5 Ways to Leverage In-App Messages For Your Mobile UX
There’s little doubt that in-app messages add value for mobile marketers. With consumers spending 85 percent of their mobile time within apps, it’s an effective messaging channel. But do these messages add value to the end user?
When implemented correctly, in-app messages are win-win. It’s possible to improve the user experience for customers while also pursuing marketing goals. Here are a few ways in which in-app messages are a UX element in their own right.
1. In-App Messages Reduce Permanent On-Screen Text
Text is part of life. You can’t always follow the Ikea philosophy of describing functionality with just iconography. Sometimes, you’ll need written explanations to clarify how a particular part of the app works — and you’ll have to fit that description on a tiny screen.
If text is unavoidable, it’s best to place it in an in-app message. Unlike other on-screen elements, in-app messages are temporary. They appear when needed — like when a new user launches the app — and they disappear once they’re dismissed. This way, you won’t have to fit the complete instructions on the app interface.
Generally, users will only read the instructions once. If a person does want to re-read an in-app message, you can easily trigger the message again from a help menu. The information remains easily accessible, but it doesn’t have to occupy precious screen space at all time.
2. In-App Messages Make Navigation More Intuitive
As humans, we’re wired to spot movement. If one element moves on an otherwise static screen, it will attract our attention.
At worst, designers can manipulate this fact to create poor UX. Pop-up modals and slide-outs can distract users from the core content, while full-screen pop-ups are often used for ads. At best, however, in-app messages direct the user’s attention to the right spot at the right time.
Imagine a help menu that includes both a list of frequently asked questions and an AI-driven chatbot to assist with search. Some users will prefer to navigate the FAQ’s dropdown menus, so you shouldn’t outright replace it — but you also want people to know the chatbot is there. If it’s buried in a corner of the screen, many people won’t bother tapping the icon to see what it does. What’s a designer to do?
Instead of trying to fit both the chatbot and FAQ on-screen at once, you can have the chat window appear as a small in-app message at the bottom of the screen. If the message appears a moment after the screen loads, it will attract the user’s eyes, even if it’s small. And if the person doesn’t want to use it, they can simply tap to dismiss.
With this approach, you won’t disrupt the user flow as much as with a full-screen pop-up, but you’ll still ensure that users see the new feature.
3. In-App Messages Catch Attention — Immediately
Full-screen in-app messages, or interstitials, are impossible to miss. All other messaging channels, like push notifications or email, can be ignored in one way or another. But no one can ignore a full-screen pop-up that you must tap to dismiss.
With great power comes great responsibility. There aren’t many announcements that truly warrant an interstitial pop-up. But for those that do, in-app messages are the best form of delivery.
Let’s say a user now has $20 of credit in their account after referring a friend to the app. It probably wouldn’t hurt to announce this at app launch. You could always alert the person by email or push as soon as the referral goes through, but they might miss the message if it arrives at the wrong time. By sending the alert as an in-app interstitial, you ensure that users receive the message and that it’s immediately actionable.
The same applies for all urgent alerts. If the price of an item in the user’s shopping cart changed or surge pricing in a ridesharing app is in effect, it’s best to let people know in a way that can’t be missed.
4. In-App Messages Can Reward User Behavior
There’s a subjective element to how in-app messages impact the user experience, quite apart from the information they provide. In some situations, such as unlocking an in-game achievement or reaching a new loyalty level, in-app messages can grant a sense of reward.
It’s more memorable if a flashy, animated in-app message congratulates you after every purchase, reminding you that you’re one step closer to earning free shipping on your next order. The eventual free shipping might only save you $20; it’s the instinctive feeling of achievement that keeps you going. Loyalty systems are largely based around this feeling, which in-app messages enhance.
These in-app messages are less about marketing and more a part of the core app experience. It’s important to spend time customizing the look and feel of the message to match the app.
5. In-App Messages Simplify the Decision-Making Process
If there’s ever a situation where you must prompt users for a yes-or-no answer, consider using in-app messages. In particular, the modal messages that pop up into the center of the screen are perfect for streamlining the decision-making process. These messages catch your eye and present two simple calls to action (CTAs).
If someone is skimming quickly, they might miss in-app buttons and even large CTAs. But a modal message will stop you from scrolling and force a response. This saves users the trouble of reading all information on the screen to determine which button to press. At a glance, all pertinent info — including the CTAs — are present in the in-app message.
Hopefully these tips will help your next mobile app UX (re)design. There are plenty of marketing use cases for in-app messages, but never forget that they serve several UX ends as well. When done right, these messages can streamline navigation and make information unobtrusive yet easy to access.
If you’re not sure how to get started with in-app messages, consider using a platform like Leanplum. With out-of-the-box message templates, it will be trivial to get your first few messages up and running. Give it a try to see if your app’s user experience would benefit from a message-driven overhaul.
5 Ways to Leverage In-App Messages For Your Mobile UX was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.