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March 19, 2019

Three Ways to Build a More Friendly Product

4 mins read

When is the last time you enjoyed using software?

It’s that feeling you get when Outlook reminds you that you forgot the attachment after you hit the send button. When Google Maps tells you about an accident ahead and provides you with an alternate route that will save you 45 minutes. Or maybe it’s just that subtle animation that your lock screen gives you when you try to unlock your phone. These moments make you feel a connection with the product. It’s as though the software genuinely cares about you. It makes you ask yourself questions like: “Is it weird to be friends with a product?”

Building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) has proven to be an effective strategy for creating a product that meets the users’ expectations. However, building an MVP was never meant to be the entirety of our product development process. Too many of us reach the point of MVP and think that our job is finished. Instead, we should treat our MVP as a strong foundation that we continue to build and iterate upon. Building a product that users enjoy is a commitment that goes beyond minimum viable features. It requires a magnified view of not only what the user wants to accomplish, but how and why.

Sometimes it can be hard to think about anything but the “expected” functionality. Here are a few tips that might help:

1. Find Common Points of Failure

Just about all of us have probably sent that infamous email that goes something like this: “Oops! Forgot to actually include the attachment I was referring to. Here it is.” It’s one thing to recognize points of failure, but you can gain a lot of trust from your users when you design preventative measures against them. This is easily done with a little user research. Watch how your users use your product. Take notes on common mistakes and think creatively about how you could have prevented that with a different design.

2. Take a Deeper Look Around Your Core Features

When I type my destination into Google Maps, obviously I want guidance on how to get to the destination. That is the core feature. Now think about all the ancillary features around providing me a guided route.

I would also really appreciate getting there as fast as possible unless I’m wanting to do some sight-seeing. In that case, I’d like a recommended route that is full of tourist attractions. I also hate sitting in traffic, so anytime there is a wreck or a jam, being notified of a different route would be ideal.

Instantly we can come up with plenty of ideas that take our product further by extending beyond our core functionality. When doing user research, look for opportunities to ask specific questions that take your users beyond the expected functionality. How do they want it, why do they want it that way? Are there times that they want it a different way?

Know that sometimes these enhancements can be large ones like the examples I gave, but tiny changes can have a major impact as well. Joel Califa wrote a great blog post called “Tiny Wins” that dives into this even more.

3. The Product’s Body Language

Pablo Stanley of InVision calls animation the body language of the product. Most of the products that I love to use have the most subtle, obvious and elegant animations. It really makes me feel as though I’m conversing with someone. Some of these are so natural that you probably don’t even realize the impact that they have on your experience.

Take this lock screen for example that Pablo uses to illustrate his point:


Notice how the dots shake left to right when the pin fails? It’s as if the lock screen is shaking its head at us saying, “Nope, can’t let you in.” And then when the pin succeeds, we get a little up and down animation as if to say, “Yep, that’s it!” Just that little bit of animation brings so much life and character to this lock screen.

Adding little animations like this can vastly improve the user experience of your product. Maybe it won’t be so weird to call a product your friend when it feels like you are actually having a conversation with it!


Making a friendly product is not just about adding bells and whistles everywhere. It’s about approaching the needs of your users with a more expansive approach. Friendly product design delivers more than the minimally viable, it delivers features that make the user feel as though the product truly understands their needs and wants to help. Nothing will create promoters for your product like a friendly design that proves it knows the intentions of the user. Making a friendly product will not be the first thing on your priority list, but make sure it’s on the list.

Let’s make friends with our products, not enemies.

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