First time user experience

The first time user experience has to be multiples better than competing solutions’ experience for an existing user. If setting up the app takes longer than it would for the user to use a competing service to accomplish the same task, then a user is going to give up on your app. If it even seems like it’s more difficult than the alternative, then the user is going to give up. People are lazy and hate change.

With Bloon, I initially developed the experience as if the user had been a user for a long time and understood everything about the product. I thought that if Bloon is really useful for that user, then that user would invite other users, who would also eventually discover how useful Bloon is. In my first version, I didn’t educate the user about what Bloon does, mostly because I wanted to personally use it with friends first and see if it was actually useful. But the first time user experience is just as important as the product itself.

Well, it’s impossible for a new user to even get to the state where I had imagined users (long time user, understands everything about the product) if you don’t focus on (1) educating them about the product through the onboarding process, and (2) making the first time use case worth getting through.

A critical part of using Bloon is inviting friends to your activity. If a user doesn’t invite friends, then Bloon is completely useless. Well, a user will only continue using a product if the user thinks that it’s still worth it (ie the advantage of going through with this new thing is still greater than using an alternative service to solve my problem). In the case of Bloon, it’s definitely not as easy to invite friends to an activity on Bloon than it is to do the same over email / text / facebook. And while Bloon does offer some advantage over the previously listed services, a user will never get to see / feel these advantages because they come only after friends are invited.

The second time a user uses Bloon, it’s easier than the alternatives. Unfortunately getting users to that second use is impossible without getting them through the first use, a critical flaw for Bloon. This is why onboarding is such an important part of the product. Getting people in the door (on your landing page / downloaded your app) is wasted if the onboarding process and first time use experience is subpar compared to their alternative solutions.

For services where the alternative solution is not as defined, getting to the “ah ha” moment as soon as possible is critical. Why should the user keep using your product, come back, and invite friends? The value proposition has to be there, but the user has to feel it right away.

First time use experience is just as important as the experience for existing users. Spend as much time, if not more, thinking about how to make the first time use experience great. These mistakes that I made cascade from my earlier mistake of not doing user research and user testing before I built the first version of Bloon. I think the right way to solve this problem for Bloon is to have a 1 player / 2 player mode, which would make Bloon an entirely different product.

Start with an extremely specific use case. Who is the user going to be?

I had thought that I understood my target market: anyone who organizes and participates in social activities. I thought that Bloon would lower the bar for people who don’t frequently organizer to organize. As a non-organizer, I cared more about the thought process of non-organizers. Turns out I focused the product features to be more advantageous to invitees - in my head they were my customers. Unfortunately, organizers are the ones that would be using Bloon the most. And if they didn’t feel that Bloon was easier to use than email / text on the first use, then it didn’t matter that invitees may love Bloon.

I realized this mistake after the first iteration of the product, and was able to change the product a to target organizers. However, Bloon would be a different product if I had focused on organizers from the beginning. Maybe it wouldn’t have made sense to build Bloon at all if I realized at the beginning what’s most important for organizers.

But even when I started focusing on organizers, I realized that even organizers is too broad a market. Specifically, it’s difficult to solve a general problem well, and it’s difficult to market towards a still diverse group of people who label themselves as organizers. You have to dive into a very specific use case for organizers and focus on solving one use case very well. Focus on specific use cases where (1) organizers feel a lot of pain, (2) there are no good existing solutions for the pain point. Then figure out how you can solve this pain point well.