Note: I’m framing this post in terms of ExtensionFM because of a tweet, and because I believe that ExFM is a particularly interesting case, but this issue absolutely applies more broadly.
A few days ago Lucas Gonze Twittered:
I got drawn back into my Extension.fm setup today after forgetting it for a while. Important for apps to have that longevity.
Anyone who builds stuff online will tell you that this absent-mindedness on the part of users is almost inevitable.
No matter how good the thing you’ve made is, no matter how big the initial “oh, wow!” is for a user, there’s a crapload of other interesting stuff being released (as well as offline life continuing to roll along), and your cool thing will eventually be pushed to a back burner for a while. The question is what happens when your user hits that “oh, yeah…” moment of rediscovery.
I’ve already written about my belief that the wow moment comes from acknowledging that we’re all selfish bastards, and therefore offering users an immediate, obvious return on their investment of time, effort, and/or money. [A post that you’re all going to go read, yeah?]
But there’s one thing I didn’t touch on in the post linked above: the fact that a user is inactive for a while doesn’t mean that you have to be inactive, too. In many cases you can offer that user some benefit from what happened during their inactive period.
The most obvious (and most rare) case is new functionality: the features that you release during those days or weeks may include the one that the user really, really wanted to see. Unlikely, yes, but it can happen. At the very least it gives people a feeling that your product is continuing to move forward.
The more likely scenario is that your services other users, or the Internet at large, are doing things that will be of interest to that lapsed user when they return. Carefully selected information from sources surrounding the user can highlight what they would have been getting, and help smooth the transition back into activity — you’re making it easier for the user to “catch up.”
And there is where ExtensionFM has a lovely little advantage: because it’s an extension of the browser (right now, anyway), ExFM can continue to do its very personalized thing whether or not the user remembers it’s there. I could forget to open the library tab for a month, but when I do get around to it I’ve got a month’s worth of music from the sources that I love organized and easily available: the service hasn’t become less valuable with my inactivity, rather it’s been busy while it waits for me.
Sure, ExtensionFM could do more to highlight this advantage, and to make it simpler for me to slice, dice, or “replay” what happened while I was checked out, but the foundation is there and extremely useful already.
While I still maintain that there’s more to be gained from focusing on the “successful” users than the “unsuccessful” ones, giving some thought to what that unavoidable group of “oh, yeah, that was pretty cool, I should check it out again” users will find when they finally return is well worthwhile.