I use the words ‘maximize’, ‘increase’ and ‘grow’ far too many times a day. The “bigger/stronger/faster is better” mindset is ingrained in us - survival of the fittest and all that. Sure, most of the time it’s what we want and what we need. Maximise revenue; increase retention, grow your user base. It’d be a brave person to say otherwise, right?
And so it also seems logical to apply these kinds of steroidal verbs when talking about engagement. I mean, does your engagement even lift, bruh? Or if not verbs of growth or power, we use possessive and needy ones, about keeping users in apps for as long as possible; our tentacles trying to keep that grip tight on them.
And you know, in some cases, this is how apps need to think - media apps, social apps or mobile games for instance. The more time spent by users in the app, the more ads will be seen, or the more loyal they will become due to familiarity - we’re creatures of habit after all. In all those cases, it makes perfect sense to drive engagement ever upward.
But for a huge amount of apps, this isn’t the case, and there is a growing shift amongst the sharp minds of mobile marketing to minimize engagement in apps. Why? Because if an app exists to enable the user to perform a certain task, the faster they can do that the better.
Let’s take a look at a few apps that do this brilliantly: Uber solves the problem of “I need to get home”, Grubhub solves the problem of “I need to eat”, and Venmo solves the problem of “I need to split a bill” - all in just a couple of simple screen touches. The user can then close the app, within a matter of seconds or at the very most a few minutes. The app’s job is done, the transaction is secured, and the user can get on with the rest of their life until the next time they need its service.
It makes total sense, and illustrates a wider truth about designing your app around what you actually want your users to achieve. This is what great design is all about - doing something brilliantly in a simple way that fulfills a particular need, and this is what more apps should be striving for.
How do they make this happen? Simply by relentlessly optimizing and iterating user experience until the process is as simple as possible. These mobile businesses understand that they are only as good as the experience they deliver. They ensure they have the ability to edit the native app experience dynamically, and they use that ability to A/B test those experiences relentlessly.
It sounds obvious, but sometimes app elements as simple as the positioning of options on a menu, or even the wording on a particular button, can have a major impact on transaction speed. But you can’t make those decisions before you’ve understood that sometimes less engagement is more.
tl;dr - longer isn’t always better. This is also the case for blog posts.