Posted on – Why you should think of a passive UX for your next app

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When I got the idea for Luper, I wanted to build something very simple that does one thing very well: reminds me to stay in touch with people.

That’s it.

There are many CRMs, task managers, to-do list apps, and note taking apps out there and they all work well and could help me achieve that goal. But for my needs, and for what I wanted Luper to become, they were all too much.

With an infinite number of apps, and a finite amount of time, UX designers and app developers need to start thinking about building apps with a passive UX not an active UX.

A passive UX is a user experience where the app requires minimal input from the user for it to be functional, as opposed to an active UX where the app requires a lot of user input for the app to function to it’s potential.

It’s essentially a function of time vs utility. For most apps, there is a positive correlation with the time I spend in the app and the utility I get from it. Facebook is an example of an active UX. I need to post, comment, like, send friend requests, and monitor my newsfeed for me to get the utility of keeping in touch with people and knowing what’s going on in their lives. Twitter and Instagram are more examples of an active UX.

Evernote is a great productivity app that’s also an active UX. I can create notes, organize into notebooks, add tags, input media and Evernote becomes a repository for all my notes.

Dropbox is what I think of as a passive UX. I add a file I want stored and then I only access it again when the need arises.

CRM applications are built with an active UX. Salesforce is the cream of the crop when it comes to CRM. The platform is the best at managing the entire sales process. It requires the user to input and upload information from multiple sources for the user to be able to scratch the surface of what Salesforce is built for and what it can do.

One of the best mobile CRMs I’ve seen is Refresh another active UX. It’s a beautifully designed app with access to all the information about your contacts, meetings, and follow-ups right there at your finger tips. I sign up, link my accounts, and constantly go back to the app when I want information about a contact before a meeting I have scheduled.

That’s great for people that need that kind of information at a moments notice.

I don’t.

I built Luper as a passive UX. I wanted to get the maximum potential of the app with the minimum amount of input. Again, I wanted Luper to do one thing and one thing only, to remind me to keep in touch with people.

Luper was built with a “set it and forget it” approach. The user creates a lup, sets it and forgets it. The app does all the work. It automatically reminds the user in recurring time intervals to reach out and it pre-populates the contact information based on the chosen contact method. If a user chooses to add notes, they can but that doesn’t add or takeaway from the function of the app.

Luper doesn’t have the bells and whistles of other productivity apps but Luper doesn’t need it. Luper isn’t a CRM. Luper is a personal relationship manager that helps me remember to keep in touch with personal relationships, or business relationships that have become personal relationships.

According to this study, the average user spend close to three hours on their phones on social media, texting, games, applications, etc. Productivity and utilities is only 12% of that usage. As an app creator, I understand these habits and decided to take a different approach. I can’t compete with robust CRMs and productivity apps, and surely can’t compete with social media and games. I also don’t want to take a bigger slice of the usage pie. Instead of having the user spend a lot of time in my app, I want them to get the maximum functionality while spending a minimum amount of time in the app.

Download Luper for iOS and Android at

The Platform That Gets This Right Will Win

There is one commonality engrained in the user experience of all social platforms.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and even Reddit all have their variations of a personal newsfeed where a user views content, a collection of pictures, text, and, most importantly, external links, curated and shared by others. I’ll come back to why external links is the most important aspect of the feed.

The mobile experience for interacting with the feed is also similar across all the platforms. A user will open the app and scroll down interacting with the content posted by others in various forms with behaviors relative to each platform. It’s easy to interact with content. A user sees the content and if it’s something they agree with, they click like, they retweet, they double tap the screen, they repin, or they up vote, or they leave a comment. The interaction applies to text, photos, or videos.

But not external links. When a user sees a link to external content, the user clicks the link to view the content and the browser built into the app opens the content. For example, if a user sees a link to a blog post on Twitter, the user clicks the link, the article opens within the Twitter app browser.

The in-app browser is a horrible user experience. A user has to close the in-app browser to interact with feed once again. The in-app browser itself is slow, often doesn’t work, and when it does it doesn’t display the external content correctly. It’s almost useless to try and purchase a product, or complete a form in an in-app browser.

If most users are like me, they get fed up with trying to interact with the in-app browser and they either close the content and think it’s not worth it, or they copy the link and open it into an actual mobile browser like Safari or Chrome.

Both outcomes are bad for social platforms. A social platform wants users to stay within the platform. That’s how the platform makes money through ads. A platform wants users to interact with all content within their own app environment but the in-app browser needs to be fixed. It should be a seamless interaction between the external content and the app. A user should be able to easily view the external content, interact with that same content, like purchasing a product, and then return to the social app to continue engaging with the feed.

Considering most content on social platforms is an aggregation of external links, the social platform that makes the best in-app browser experience will win, hands down. It’s easy to get this right on a desktop, the new link opens in a new tab, but who will get it right for mobile?

A User Will Not Switch Platforms Because You Added Features

Instagram announced direct messaging of photos, similar to Snapchat. Instagram also launched Instagram Video, similar to Vine.

Last year, Facebook added hashtags, similar to Twitter.

Twitter added photo filters, similar to Instagram.

All of these added features on these platforms are great additions and often work very well. They may even enhance the user experience on that platform. All of these platforms added these features as an attempt to gain market share from their competitors but…

A user will not switch platforms because you added features.

Users are set in their ways. They have spent years using a platform and developed specific behaviors that will be impossible to break. For example, users have been adding hashtags to tweets for years but never to Facebook posts and few will start because the feature has been added.

Adding a new feature will get traction on the platform as a function of the number of users currently on the platform especially when a platform has millions of users (billion for Facebook). A percentage of users using a new functionality does not mean the user has used the other platform less but it will most likely mean the user has figured out a new way to include that new feature in their current platform usage behaviors.

Changing user behaviors and influencing users to switch from an existing platform is like moving mountains.

Adding bells and whistles are great but how does that new feature add to the core functionality of the platform?

New platforms launch everyday with “improved design” and a “unique user experience” but if the functionality the platform is giving is similar to an already existing functionality in another app or platform, why would I really switch?

I was at Dallas New Tech in December. One of the demoing startups was a camera app called Gestures. This app had one of the greatest UX designs that I’ve seen and it will absolutely improve the user experience of the iPhone camera app. I will definitely use it and test it once it launches, however, I’m an early adopter.

Most users and the general public are not early adopters and are not in tune with the tech scene as people in our industry. Is a new UX and sleek design enough to make my mom, who just got an iPhone last year, switch from the default Camera app to Gesture? Probably not.

Platforms need to think about how they can improve on current user behaviors and the unique essence of their platform before attempting to drastically change user behaviors.