The best indicator of success is when, after using your app (or service or company), the user thinks ‘I’m awesome’. NOT: the product or company or service is awesome.
I think I’m an awesome writer (not 'Wordpress is a great CMS'). I’m an awesome tennis player (not ‘Prince make great racquets’).
So don’t obsess on making a better product. Don’t make a better email client. Make a better email client user. Someone who can do a better job of reading and replying to emails than anyone else. Or in our case, how can we make an email client that empowers a whole _team_ to provide better support (http://inboxharmony.com)
‘Better user’ is the new ‘better user experience’.
Figure out what the user is trying to ‘be’. Not merely what they want to do. How can you help them realise their goals. How can you help them learn along the way. How can you make their path an easier one?
A good experience should make the user more bad-ass. More awesome.
All other things being equal the more awesome-person will be the happier person.
Your goal is to help move the user quickly through the learning curve. Set their expectations at the start that they may suck. Quickly let them learn and become more powerful. Better. More effective at what they need to do.
These users end up having super powers. They are more awesome than they were before. They understand the problem domain better. They can see the ‘obviousness’ of a solution more easily. They can more easily tell good from bad. They are like the photographer who can can see the rule of thirds in a photo’s composition, who recognize the use of negative space. They are like the coders that look at code and can ‘see’ how to extend and enhance it.
When a user becomes more awesome because they are using your app then you have just given then an intrinsic motivator for using it. They want to use it. Intrinsically. Intrinsic motivators are more powerful than external motivators (game points, badges, friend count, wages).
The upgraded users can now judge your product against a new set of criteria. One that may set you apart from the thousands of competitors in your space. Your subtle differences light a rocket under your desirability. No one can compete with you. World domination and an army of super users inevitably ensues.
These super users then tell their friends. They tell their friends, not because they like your product, but because they like their _friends_ and want to help them. Users you have really upgraded won't stop talking about you. Note that in this social media reality it is users talking to users. Not your brand talking to users. Your friend and follower count is irrelevant.
Take aways: people do not buy a product because they like the product, they buy it because they like themselves.
I get so proud when I hear about our uber-sysadmin RimuHosting customers (did we help them get there)? When our Zonomi NS customers ‘get’ what name server delegation is. When our Pingability monitoring customers get a raise because ‘the servers never go down when Mike’s around’.
Photo credit: danorbit