Behavioral product strategist and gamification designer. This is my public hypertext notebook, sharing my thinking in motion at various stages of development.


Apps with continued user involvement respond to changing user goals over time

New users do not yet have the vocabulary to understand the app, but as User skill level increases over time, so does their vocabulary. They are able to conceptualize and express desires that they couldn’t express before, so User goals change over time. If the app can only handle the user's goals 2 weeks in but not 2 months in, then it can't expect the user's continued involvement.

This points to the importance of Continuous onboarding for Difficulty Matching. If the user's skill level doesn't increase over time to match the challenge that their new goals require, then the user will get frustrated and give up. Apps with continued user involvement are responsive to increasing skill levels over time.

Often times the user’s goals change entirely, so Apps with continued user involvement enable the user to accomplish multiple goals.

Roam Research

Roam is a great example of this. When they introduced bidirectional links, filters, and block references, they exposed users to a whole new vocabulary that they did not have before. They don’t have much of an Adoption process in the app, but they were able to Speak to the user with a shared vocabulary by bringing in the support of the community. Continuous onboarding can come from the community. As the user becomes more familiar with the functionality of Roam, they are able to realize “wow, I need bidirectional links in every app that I use” or “Wow, Roam can’t do this thing that I never knew I wanted before I was exposed to bidirectional links in the first place.”

What’s important to note is that Roam’s feature set is designed to be building blocks for just about whatever you want. It’s flexible enough to deal with most user goals that develop even before new features are developed.


The same may be happening with HEY, but I’m not sure if they are as flexible. As an email service, they introduced new workflows to the user that many may not have realized they needed before: * Reply Later means that they can manage their emails with lightweight todos * Screener means that they can be much more intentional about what they do with emails than they may have realized * Imbox, Feed, and Paper Trail means that there’s a specific place for each email

HEY’s thinking is that the problem with email is primarily in how people use it, so it has designed specific workflows. I worry that in doing that, they have limited themselves to people that fit a specific user group, which may be effective for adoption and they may be fine with, since Adoption requires a baseline of user involvement in order to overcome inertia and starting fresh with a new email lowers the email overwhelm users would normally experience. However, I’m not sure if the features and UX that they have designed are flexible enough to develop with the user’s changing goals over time. Much of their functionality doesn’t feel like it’s meant to be building blocks that can combine with each other.

They have exposed the user to a new vocabulary, but what happens now that the user can more clearly articulate what they want and need than they could before and are stuck with the way that HEY works?