Why top start-ups are focusing on game design, not just gamification.

collage of superhuman

Gamification has recently risen in popularity in products, businesses, and even personal brands. It serves as a bridge to bring fun and actionable concepts into products and marketing. Think of the reward program in the Starbucks App, or maybe the points you get for completing tasks in Todoist.

Both of those examples are ways to encourage users to take desired actions that ideally lead to business growth and user retention. It’s no wonder why these tactics are in the majority of digital products these days, but they aren’t the easiest to incorporate. …

How disruptive young companies use iterative design to expand market share.

New market entrants are rarely ever “New”. In most cases, they have been around for years, iterating internally and focusing on filling a small niche within an industry. These new entrants cause a ruckus when they start solving the problem once solved by an incumbent. This essay will cover how companies like Loom, Roam, & more are using iteration to disrupt their industries.

The Iterative Design Lifecycle

If you’ve ever taken any marketing classes, you might be familiar with Porter’s Five Forces framework for analyzing a company’s competitive environment. One of those forces is the threat of new entrants.

Porter focuses on the incumbent…

The allure of high switching costs.

image of webflow interface

As our attention spans continue to grow shorter, so does our tolerance for average products. Consumers are presented with an endless number of alternatives, making user retention even harder to secure. Some products gain retention by accident, while other products design for retention. We’ll look at the latter.

When designing for retention, switching costs may be the answer to your problems. Switching costs, one of Hemler’s 7 Powers, are the losses a user incurs when switching products — this can be, monetary, psychological, effort, or time-based.

The general idea of switching costs in terms of product design and development can…

How Substack focuses on experience, and Twitter focuses on engagement.

Incentives are quietly driving every decision we make. They control our actions with technology and the social algorithms that power our choices. Incentives are everywhere.

Ever wonder what platforms and products do to motivate you to take certain actions and keep you hooked? Here’s a hint, it’s the incentives.

Understanding Incentives

By definition, an incentive is, “a thing that motivates or encourages someone to do something”, but the best way to explain incentives is through an example.

On Instagram, using hashtags lets users reach a broader audience and grow their accounts. Therefore if someone wants to grow their account, they would be…

A year of COVID, growth, inspiration, and hard work

Topography; a theme for 2020 — navigating through uncharted, unfamiliar areas

2020 was a year to remember, but also one to forget. From COVID disrupting all kinds of plans, forcing many of us to reinvent our daily lives at home, 2020 was a year of transformation.

Going into 2020, I had never heard of “product design”. Never heard of Sketch, Figma, XD or anything similar and only vaguely understood what UX was. It’s crazy to think that within a year I’ve accepted a dream role as a product designer at CBS, specifically CBS Sports.

For the scope of this review, I’m breaking it into themes that categorized my year in 2020…

Studying onboarding strategies from the biggest consumer apps.

Image containing the title and logos from featured companies

The onboarding sequence has defaulted to become the go-to spot for Dribbble designers to flex their UI muscles. And usually, that happens with an utter disregard for the effects that the five-ish screens that sit pre-launch can have on a product.

Onboarding isn’t something that should be left in the dust. It’s no secret that effective onboarding can drive growth and retention, even Facebook attributes it to be a major factor in their rise to 1 Billion users. But, Facebook’s success is just the tip of the iceberg.

Major consumer apps all utilize a blend of experience, information, and conversion…

Managing your habits is stressful, trying to start a new one is even harder. Tangerine makes this easy, helping you manage your habits stress free.

A gif showing completing a habit with confetti.

As I said, Tangerine is a habit app. But what makes it different?

Its simplicity.

Tangerine takes pride in being simple above all else. Their app is designed to do two main things:

  1. Manage your habits
  2. Recap your day

By focusing on these two experiences, Tangerine can easily provide a seamless journey from habit creation, to completion. But also including a space for reflection. SO, let’s dive in.

First things first, onboarding. Simple, clean illustrations, concise descriptions, and a relaxed font.

Tangerine does a great job of setting the tone. Managing habits…

The disruptive email client has been making waves across tech, but does the design live up to the hype?

So unless you’ve been living under a rock the past month, you’ve most definitely heard of Hey. They don’t need much of an intro, but the team at Basecamp has put a lot of time and effort into their visionary new email client. If it is anything like Basecamp, there’s no doubt it will find success.

Hey is built on the idea that current email solutions don’t solve basic problems. DHH and Jason want Hey to change that. They’ve added innovative features never before seen in email, far too many to touch on in this thread.

three phone mocks with pre-sign in HEY screens

As always, I need…

Design is all about finding balance, and we could all learn from Zenly on how to do that.

“The Zenly Experience” with a phone mockup

So first, what is Zenly? Essentially, it’s a better way to keep track of your friends & family. You can view location, send messages, and a ton of other cool things. The team at Zenly went above & beyond with their added features, so let’s take a look.

A giant header image with a phone mockup and title text

View the live site here!

Wedge is a SaaS startup in the HR Tech space and recently just completed its latest investment round. With that said, Wedge is focused on two things, growth and customer retention.

While that is where the company is focusing its effort, their previous digital experience told a different story.

Project Overview

As the sole designer on the Wedge team, I led the efforts across various product design roles, this spring my pitch to redesign the previous website was finally accepted.

My Role: UX Research, UX Design, Web design, User testing
My Team: Trevor Ploucha, Rob Kish, Patrick McCarren…

Josh Nelson

Design at Almanac, chasing continuity. Find me on Twitter — @jnelly2

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store