How “paving a cow path” resulted in a 10x increase in the number of people sharing content
It’s 2019. I’m working as the Head of Product, leading a squad of 12 at a recipe sharing website / app company in Bristol, UK.
The squad is a multidisciplinary team consisting of: Developers (iOS, Android and web), a Product Designer, a Data Scientist, a QA person and me.
I’m responsible for the squad hitting their goals. Goals that they have helped set in alignment with the company’s goals for the quarter that are focused on retention of users who author content on the platform.
Our squad’s goals (set as OKRs) are all related to the features within the product that relate to communication. Commenting, sharing content, chat, etc.
We’re The Communication Squad.
One of the goals we’ve set ourselves for the quarter is to increase the number of users who are sharing content from our platform with their friends and family. The idea being that if we can increase the number of people sharing content, we can increase the numbers viewing the content. If we can increase the number viewing our user’s content, we can increase the numbers giving feedback to authors (likes, comments, etc) about their recipes. As a company we know (from extensive user research) that receiving feedback is one of the key drivers for author retention on the platform. We also know that while our product is similar in many ways to a social network, most of our users aren’t connected to many people they know on our platform, so when they find a recipe they want to share they have to do so outside our product.
From user research done by our insights team at the company we know that time and time again people we interview tell us that they like to share recipes with their friends and family via WhatsApp.
So, to increase the number of people sharing content from our platform with their friends and family we dug into the data we had about historical sharing behaviour on the platform.
The data confirmed what our researchers were telling us. The data showed that WhatsApp was by far the most popular way for our users to share recipes from our platform (at least in the countries / regions of the World where WhatsApp is the messaging service of choice, which were also the countries / regions where we had the most activity on our service at the time).
Based on these data we reviewed the current user journey for sharing a recipe via WhatsApp and evaluated how we could improve it.
The journey required a user to first view a recipe, then find the UI control to reveal sharing options, then choose from sharing the recipe via our app’s built in chat feature or via the “share” controls built in to the OS their device ran. Then they had to find WhatsApp from those OS level sharing options, then go through the process of sharing the recipe as dictated by the OS’s WhatsApp sharing mechanism.
We, as a Squad, decided to experiment with different ways of improving the overall sharing experience, and while we did that we made one small change to the user journey specifically for WhatsApp users:
We moved the share via WhatsApp option to be the first option the user saw when they opened the recipe sharing options, before they saw the OS share sheet. Effectively promoting WhatsApp two levels up in the chain of steps users followed when sharing content.
We deployed the change and monitored its impact.
The results were better than we’d expected. This seemingly simple change increased the number of people sharing recipes via WhatsApp by just over 10 times.
One small change, driven by qualitative and quantitive data that supported it, lead to a 10x increase in users doing what we wanted them to do.
That was a win for our Squad.
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to map the increase in sharing activity to impacts on author retention in any meaningful way, but as an isolated exercise in insight-driven design I think it’s a great example of why sometimes “paving the cow paths” really is a good approach to product design.