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User experiences and outcomes for a better product design

Product managers begin a product design journey with the usual suspects like a market need and a set of features. And once product management has a well laid out list of product features backed by that all awesome architecture and tech stack, it ends up in defense of what was painstakingly created, almost through it’s entire life cycle.

While this may have worked in a period of restricted access and fewer options, the approach to product design definitely needs a re look in an age of increasing options and decreasing attention span. Once a use case opportunity is identified, it is probably a good time to sit down offline and work with the final set of user experiences across each role that a product intends to invite a user to, and then a list of outcomes that match those experiences.  Together they may provide a better user activation probability and therefore a more predictable product ROI for sponsors.

Here’s a simple to do guide to get started:

1. List the user roles.  Typically, a new age digital system has 3 broad categories.  The engaged, The people who manage the engagement, and the sponsors who expect a certain outcome.

2.  Ask what each user would expect as an experience from the product. Experiences are typically identified as motivators for a user role to keep coming back to the product as it would have a clear benefit or reward for participation and adoption. A good exercise would reveal the trade offs, benefits, rewards and exceptions.

3. Outcomes are about how the users find a quantifiable experience at the end of a participation cycle or a usage session.  These outcomes can be listed for each individual session, or a collective set of sessions leading to a more aggregated outcome.

4. Refine the outcomes list by verifying them against role motives that have the risk of blocking participation and collaborative engagement. Interviewing similar user roles in their current contexts can provide great insights.

5. Prepare a final list of experiences and outcomes that the product can deliver in it’s most sophisticated avatar. Work backwards to a product road map that delivers the intent and the promise in it’s initial release, more than the features that would follow.

The approach looks deceivingly simple, but as you may realize, requires a highly participative and iterative approach before you set yourself on the way to create a great product. Try this out the next time you have that idea and see what shows up on your paper, or a whiteboard, or even your wall if no one’s complaining….

Posted by Mahendra Penumathsa on Aug 26

User acquisition and retention is everything when it comes to measuring return on investments on any external facing digital asset. The freemium or advertising ways of acquiring users is passé, for the simple reason that they have succeeded in gaining users, but not in retaining them.  Let’s look at the top 3 aspects of generating users and their loyalty.


Gone are the days where there was a reasonable change to fetch a useful result on Google. No matter how powerful that engine is made, there are still only “n” results that could be displayed in the first few pages.   With the number of active URL’s being over 300 Million, it is only now that much more difficult to find relevant information, or even engage with it. Context is everything, and is almost the basis for why opportunities have opened up for creating digital assets in contexts that provide value to users.  Context is so powerful that investors have realized the need to be very focused, even within a larger context. Eg: A digitally interactive asset for child health and wellness stands out with it’s context when compared to a generic healthcare / wellness portal. A highly contextual digital asset with a well thought out user engagement life cycle is more likely to succeed.  The success rates may vary between value propositions a bit.  Examples of some contexts currently gaining traction are – Practice specific e-Learning platforms for Skill Development & Certifications; Healthcare platforms for knowledge and care givers; E Commerce platforms that aggregate inventories for retail fulfillment.


Content is and will always be King. Original content is even more valuable than a curated or user generated content that is more supportive than inventive. A parallel strategy to invest in process oriented content generation studios to support digital assets will payback rich dividends to retain user interest and loyalty. With technology and user interfaces becoming less patentable by the day, only content can become the distinguishing IP for a business.

The user acquisition funnel

Interactive digital technologies have made huge strides in user interactivity and make digital activities more aligned with real life behavior.  Personalized user interfaces offer the ability to address user profile based interests and needs while enabling a complete engagement life cycle.

A well designed user acquisition funnel for any digital platform would include the following:

1.Initial user’s interest will mean delivering region specific content and topics along with interactive surveys and stories that seek to engage the user into participation via well designed calls to action. The core objective here is to attract the attention of a user to the context based value proposition.  A minimum takeaway from this stage would be to have the user share their unique identity. Say an e mail id. A lot of digital assets make the mistake of pushing the user to a sign up form at this stage. But more often than not, this is not a stage where the user has decided to establish a relationship. It makes a lot more sense for the business to use the unique identity acquired to communicate the next level of value a user would get upon his / her return to the digital asset.

2.A returning user, if engaged with the right kind of content or fulfillment would be usually ready to sign up using their open ID’s to establish a relationship.  Social plugins from the most popular user aggregation platforms would serve well in this aspect. At this stage of the engagement, the value should clearly be more pronounced than the first visit.  Discounted values or free offers are more successful here than in the first stage and often prompt the user to buy into the true breath and scale of offering from the platform.

3.The third stage is where the business needs to convey and establish reward mechanisms for medium to long term users.  This is the stage where users normally tend to propagate the idea to their social network of family and friends. A virtual reward program would go a long way in cementing the relationship with the brand.

Across the three stages of user acquisition funnel, insights and analytics collected at each stage play an important role both at the individual user level as well as at different aggregated levels.  Even if the algorithms to find a use case for the insights collected are not readily available, businesses would do well to collect and store this critical information for further enhancements in their user acquisition strategy.

In summary, Context, Content and a well designed online User Engagement and life cycle Management strategy can make all the difference between success and failure for your investments in digital assets.

Posted by Mahendra Penumathsa on Jun 17