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How To Make Addictive Software

David Wither

With the growing number of software applications that serve every need, from consumer to enterprise, it's more important than ever that your software be not only pleasant to use, but downright addicting. If your users don't find joy in your product, they'll be more likely to abandon your product for a competitor's, no matter how much you invest in your marketing.

This is all well and good if you design games, or even social media, but what if you design enterprise B2B software? What if you provide unsexy solutions, such as spreadsheet management, medical care or financial assistance? While "addiction" may mean something slightly different to each of these industries, it's now a requirement for all.

Keep in mind that addiction, in this context, doesn't necessarily mean that your customers can't wait to use your product. However, it does mean that when they're using it - and every time they use it - they feel that the product is actively assisting them achieve their goals, and find joy in the tools that it provides.

How do you create addictive software? Here's how:

Focus On The User Experience
It's no secret that users are more likely to stick with a product that they feel confident using. While much of that comes down to training (especially for enterprise software) which is harder to control, much of it is tied to prioritizing the user experience over offering every possible tool imaginable.

When designing your product, fight against "feature creep," or the tendency to add in so many features that the product doesn't make sense anymore. You'll be able to retain many more customers if they aren't spending a significant percentage of their time searching for the right button, and instead are able to quickly achieve the results they wanted - even if that means that they use another piece of software for some of their tasks.

Gamify Their Tasks
Even if you provide solutions to traditionally "boring" tasks - insurance and law, I'm looking at you - gamification is still possible. Build in checklists of tasks, have status bars that show what level of "expert" the user is in your software, and provide small rewards unlocked by achievements.

A great example of this is SAP's "Vampire Hunter" game. The goal for the company was to reduce energy usage and increase efficiency in various resources. By reskinning the problem as a vampire hunter game - the vampires standing in for inefficient usage of energy - SAP was able to achieve their goal with a highly motivated workforce.

Take Advantage Of The Slot Machine Principle
The best way to ensure users interact with your product is to take advantage of the slot machine principle, or the fact that users will be most likely to check in with your software if they're offered a variable level of reward each time they do so.

This theory is most visible in our usage of smartphones - every time we pull out our phones, we gamble whether there will be a notification that causes us pleasure, such as a Like or RT. When designing your software, see where you can offer rewards - even if it's a simple update about the progress of their project.

When designing addictive software, take a look at other addictive products, games and habits, and see where you can emulate the aspect that keeps pulling users back to them. What human psychology tips can you incorporate into your design process? Where can you reward your users for opening your software, or using a new feature? Tap into the pleasure center of your users' brains, and provide joy simply by opening your software, and you'll be on the fast track to success, no matter what industry you're in.

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