On behalf of Deutsche Telekom Laboratories we had the chance to work on a fascinating research project that lead to a paper titled „Love at First Encounter – Start-up of new Applications“  which has recently been presented at HCI 2009. It has also been published in the respective publication „Human-Computer Interaction. Ambient, Ubiquitous and Intelligent Interaction” by Springer Verlag.
The project dealt with a very significant phase of a product experience: the first impression. This first encounter with an interactive product or service is of crucial importance. Within this phase people decide whether they will accept a product or dump it. Whether they will customize it and explore new features. In other words: Whether they will integrate it into their everyday life and habits.
Together with Telekom Laboratories we collected and documented a set of insights and recommendations that can be used to create a positive first encounter experience leading to lasting relationships. Here‘s just a quick preview:
First impressions are polaroids that stick in your mind
Like a first meeting between strangers, the consumer forms an opinion of the product based on first impressions. Just like polaroids in our mind. If this initial experience is positive, the user will be motivated to further engage with the application.
Tell engaging stories
The consistent and well-orchestrated flow of experience – the “story” – should lead through all phases of the Start-up process. Good stories are not only consistent and memorable (learnable), but also stir the users curiosity.
Use the mystery box
As in great stories, mystery is sometimes more important than knowledge. Holding back information intentionally can be more engaging than informing the user. (Inspired by J.J. Abrams’ Ted Talk about the mystery box)
Find the low-hanging fruits – challenge, reward and grow
Easy initial goals reward customers with instant success and positive feedback. These low hanging fruits help them to grow and build up motivation.
Lower the first hurdle
A frictionless initial dialogue makes it much more rewarding to interact with a system as goals (e.g. making a first transaction, connecting to friends…) will be reached faster.
Specify the effort and overall process
Provide a clear picture of the first hurdle. How long will it take me?
Break the daily routines
This is especially important when rolling out business software or services within larger companies. Getting people off their desk can help them to focus on getting to know a new service or application.
Make it Yours – Customizing
Addressing individual needs and habits can greatly increase the efficiency of the start-up process for different users. As users customize and hack, they explore and make a product their own.
Engage innovators as evangelists
Empower users to serve as evangelists in public or within their immediate environment. Many of these advanced users may take pride in their position and can help other people to get started.
 Breuer, H., Kettner, M., Wagler, M., Preuschen, N., Steinhoff, F. (2009).
Love at First Encounter – Start-Up of New Applications.
In: J.A. Jacko (Ed.): Human-Computer Interaction, Part III, HCII 2009, LNCS 5612, pp. 585–594, 2009. Springer-Verlag: Berlin.