Aha moments: one of the most important ways to engage users | by Kai Wong | May, 2023

How designing for value can lead to greater user engagement

UX Collective
A woman looking surprised at a laptop, with an open mouth and her finger pointing up like she’s just realized something
Photo by Monstera: https://www.pexels.com/photo/excited-black-woman-using-laptop-9429552/

Designers can learn one of the most essential Product lessons from the myth of a naked man in a bathtub.

As the story goes, Archimedes was trying to solve a particularly challenging problem when he got into the bath and saw the solution: the water that was displaced by his getting in was the answer he needed.

As a result, he shouted Eureka!, and ran all the way home. These Eureka, or Aha moments as they’re known today, are some of the most important moments to engage users in your product.

However, these don’t occur because the user sees good UX: these moments are about the user recognizing the product’s value. That can be something that businesses increasingly rely on for all of their needs.

Value proposition > UX Design

Do you ever stop and wonder why some businesses could survive through the early days of UX (i.e., the 1990s)?

After all, some of those sites were incredibly badly designed, with easily fixable usability issues. Even so, they were able to engage users and build their business.

An image of netscape navigator, an old browser that has several bad usability features such as buttons that say “What’s New” and “What’s cool”, along with the search bar being a dropdown menu.
This was one of the dominant web browsers for several years,

Likewise, have you ever seen a well-designed site with great UX go under? Both of these issues relate to one idea, a value proposition, that should be at the core of your product.

Value propositions are about one simple question:

What value are you offering users, and why should they use your product?

If you don’t have a good enough answer, your product may flounder to find the users they’re looking for. However, your job as a Designer is not necessarily to develop the value proposition: that’s what C-level executives or the Product Team would tackle.

Some of your team could recite your product’s value proposition in their sleep.

The job of the Designer is to help translate this value proposition to the user. So rather than businesses telling you how great their product is, your job is to guide users in a way that they discover how valuable your product is themselves.

We can do this through Aha Moments, which are dedicated to this type of experience.

Aha moments, or helping users understand your product’s value

In simple terms, an Aha Moment is a moment of sudden insight or discovery.

An infographic showing Aha moments that show some of the realizations people had to form successful businesses. Some examples include Steve Jobs, who “wanted a computer interface as pretty as the calligraphy on his college campus posters” and Jan Koum, “who founded WhatsApp because he could not afford to call his father in Ukraine.”

The Aha moment is not about teaching your users something new or educating them about a new problem; it’s about helping them remember.

Ideally, this happens early on in the customer process, such as in part of the onboarding flow. The idea is that the user, through interacting with your product, discovers its value, which causes them to stick around.

One of the main benefits of these Aha Moments is they help the user navigate through whatever rough edges the product might have. For example, if they’re using the MVP version of the product, which has a lot of limitations or cut features, they’ll continue to use it as long as they see the value.

There are two Aha Moments that occur: one that you, as a designer, experience when creating a product. You discover one specific fact you realize will make your customers’ lives easier (or is the driving value for your product).

The second is when the customer can see the value of what you offer. From the customer’s point of view, an aha moment occurs when they experience one of three things:

  1. By experiencing the product’s core functions, they understand what it offers
  2. Seeing a task that might have taken hours previously done in minutes
  3. Achieving specific milestones to progress that feel like sudden realizations

Here’s how to use Aha moments in your design process.

Understanding and designing for Aha moments

Aha moments are best suited to a user’s first steps on your website (like onboarding). After all, the primary usage of these moments is to keep your user engaged and see the value of your product early.

We also need to start with the first type of Aha moment, the Designer’s Aha moment, which you’ll need to discover through user research.

This likely involves stakeholder interviews and other things like project kickoff documents. You can also ask other team members what value they think they deliver to the users, to try and figure this out themselves.

For example, imagine you’re designing a community page for educators where teachers from all school districts can share information and resources.

After talking with your Product Manager, you realize that teachers from poorer schools can use this community page to build lesson plans and quality resources from some of the top-ranking schools in the district.

That’s the Aha moment that you, as a Designer, can take forward to try and express to the user. But what if you’re having trouble seeing the value proposition of this research?

Then, this is where you can use your problem-framing skills: start asking questions to help your product team narrow down what they want their value proposition to be.

E-mail your actual users and create more of what they like

While there are definite benefits to having a user interview or test, sometimes the simplest thing is to e-mail them and ask questions about an existing product (if you have one).

For example, you get your team to send out a quick e-mail asking the following questions:

  • “How would you describe your favorite feature of our product?”
  • “What is the most important feature you use every day?”
  • “Is there something you lack in our product?”

At this stage, all you’re trying to do is learn more about what users value and why they have still stuck around using this product.

After that, you can move on to the next step.

Get feedback from users that unsubscribe/uninstall/churned:

This one is slightly tricky, but if you have a way to get open-ended feedback from users (such as a text field the user can fill out while unsubscribing), this can be a straightforward way of getting a sense of what went wrong.

An image of the ‘unsubscribe’ option, which allows users to give feedback on why they unsubscribed. These can fall into a number of common cateogries, such as “I no longer want to receive these emails”.
Feedback around unsubscribing often falls into certain categories

Strangely enough, many times, it’s because the product is undervalued. Perhaps the user was looking for something the product didn’t provide or that it did promise, but the users never got to that point. Or, they were dissatisfied with how the product was designed, which led to differences in perception.

In either case, this can paint a picture of what users want and what to do about it. But, again, the goal is to get a sense of their user stories.

Pair user behavior patterns/aha moments and data

Data-informed UX Design is an important part of what I write about, and it can help us define our Aha moments.

After all, while you Designer and see the value of the product, it can be hard to measure whether the user has Aha moments with only user testing.

To assist this process, it often helps to pair these Aha moments with specific user actions from data.

For example, Facebook’s famous metric, “7 friends in 10 days”, showed that users who added seven friends in the first ten days were likely to stick around and become active users.

In our example, our goal might be to get users to download one template from the community page. Doing so can shift the user from a casual observer into someone who sees the value of becoming a user of the product.

We’re looking for metrics around what features your users started using early, kept using, stopped using, and which were adopted. All these may be tricky to work out by yourself, and you can work with your team around us and learn the skills that can help you understand user motivations better.

Aha moments drive user engagement through discovery

Aha Moments are some of the most valuable things a user can experience because it drives action through discovery.

It’s not just a fancy way of businesses designing something for the user: it’s the user realizing the value of a product or service by themselves.

When it comes from the user instead of a product advertising something, it can drive users to become loyal customers and engage with the site the way businesses want them to.

So if you’ve ever seen or realized the value of a product as a designer, look to incorporate aha moments designed to help users. Doing so helps motivate users to engage and helps businesses meet their goals.

Kai Wong is a Senior Product Designer, Data-Informed Design Author, and Data and Design newsletter author. His new free book, The Resilient UX Professional, provides real-world advice to get your first UX job and advance your UX career.

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