Product creators must never lose sight one thing: as awesome as a product is, it is still easier for users to not use it and to continue with their current existence. As my friend, Lauren Gruenebaum, VP of Product, ROOT Insurance Company, says, “It’s easier for people to do nothing.”
Understanding a user’s current state and the path to using our product is almost always undervalued as product creators. Part of the undervaluing is understandable, because if we’ve been iterating closely with users during the product creation process (as we all should be), we now have the confidence that users like and want our product. Where we go wrong is believing this is enough. It isn’t.
We need to go to the next level of validation, which is making a user’s transition from their current state to the new reality that includes our product as easy as possible. Making this transition as frictionless as possible can be the difference between adoption and retention or failure.
Creating a frictionless experience begins with understanding and documenting a user’s current state. This can be accomplished through clear and detailed job stories and user stories — yes, you should not only be creating job stories and user stories for your product, you should also be creating them for the user’s current state. Once you create job and user stories for your product, you can define where the gaps are and know how the two existences differ. These gaps and differences give you the knowledge to address user challenges to adopting and using your product. If you don’t close the gaps between a user’s current state and their state with your product, your product is likely to fail or at least underperform.
In addition to user experience and functionality validation, you must ask how users are willing to think and act differently to use your product as compared to their current state. Your goal should be zero friction for new users to use your product. You may not be able to get to zero, but if that is your intent, you will continue to strive for the frictionless transition and improve when necessary. For example, if a user must download your product, you already have one friction point. If users must create an account solely to use your product, you have two friction points — and the user hasn’t even begun to use your product. Now let’s say users must input data to use your product. Now you are at three friction points. Experience tells us if you have more than three friction points, you are crossing a friction threshold you will not be able to overcome. Granted not all friction points are equal, but if you have more than three friction points to adopting and using your product, you have created an environment for users to do nothing.
A high friction threshold for adopting and using a product is hard to overcome because we are asking users to significantly change behavior. Getting users to changer behavior is a painful, expensive, and time-consuming journey that often ends in a failed product. As a product creator, you must consider the transition users must make from what they’re currently doing to what they need to do to use your product. Paint the picture of the new reality with your product for users and then build the simplest, most elegant path to get them there.