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Thinking Outside the App

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0 min read

Aug 18, 2023

I've always felt the urge to fill the void when others are quiet. I’ve always had a habit of raising my hand when my boss sought a volunteer for a dull, time-consuming project. I just couldn’t handle those moments of complete silence. This tendency gets complicated when conversing with strangers, especially when you’re captive in their car for the next 23 minutes on the way to the airport. How long can a person speak about the weather?

Fortunately, Gett, a marketplace for taxi drivers and passengers, No alt text provided for this image has rectified this problem. The uncomfortable silence between driver and passenger is minimized by a simple pop-up that appears after a ‘match’. The pop-up displays the driver's preferred conversation topics, from sports teams to astronomy. Gett even notifies passengers when it’s their driver’s birthday week, prompting an easy icebreaker.

Gett didn’t just ask “How can we create the best user experience for a taxi marketplace app?” They asked, "How can we foster comfortable, genuine connection in taxi cabs?”

They thought outside the app. Apps cater to various stages of the user journey, which partially takes place in the physical realm. In UX design, we need to be mindful of the bigger picture – perfecting not only the in-app experience, but attending to the user journey as it unfolds in reality.

User pains aren’t always digital

Product managers must conduct behavioral analyses that extend beyond the platform itself, aiming to identify real-life pain points. These can be identified by focusing on where the user interacts with the app and then transitions to the real world, or vice versa:

  • Ordering a taxi through a transportation app is followed by a physical (and social!) interaction with the driver.
  • Hiring house movers via a service app is preempted by packing and followed by unpacking.
  • Ordering produce through a food delivery app is followed by cooking.

No alt text provided for this image A comprehensive experience should travel with the user beyond the screen &ndash and this can be achieved by mapping the transition points between the app and the real world.

Another transportation app, Lyft, identified that riders tended to be prone to distractions while waiting for their lift. We’ve all been there: stuck in a conversation, still debating what to wear (guilty as charged), or scrambling to throw last-minute items into our bag. It can be difficult to find the balance between obsessively checking our car’s arrival time every five seconds, and hearing the horn honk out front while we’re still mid-outfit change. 

Lyft resolved this unpleasant dilemma with a single buzz. The rider’s phone vibrates once the driver is approaching. And if you’re far away from your phone? No problem – the vibration will be loud enough for you to hear. 

Aim for a happy ending

Solving a pain point at the end of the user flow is exceptionally effective for increasing user satisfaction. According to the peak-end rule, we typically judge experiences based on how they felt at their peak and at their end. Grocery delivery startup Avo understood the peak-end rule: 

After a user makes their grocery order, Avo divides the selected items into different bags based on typical kitchen storage. When users receive their delivery, their food is already divided into categories like dairy, fruit, and bread (what can I say? I love carbs). This helps users save time not just on the Avo app, but when they’re unloading their groceries – long after the app experience has run its course.

Acknowledge physical user errors

No alt text provided for this imageOne of the key principles of Thaler and Sunstein’s Nudge theory is to be mindful of users’ expected errors.1 As product managers, we’re responsible for identifying and addressing these errors in our product design – including those outside the app. Take Uber: they went the extra mile (pun intended) for users facing new technology during their rideshare. If you’ve ever been in a Tesla, you know the embarrassment of failing to open their artfully-designed car door for the first time. Uber provides detailed instructions for riders before their fancy car shows up, saving them the embarrassment and thereby creating a better overall user experience.

Mind the outside environment

When sculpting a new feature, it's imperative to envision the physical scenarios in which our users will engage with our application. Pondering questions like 'outdoors or indoors?' and 'day or night?' and 'solitude or crowds?' becomes paramount. These differences will significantly influence the final product's design and functionality.

Take Duolingo, the illustrious language learning app that fervently encourages daily practice. To ensure the user's commitment to the app, Duolingo caters to an array of user circumstances. The platform's designers recognized that learners might seize fleeting moments – be it during a doctor's waiting room interlude or a homeward bus ride – to engage in language exercises.

However, these instances aren't always conducive to vocal practice. This savvy insight led to the integration of "Can't listen now" and "Can't speak now" options, empowering users to circumvent speaking or hearing exercises when circumstances don't align.

Seeing beyond the smartphone horizon

As humans, we like to be seen. As product managers, we’re obligated to see our users. Spotting user needs, from Tesla’s finicky door handles to respecting the quiet of the doctor’s office while we improve our Spanish, allows us to intricately map the entire user journey. 

Addressing these needs not only fosters a profound sense of care in users, knowing that their experience was thoughtfully crafted, but also eases their daily lives – aligning perfectly with the essence of product management. This user-centric approach ultimately leads to a more fulfilled user base and a genuine connection between people and technology, embodying the spirit of what we do.


  1. Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein (2008), Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness.

About the Author

Yael Mark headshot

Yael Mark

Yael Mark is a seasoned product manager with a true passion for behavioral economics/science. In her works, Yael is focusing on implementing applicable behavioral theories to influence user adoption, enhance retention and elevate engagement  levels.

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