When we are building the latest and greatest application, it is easy to get carried away with adding new features and functionality that will hook your audience and an intelligent user experience that will reel them in, argues Paul Napier, iOS developer at Mi9.
But stop for a minute and consider that in our efforts to harness the power of social media and gather the information we need to make the application better for our users we may be creating barriers.
In a recent survey, I measured a number of different factors to understand some of the pain points users face. Let’s look at how we can overcome them:
Stop forcing users to sign in
When ranking the issues users face coming across a new app, this problem came top of the list, with 50 per cent of the users stating that this was their number one annoyance. Users don’t like to be boxed in or feel like they are forced into giving away their details. I have to admit that this is also one of my pet hates. How do I know the app suits my needs? How can I play with some of the awesome features? How can I come to love it? It is sad, but as soon as I am faced with this, the very first thing I do is… delete. Perhaps, I am losing out, but I feel that if I am going to offer my personal information to a company, then I should at least understand what it is I am getting in return.
The way around this is quite simple in concept if not in implementation. We want to get into your app and see what it does. So give us somewhere to play.
Users want to play with your app, discover its features, grow to love it, make sure it can add benefit to their lives. And the only way they can do all of this is to get inside and start using it. This does not mean you have to grant access to everything, of course. But consider this an app-etiser (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun!). It is a taster that whets the appetite before the main course, and only some of your exciting features are available. The other even more exciting features will be visible behind the registration window enticing users to come inside where they can enjoy the full-featured app. Then, like with in-app purchases, when users trust your app, they will be happy to pay for these additional features by granting access to their personal information.
Give alternative sign in solutions
Recently, I was working on a project that only offered one option to sign into the app. The reason was simply that the owners of this application wanted to gather information that would help their app tailor their content to the preferences of the user based on a professional status and did not want to have the user relying purely on page visits to power the recommendations. Of course, this type of recommendation engine is a great way to build up trust and a strong relationship between the user and your app. However, not every user is the same. Factors such as personal preference, trust, corporate privacy policies or even the dreaded “I don’t use that social network” can severely impact whether users do or even are legally allowed to sign into your app using certain social media profiles.
Offer choice a choice of sign-ins. The survey found that users have a strong tendency to prefer using Facebook to sign into a new mobile app, but that this is followed closely by email. Not far behind these come Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. Offering a range of sign in solutions shows the users you are flexible and can work with their preferences, corporate policies and lifestyle.
What’s more, it does not only benefit your user, but it also allows you to start building a greater picture about your user base. You can understand the mentality of your users and how they position you application based on the sign in method they use. By offering the option to connect profiles, you can begin to really drill down your content and the behaviour of your application based on various preferences gathered across multiple social profiles. All in all you can truly connect a lot of dots.
Start explaining why you need the information
Asking for permissions can sometimes be a confusing experience for users. They are given the option to sign in, and then presented with a host of permission requests. The obvious question that pops into their minds is: “Why do I need this?”
A successful app is one which onboards properly. Onboarding is the process of informing your users what the app does and how it works, but it is often forgotten that the best information comes before the app does something. It is an artform and it is your friend, so use it wisely!
Let’s take an example: you have created an app and given them a play area, but now the user has found out you have an add friends feature. “Great!” they think. “I want to invite my friends to come join me here!” So they touch the button. At this point we could have one of two things happen:
- The app could jump right into the process of signing in, or
- The app could show a quick helper hint to say it was about to ask for permission to sign in.
Some users may be ok with the first option, but the second just seems more courteous. There is no surprise, but a simple message asking them for permission to move forward and perhaps a checkbox to prevent any further messages like this fro coming up again. By informing the user that something is going to happen, you forestall the confusion or anger that could come from the surprise jump into signing in. The survey found that of all the issues users face, this was second most on their minds so it is an important to overcome this with the most appropriate onboarding experience you can.
Don’t be permission greedy
I have lost count of the times I have switched the method of signing into an app or, come to that, any other media that employs a social sign in mechanism simply because the developers have been too permission greedy. Again, I am not in the minority. The survey found that an overwhelming percentage (almost 70 per cent) of users prefer to sign into applications with only minimal permissions.
When looking at your app decide which permissions you truly want and/or need. If you start asking for too many, you will find you start building up a real social barrier to entry and force the majority of your users to select an alternative method of signing in or just leaving your app altogether. It’s understandable that you want as much rich data about your users as you can get, but consider the (paraphrased) old adage: “What would you prefer 20 per cent of $100 or 100 per cent or $0?”
Make sure you only ask for permissions relevant to your app
Sometimes an app can ask for permissions that just seem out of sorts with their function. Recent examples of this can be seen in the press around the Facebook messenger app, which specifically requests permission for things like listening to phone calls or making them on your behalf. Often these kind of out-of-character permission requests can cause confusion which can lead to anger. Users will not only shun your app, but they will take a stand in the public domain and tell all their friends, colleagues, followers and more to avoid you.
These issues can often come from the way the platforms group permissions together, so for example I might want to access a part of your profile, but in order to do this I need to access a network permission or relationship status. Unfortunately, the user does not know this and it is your job to help them understand. Just look at what you need and make sure you only ask for these permissions. If you are going to ask for something which might fall into the “dodgy” category, onboard the user and explain why you need it.
Be careful with the most personal permissions
All permissions are equal, but some are more equal than others! As you may already know, users can be very specific around which permissions they will or won’t allow you to access. In the survey, we covered all permission relating to apps for Facebook sign in and discovered that the top permissions that would prevent a user to moving forward were accessing messages, accessing relationship status, accessing photos and accessing friends lists.
Of course if you have created a dating app, then things like photos and relationship status are probably quite vital to the success of your app. However if you have created a calculator, they might not be. However, your calculator might have a specific reason why they want to access these permission such as allowing you to upload a new background from your Facebook photos. Again this boils down to being specific and communicating to the user. If your app has potentially does, tell the user before you ask for that permission or you run the risk of barricading them out.
Spread permission requests around
The way an app requests permissions for specific phone functionality can interfere with the social media sign in, especially with iOS. Often an app will want to do many things, such as:
- Send Push notifications
- Access location
- Access the microphone
- Sign in using a social profile
Beware! Users hate being bombarded by permission requests en masse. There is nothing more frustrating than having to press through a suite of alert pop ups, and then having to go through a registration process.
Only ask for permissions when you need them. For instance, if you want to access the location but it is not vital to your app until a certain point such as a map showing points of interest around them, don’t ask for the permission until you reach this point. Spreading your permission requests around helps the user become more deeply ingrained losing some of the fear of what they might be giving away.
Beware the hated “Post on your behalf” permission
This is a common request from developers who want to post out messages to tempt new users to download the app. However, the survey found that almost 90 per cent of users will not grant the app permission to post on their behalf. Thankfully, Facebook has set this aside as a separate optional permission meaning that users can still go through the registration process without having to grant this permission. Unfortunately, not all social networks have decided to follow this process.
If you are not using Facebook, just be careful what you ask for, as it can sometimes be bundled in with other permissions, and you will face the wrath of the user if you are not clear with your onboarding. If you are using Facebook, just be aware that though users may not stop using your app if you ask for this permission, they are unlikely to thank you for it. If you are trying to engender trust, then either leave this out or explain why you need this permission through your onboarding process.
Make sure to reward their permission
There is very little that is more frustrating than coming through the sign in process and not getting anything back. If you simply get the same features, user interface or gameplay, then users are likely to become very upset with you. It feels as though you have been cheated and tricked into giving away something personal to you, which is exactly the opposite of what we want our users to feel.
Make sure that when users do take the time to sign in they are properly thanked and rewarded. It doesn’t have to to be a specific reward such as a discount (although that is a great feature to have!), but it should be something more such as extra features available, new game modes or levels, access to friends and so forth. The most important thing is to keep your promise of giving them something new, fun, entertaining or informative for their time and information.
So what can we learn from these?
Social sign in to mobile apps is growing rapidly to the point where it is becoming a natural extension for the user into a personalised, data-driven experience. However, at every stage of this process, we have to ensure we are delivering the right message to our users inline with their expectations and our core values so that we continue to engender trust. Essentially, this boils down to three key concepts:
- Be selective about when and which permissions to use
- Analyse user feedback and responses to continually improve
- Communicate, communicate and communicate again!