you go into this growth stage as a startup."

The UI/UX perspective of apps

Dan, Chief Design Officer of Symph

It's like how the internet started. It was just all cold at the start and it was hard to understand technical terms. It was mostly targeted at developers or techy people, but eventually, everyone got into it. There are great solutions out there with great user experience. People flock to solutions with better experiences, that’s how a target market grows. When it gets better, more people get exposed to it. An example is a cryptocurrency that always aims to have good UX. Lots of these solutions are coming out with better solutions, including UI and UX to make it easier for users. It’s making progressive enhancement, as long as the core is intact, you can make the experience better for people.

Dave, Chief Executive Officer of Symph

You have to be able to identify what is this next target market that we're looking to expand into, and then what are the obstacles that we will meet to make us rethink (our strategy). The early adopters or the first market are important in the development phase, and as you want a bridge out from those early adopters into that mainstream market, these are the challenges that you're going to face if you want to grow, making sure that users understand how to use the app. That's where UI/UX can help you because it can help you identify what are those challenges that all users will face when they try to sign up for your product or service.

How can progressive usability help?

Dan, Chief Design Officer of Symph

I see it as an evolution of the experience. When you first launch a product, you usually start with the core idea, whether it's e-commerce or a completely new idea you begin with making it easy for users to get to the end goal (e.g. checking out on e-commerce). As you gain more users and learn more about their behavior and motivations you start to optimize the experience that makes it better, easier, and more delightful for them to use. This will make it more rewarding for your loyal users and a better initial experience for new users that will make them come back for more.

Dave, Chief Executive Officer of Symph

In general, your app should be usable. It should be very clear on what a user should be able to do with the app. And to get started should be very easy, very basic, and very straightforward. And I think a lot of those things are enabled by UI and UX.

You do have to understand your users, you shouldn't launch your app and be confused about what your users should do next, and I think that there are a ton of principles about this. As the user grows or matures, you would find ways to be able to unlock more features for them. When it comes to the term idiot-proof app, it's not just saying that they're an idiot but you don't necessarily have to show them everything right at once. If I, a user of the app, have this overlay guide that shows me all the features that I can do, I'm just going to be overwhelmed. It will result in me just clicking through so that I can do the one thing I want to do.

When building your app, understand how your people will use it, and that will help you grow users. Keeping in mind progressive usability will give your app a higher chance of success. Check why UI/UX helps a company’s growth.

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