Nir’s Note: Michal Levin asked me to write this essay for her new book, Designing Multi-Device Experiences.
Allow me to take liberties with a philosophical question reworked for our digital age. If an app fails in the App Store and no one is around to use it, does it make a difference? Unlike the age-old thought experiment involving trees in forests, the answer to this riddle is easy. No!
Without engagement, your product might as well not exist. No matter how tastefully designed or ingeniously viral, without users coming back, your app is toast.
How, then, to design for engagement? And as if that were not challenging enough, how should products that touch users across multiple devices, like smartphones, tablets, and laptops, keep people coming back?
The answer is habits. For the past several years, I have written and lectured on how products form habits, and my work has uncovered some conclusions I hope will prove helpful to product designers.