Making users awesome in the moment

Have you ever sat down and really thought about what made games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band so successful? Certainly the challenge of competition had something to do with it. But at its very heart, all those games are is a challenge to hit the right coloured key on a device (guitar, drumkit or otherwise) at the right moment. That’s it. So why did those games achieve such popularity? Well, it doesn’t take much to realize that these games cater to our inner fantasy of being a rock star. Seriously, who hasn’t thought of how awesome it would be to be performing in front of 50,000 screaming fans that love your every move? These games have achieved making users awesome in the moment. As a mobile app/game developer, if you can achieve that same emotional connection to your user with your app, I’m guessing your app will be quite successful too!

Mobile apps and games are interesting things.  Around 5 years ago (not that long ago!), mobile apps and games were considered niche and not many people paid attention to it.  Then Apple came along and changed the game with the iPhone.  A stream of consciousness that every mobile platform company had finally awoke.  Apple got there first, but now there are many other great mobile platforms (like Windows Phone) with great and increasing momentum and how these platforms support their application and game ecosystems has become just as important as the OS experience itself.

Windows Phone is a now a modern smartphone platform with features that are on par as well as ahead of our competitors.  We also have amazing velocity with our app ecosystem, having hit over 50,000 applications in our marketplace in just over 1 year of availability.  Clearly, developers see the value.

But one of the things that Microsoft is keenly aware of is making sure that good quality applications are prevalent in the Marketplace rather than 20,000 “Hello World” apps or apps of equally dubious value.  This is an area where Windows Phone is doing very well.  A good number of the app developers on the Marketplace have embraced and found out that their success is tied to making their users awesome in the moment.


It is pretty obvious if you take the bullet points above and integrate them into your mobile app that you will likely have more success with its adoption than if you didn’t.  These ideas are not Metro-specific or even Windows Phone-specific; they are true of any mobile platform.  But what do these points really mean?

Don’t make the user think about the interface: Interfaces can be minimalistic or busy depending on the goal of the app.  Always remember, however, that regardless of how busy the interface is, the goal is to ensure the user doesn’t have to think about how to use the app!  Make the app intuitive.  Make it fun.  Make it easy.  Remember the quote I used in the first post in this five-post series?  A user does not want to use your app. A user wants to have used your app.   The quicker a user can get done what they need with your app, the happier they will be.

Deal with complex tasks, but insulate the user from the complexity:   Your mobile app may do rocket science in the background but the intent is to insulate the user from that complexity.

Make accomplishing a goal easier:   The intent of a mobile application is to get stuff done quickly.  Always keep in mind the form factor you are dealing with; simple is usually better and reduction of complexity is key.

Help users be awesome in the moment: I’ve talked about this quite a bit already so I’ll finish with this – creating an emotional connection with a user for your app is critical to its adoption.  The phone is a deeply personal piece of technology.  We all tend to choose which phone we use and its often our own choice as to which apps we use the most to get things done.  When a user downloads your app, they are hoping that your app will make them awesome.  Always keep that in mind.


This post is the fifth and final post in a series of posts on Metro found on this blog. The first post (“Unlocking the motivation of your mobile app user”) can be found here. The second (“My app has principles – understanding the Metro design principles”) can be found here. The third (“Isn’t “tile” just another word for “icon”? Infography vs iconography explained.”) can be found here. The fourth post (“Going with the flow… Using Metro to control the experience”) can be found here.