On motivational applications

You check your smartphone and see tons of notifications, would you feel motivated to open those apps?

It is a fact that we all use 4 to 8 applications in our mobile phones. And only one or two of them changes over time while most of them stays the same and the behavior of opening, scrolling and closing an application turns into a habit. It is a very hard task for developers to break into the users’ top 8 application list. One of the ways is to create an application that periodically asks for an input over certain amount of time. If there is no input, then application sends a notification. Especially, applications that try to give motivation to users use this approach. For instance fitness apps, if you miss a workout it sends you a notification reminding your daily workout or journal applications gently remind you to write something about your day. Even some apps send notifications saying ‘we missed you, please come back.’

However, as a frequent smartphone user, I think this approach is far away from the right choice. As a matter of fact, it drives away the user from the application.

Lets take the fitness app example again. I had one of those motivational fitness application. First few workouts were ok. I was following the program. However, after some point I missed my workout. Then I missed another. The application sent me reminders to do my workout. But the problem was, it was sending them in the most inappropriate times. Times when I was not able to do the workout so I had to ignore them. Then, notifications started to get annoying. Every day it was telling me to do something I had already missed several times. So, catching up seemed hard, frequent notifications were annoying and it turned into an application that reminded me to do something that I didn’t want to. So I deleted it.

I think in human psychology pushing people is not a right thing to do. It backfires. And these applications are exactly doing this. They are annoying. But then, how the application should remind itself to the user?

One of the solutions seem to be sending those notifications in the right times, in other words, it needs to be more personal. It should understand the user. For example, gathering previous using times and sending notifications when the user generally opens the application. Also, content of the notification is important. It is really hard to make users to take actions, especially through a device. So, saying them that you missed them or that they should do something right now does not motivate the users to open the app.

You can’t fool users with emotional notifications.

Depending on the application, these reminders should either be telling the ugly truth such as “you missed your workout and probably gained 0.05% of fat” or they should offer something “you missed your workout, a new training video is available try that one”. And these should not be sent frequently. Sending periods should be proportional to the usage of that application. The more user uses that application the more they should send notifications.

To conclude, apps should not send the same notification everyday, users do not care if the app missed its user, apps should be more precise about notification’s deliver times and the content of the notification should be attractive. Otherwise, it is just annoying and most of them end up being deleted.