In April 2019, IKEA opened Planning Studio, the compact store oriented around consultation for the urban life-style, in Manhattan. This 17,350 sq.ft. store is only one-fortieth of the size of their biggest stores, and it covers only 1,000 of the 9,000 items in inventory. The initiative in Manhattan is the third one in the world, after the other two located in London.
I recently visited the studio, which made me think of what IKEA meant to me and where they are headed. My impression of IKEA had been that it was a furniture version of Walmart with their large store size and the general coverage of many home items. For both entities, people tend to plan their visits ahead of time and intend to buy a lot in one trip. Moreover, these stores are known for being set in suburban locations. With this context, IKEA’s store-design masters customer-seduction for their impulsive purchases.
In WWDC 2019, Apple unveiled iOS 13 featuring Dark Mode, Apple Sign In, Performance Optimizations and more. From one of the keynotes, Modernizing Your UI for iOS 13, I picked three UI improvements that I thought were worth taking notes on. Although they are subtle changes, these incremental updates can get users to take and dismiss actions a tiny bit faster.
Can one find out whether or not it is possible to cross each bridge exactly once?
This famous question from the 18th century, about seven bridges connecting two small islands over Pregel river (a small town Königsberg, today’s Kaliningrad, Russia) became the foundation of Graph Theory. This question provoked the curiosity of Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler; he was obsessed with finding a mathematical solution to this problem.
Hint and trigger users: When a technology is new and alien to users, familiar attributes could hint its function and trigger these users to take an action.
Manage expectations: People tend to over anticipate the capabilities of a new technology, because it is often communicated abstractly. By introducing familiar attributes, people can use their prior technological point of reference and lower their expectations to ones that are more in line with the reality of the technology’s capabilities.
Connect emotionally: A solely functional product can isolate users, especially when the technology is new, because they cannot relate it to their past memory. Referencing something in the past could bridge this gap.
In 2007, right after Steve Jobs first revealed the iPhone in a presentation focusing on Apple’s intent to reinvent the phone, Jobs opened the conversation on the revolutionary user interface: The iPhone replaced the physical keyboards of every smartphone at the time with a full-screen interface maneuvered by a pointing device, the human finger. He argued how existing smartphones weren’t “smart” enough, because these physical interfaces didn’t change and optimize for each application. Then, he explained the multi-touch technology, which allowed the iPhone to have a flexible user interface.
I recently came across a blog post on inVision listing the most influential UI animations of all time (Inside Design by inVision). On the list, it starts out with a flashing cursor and a command-line interface from 1967, and includes AOL login screens from 1995, and the iMessage “is typing” chat bubbles. Many of the examples listed in the post were invented to communicate the state of the system’s side to users. The flashing cursor indicates that the system is waiting for a user to type something. The AOL animation tells users to be patient because the system is trying to connect to the internet through a slow phone line, so please enjoy the animation and think about how exciting the internet is.
Facebook debuted its Messenger bot platform in April 2016, and Google announced its Google Assistant in May 2016. During this time, I was on the team that launched The Wall Street Journal bot, which partnered with Facebook, and I witnessed how people’s expectations got so inflated.
Unlike regular mobile apps, users can interact with these bots in chat interfaces. It is an easy-to-understand metaphor for how AI (artificial intelligence) is becoming so human-like. People imagined themselves interacting with these bots just as if the bots were their friends and families.
Push notifications are an essential tool for bringing users back into apps. According to Invesp, sending push notifications can boost app engagement by up to 88%, whereas 65% of users return to an app within 30 days when push notifications are enabled. Push notifications can contribute to app retention rates up to 10 times more than apps without them.
iOS apps require asking users to opt-in for push notifications, unlike Android apps. Push notifications are significant for apps to re-engage with their users; without them opting in, apps can only wait for users to come back on their own, and they never do for most apps. If they say no to the initial request, the app cannot show the same request again. Those users would then have to open their iOS settings app and go through cumbersome steps to turn notifications on.
According to Statista, an average of 6,140 apps were released in Play Store everyday in the first quarter of 2018. Yet, 77% of users never returned to the app after 72 hours of installing it. What makes some apps stick so much better with users than others?
Gamification and a psychology behind Tinder
Gamification is, “the craft of deriving all the fun and addicting elements found in games and applying them to real-world or productive activities,”