Front runners

The power of the Visual in websites, webapps and games

Call To Games — Jun 2017

Whenever you taste a new dish or drink for the first time, you know at that exact moment if you'll come back for more or if it was simultaneously the first and last time!

Vini, Subsisto, Rediit

(arrived, stayed, returned)

It works more or less the same way with digital experiences. After accessing a website, web applications or an online game for the first time a few seconds later you have a pretty good idea if you are going to be back regularly or if you’ll close the window or even delete the app.

If you enjoyed it - you’ll return

If you didn’t but you have to use it - you’ll return

If you didn’t enjoy it and you don’t have to use it - you’ll probably never be back.

What makes you go there the first time?

Let’s start from the beginning.

Before you live a new digital experience, or in simple words – navigate into a new web portal or app, you first need to know that it exists. So the first question is how did you find it? How did you get to that new web portal or fancy application, what made you open it for the first time?

We have 3 possible answers:

  1. You searched for it because you needed something, and when you are looking for something specific
  2. It was shown to you by a friend, colleague, family member in the real world or digital world and
  3. It got to you in any form of publicity also in the real or digital world.

So, whatever the reason you landed on this new web portal or app for the first time, 2 things happened

  1. You’ve showed interest and
  2. You found it, or first you found it and then you’ve showed interest.

And this takes us to the next question. You found the app you were looking for, what’s next? What are the characteristic that make you stay and not close it few seconds later?

What makes you stay?

Now that you are living a new digital experience, there are a few set of characteristics that make you stay for a while and not just jump to the next one. The list can be extensive, so let’s limit it to 5 reasons:

  1. Interesting content
As mentioned before, Interest is a must. First, you showed interest in a specific topic, now the web portal or app has to answer your interest with content. If it provides what you’re looking for, then I can assure that you’ll stay there for a while and absorb what it has to offer.

  3. Simple and stupid

  4. If the web portal or app provides you with a good user experience - allowing you to find information and perform tasks without effort - following the rule “don’t make me think”, than the probability of you staying and not jumping to the competitor will increase.

    For example, how many times have you abandoned an online purchase because the process was too long, too difficult to understand and the amount of data to insert was just too much? One of the principles behind online shops is that the purchase must be as simple as the real shopping purchase at a shop.

  5. No bad surprises
  6. Nobody likes them! But bad surprises are everywhere, for example, broken links, advertisement of every kind, unexpected costs. The key to avoiding bad surprises is to align expectations – You’ll probably not abandon a web portal because you’ve found a broken link, it just made you a little bit disappointed. Advertisements in the middle of an article or in an overlay that interrupts your navigations are very annoying and here you start to filter portals with too much adverts (or you simply turn your add block on), but if you are purchasing a 10€ product on Amazon and the delivery cost is 10€ - you’ll probably abandon the purchase and close the amazon window.

    On the other hand, if you only have good surprises - you’ll stay for sure!

  7. Useful
If the web portal or app is useful and answers your needs, you’ll stay and more than that you’ll return. Being useful is perhaps the hardest to achieve, and in these scenario you may even be in a web portal with poor UX, poor UI but you still go there because if provides you with the service you need.

  9. Good UI

  10. And last but not least, good UI. Yes, sometimes we just want to see cool, beautiful and different things. Normally someone says “Check out this amazing site with great pictures”. And we go, and stay for a while, and then? Do we come back for more?

These are 5 of the innumerous things that make users revisit/reuse a web portal or app, but are they enough to make users turn back? Well, probably not, and this takes us to the next big question:

What makes you come back?

You’ve found it, you’ve stayed there for a while and now what? What makes you return to that portal that you once visited? What are the characteristics of an app that we keep on using? There are thousands of reasons to return to a portal, but let’s focus on 5 of the most important:

  1. Personalized contents
  2. Once again the Interest is king. Personalized content means dedicated and interesting content to you in particular. The capacity that a web portal or app has to adapt contents to the user in context is a key differentiator. The intelligence of knowing who is on the other side and continuously recommend content of interest is one of the main reasons why you stay in a web portal and return!

  3. New and fresh contents
  4. Why do you start all your mornings with checking the news? Why are you constantly checking social networks? Because information is constantly changing: You see something new, something to learn, and something to kill your thirst for knowledge – every single day. Combining new and fresh with personalized and interesting contents assures loyal users for the next years.

  5. Engage with other channels
  6. When a portal or app is complemented by other channels and touchpoints the probability of having a fixed group of users is higher. A good customer experience can be achieved when one product is spread across multiple channels and touchpoints but the user keeps seeing it as a unique experience.

    Depending on the domain of the portal or app, different strategies can be applied in terms of complementary channels, for example, a blog is perfectly matched with facebook and twitter. Bloggers write their posts in one platform and then share them on different social networks - nowadays a blog without a social network to support it is just a diary. With this, bloggers are engaging users and making them return and bring newcomers.

  7. Rewards
  8. Users can be rewarded by multiple means. The most common and easiest - thank users!

    Besides the simple “thank you” there are many other ways to reward users and make them return, for example when a web portal or app offers you recognition announcing your achievements on a social network, in return you and your social network friends will come back to the portal and follow them on the social network.

    Using gamification is another way of getting rewards. Do you remember the online game MyBrute? It is or was a web site where you would select a character (named Brute) to fight against other Brutes. After selecting your character, you just see Brutes fighting each other. Your interaction is almost zero, but you always have a reward… sometimes you see your Brute win the fight, other times you are rewarded with revenge and need to go to the next fight, but whatever the result was, you always came back for more!

    MyBrute was definitely a winner on users coming back to play a pointless game.

  9. You must go there
  10. When you gotta go, you gotta go and there are a lot of web portals and applications that you must use regularly.

    There are two types of must go applications: the have to go and the need to go. The have to go is for example your web banking or the finance governmental portal that you use at least once a year. Normally, you don’t like using them because they are complex, boring and you are using not because you want but because you have to.

    The need to go are all the web portals that made you addicted and for some reason you need them, currently social networks are at the top of the list of need to go applications, but gradually users are becoming more chat apps addicted. And what will come next?


Bottom line: If a web portal or app has interesting, useful and updated contents and is not filled with unnecessary information, if it treats loyal user well and offers rewards, if it provides a good customer experience, and if it knows who the person on the other side is and shows/ recommends intelligent information, than this portal will gain users respect and loyalty.

"Data can help make good design great, but will never make bad design good".