“Selling” Should Never Get in the Way of Usability


The other day I bought tickets for Batman V. Superman, and with that purchase I got a batch of free digital comics. Pretty great deal, especially since even though I’m a big comics fan, there were a few included that I hadn’t read yet. The extra bonus? They were on a digital comics platform that I’ve been a long-time customer of, so they were getting added the ecosystem I’ve already built up a library in, vs. having to use a whole new system just to access the content.

Before I get into the meat of this article though, I have a sidenote that will put things in better context. Even though I said above that I’m a longtime customer of the platform, I have to admit I hadn’t used it in quite some time. Back when I used an iPad as my primary device, I used this service extensively. But then I traded in my iPad for a Surface Pro (which was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done, by the way). My Surface was on Windows 10. The comics platform had a Windows 8 app. It didn’t work at all. I don’t think I ever once got a comic to load without it crashing. A few months later, they announced they were dropping Windows support completely and that I should just use their web experience (which although nice, is nowhere near as useful as the old iOS app I was used to – and couldn’t be used offline). Long story short? I stopped buying from them.

In the time since, I’ve continued my love affair with comics, but have returned to the comic book store and the classic printed books as my format of choice. But I got these free comics … and there were a ton of other comics I’d bought previously through this platform that I hadn’t even gotten the chance to read, so I decided to dive back in.

Like most everyone these days, I pretty much live on my phone. It’s an Android (a 2nd generation Moto X, to be precise), so I decided to get the comics on there. I downloaded the app. Simple, like it should be. But then I tried to use the app, and was reminded of the other issue I had back when I’d been trying to use the Windows 8 app, because that same issue was front and center here: There was no clear way for me to access my library of purchased comics.

What I got instead of a quick access to my comics was a page with all the stuff I could buy to use in the app. In fact, if I didn’t know that the app was actually the way you consume your purchased products, I’d have thought it was purely a shopping app. And while I can understand the reason to want to monetize in the app, what I couldn’t understand was why the “read my comics” area was ridiculously hard to find. I eventually found it, and every time I open the app I am starting to learn more and more where to go to get my actual purchased content – but that is not the way an app for consuming digital content should work, which leads me to the point of this whole article:

When you design any app or website, design with the purpose of fulfilling the user’s primary goal.

When you design any app or website, design with the purpose of fulfilling the user’s primary goal. In this instance, the main use of a digital comics app will in almost no instance ever be to just buy comics. It will be to read the comics. Yes, you want to monetize. Yes, the customer needs content to actually consume. But above all, the customer wants to experience his or her own brand of joy by actually reading the content.

Amazon gets this with their Kindle app. Yes there are promos, but the books in your library are what’s front and center. At Musicnotes our app is designed to let people access and use their sheet music. True, we don’t currently have in-app purchases, but even if we at some point do, they will not take over the main experience. If someone wants to shop, give them quick access to your store. If you want to promote, find relevant ways to cross-sell. Heck, you can even run a promo on your home screen – but don’t go to the extent where you actually make it difficult for the customer to use your product.

Here’s how I look at it: If you keep the customer’s ultimate goal in mind, and build your experience around helping them best realize that goal, you will succeed. A great experience isn’t just bells and whistles or personalized adds, it’s one that guides the customer to experiencing success in what he or she set out to do. When you do that, those customers come back. They tell their friends. Their LTV goes up, as does their word-of-mouth.

So again, don’t let your short-term goals get in the way of the customer. Figure out what the customer really wants to do, and help them do it. If they need to buy something to get there, help them along the way – but the main purpose in any interaction is to make your customer achieve their goal.

Oh, and yes I did like Batman V. Superman. It wasn’t perfect, but I liked it.

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