What makes users to like a mobile app.

UI is not the answer. 

After a user installs an application and starts to tinker with it, a process of learning starts ( I am not talking here about guided learning that some apps provide on the first run. I am talking about when you open the app, the learning process starts). How satisfying for the user this process is, defines how the application will be accepted by the users. Learning processes, according to cognitive load theory are two types that are depended on the biological knowledge that we acquire. 

There are two types of biological knowledge – primary and secondary. We are using the term “primary biological knowledge” for things like seeing, listening and speaking our first language. Nobody taught us how to “see” or how to speak our first language. These constitute our biological rather than cultural inheritance – we are expecting people to learn these skills no matter the culture in which they were developed. In general, we as creators, don’t need to guide people on how to use their primary knowledge. 

Writing is an example of secondary biological knowledge. For writing we need some instructional process, so we can learn to write. Decision making is also a secondary knowledge. Acquisition of secondary biological knowledge is effortful and conscious. Acquiring and using secondary biological knowledge is a difficult process and that’s why schools were created. 

In general – some guidance is needed about how the user needs to use its secondary knowledge in a given context. 

Use cases that require mostly “primary biological knowledge” are easy and usually lead the user to satisfying results. Use cases that require mostly “secondary biological knowledge” need more conscious actions, and the first time satisfaction is not always guaranteed. 

Hence we can understand why some types of apps are more popular than others. Apps that   require mostly “primary biological knowledge” are more popular, for example, any kind of video players, audio players, apps that belong to so called “browsing apps”, etc. 

The TikTok mobile app is an excellent example of exploiting these concepts. The main actions in TiTok are actions based on “primary biological knowledge” – seeing and listening. Only one, relatively easy action based on “secondary biological knowledge” is used – liking – it is personal decision making with “likely no consequences”.  The consequences are realized later when the user starts to see similar videos in its thread. And these consequences could be changed by changing the AI that uses the information from user actions. 

So this assembly of actions leads to pleasant and rewarding user experience. 

And… the UI of TikTok is not nice or original by any means… It is… decent at best. 

This post was written by Stancho Stanchev