User engagement refers to the quality of the user experience. It emphasizes the aspects of the user interaction with the app, particularly length and frequency of use. In order for an app to serve its ultimate purpose it is important that the app be actively used, the users be engaged and attentive while using, and that users are motivated to return and continue using the app. A user engagement strategy provides the approach that will be used to keep users motivated to use the application as well as the mechanisms for evaluating their success.
An approach to user engagement should be focused on six basic engagement principles:
- Experience customization
- Motivational Rewards & Gamification
- Goal Progression
- Habit formation
- Excellence on fundamentals
One of the best ways to keep users engaged in an app is to provide an experience that is simple, relevant and motivating. Through customizing the experience to targeted segments you are better able to achieve that optimal, yet simple, experience for each user. Data collected through patient and caregiver reported outcomes, surveys, passive monitoring and user settings and goals provide the basis for segmentation into groups based on needs, level of understanding, ability and motivation. Targeted information and activities can then be delivered to the user to match their particular needs, level of comfort and ability making them more likely to interact and feel good about their interaction.
People experience three kinds of behavior motivation: Extrinsic, Intrinsic and Habitual. We utilize all three to achieve a greater level of engagement across the spectrum of potential users.
Extrinsic motivation is provided by external rewards. Examples would include physical rewards like monetary incentives or prizes as well as intangible rewards like badges, leaderboards or other forms of positive reinforcement.
Intrinsic motivations are internal, for example a person’s goals and desires that drive or motivate them to do things.
Habits require little motivation, as they are automatic. A person performs these actions without thinking and with little effort. Habits are powerful in that they require effort to prevent or change the action.
Generally, intrinsic motivators are stronger when it comes to sustaining behavior change however extrinsic motivators are easier to initiate. Our engagement strategy therefore starts with extrinsic motivators and gradually transitions people toward intrinsic motivators with the intention of using those to develop habits.
Gamification can be one type of extrinsic motivator. It is made up of a variety of techniques including: targets, challenges, feedback, reinforcement and progress indicators—can be particularly useful in helping a user over the activation threshold, that point where they are considering, but not quite achieving, a certain action. They provide low-effort trigger points that signal and motivate the user to overcome inertia and take action. It is important that the progress treatment visualization (e.g., the well-being index) take full advantage of these powerful extrinsic motivators.
Notifications and reminders are another form of extrinsic motivation. Timely and relevant communication can be used to keep people engaged or bring back users who may have forgotten or neglected the app. Tactical push notifications, such as schedules and reminders, can be used as triggers to remind users of events and bring them back into app usage. These notifications are typically concise and focused so they are unobtrusive. Users can opt-in or opt-out so they are always in control of what messaging they see.
As user gain some familiarity with the app we gradually transition them from external to intrinsic motivators. This keeps them inspired and active, particularly during the time when their motivation from extrinsic motivators naturally dips. One of the strongest intrinsic motivators is goal setting. This helps to create interest and activity on the basis of what already motivates them and provides them with a sense of progress over a longer time frame.
To best take advantage of the benefits of goal setting users should be able to set their own personal goals. These goals should be broken down into smaller and more achievable parts. Goals should be focused, and not too difficult or time consuming. As users complete each step toward their goal they receive positive feedback which gradually builds a growing sense of progress and confidence.
Each individual goal will be unique and defined in the way that it is best understood and motivating to the user. But most of these unique goals follow general patterns that can be used to create templates that will help users create manageable steps and develop the skills needed to reach them.
The development and repetition of skills achieved through extrinsic motivators like gamification and intrinsic motivators like goal setting will create patterns of thought and action that will grow to be reflexive over time. The formation of these habits will help users to continue to practice the behaviors which lead to better outcomes even if they experience periods of where they are not directly interacting with the app.
Excellence on fundamentals
More important than any other aspect is the actual execution. Usability issues can undermine even the most well thought out program. The app itself needs to be relevant, compelling, accessible and straightforward. Content needs to pertinent and useful. Instructions need to be brief and clear. The interface must be designed for clarity, simplicity and to avoid clutter and confusion.
To achieve excellence on fundamentals it is necessary to listen to users. Feedback mechanisms should be available within the app for users to comment or respond. Iterative testing of features highlights any difficulties users may have. User interviews follow up on objective usability measures to provide context and a more complete understanding of user feelings and motivation. A regular cadence of updates will continue to improve upon user performance, acceptance and commitment.
Objective measurement is important in understanding and evaluating the success of a user engagement strategy. There are several key metrics that should be used for tracking and evaluating user engagement:
- Monthly Active user/Daily active user-number of people actively using the app per month or per day
- Session length-how much time users are spending in the app per session. The longer the sessions the more engaged
- Time in app-how long a user was in the app over period of time
- Session interval-the time between sessions showing how frequently users interact with the app
- Retention rate-the percentage of users who return to the app
- Satisfaction Rating & Net Promoter Score-survey rating of user satisfaction and willingness to recommend the app to a friend
- Screen Flow-demonstrates how users move through the app. Not a metric per se but provides a deeper picture of user behavior and is particularly helpful in targeting problem areas
In order for the app to serve its ultimate purpose it is important that it be actively used, the users be engaged and attentive while using, and that users are motivated to return and continue using the app. A user engagement strategy as outlined above, provides an approach that will be used to keep users motivated to use the application as well as the mechanisms for evaluating their success.