How To Think About UX Design? The ‘Retentive’ Approach

Addictive — a word prattled around in the UX design community without thought or restraint.

It’s odd, wouldn’t you think? We call our customers “users”, as if it’s not UX we’re peddling, but crack cocaine.

And it baffles me how ‘’addictive’’ has scraped off its negative connotations, and is bandied about as the noblest merit of a website, operating system, and mobile app.

We’re all guilty of it: UX designers, commentators, and even the CTOs of enterprises who hire UX firms.

We don’t stop at clamoring for more addictive UX designs; we’re positively in love with the idea of manipulating end users.

This is the sort of stuff we say and hear:

“We design apps that make the smartphone unputdownable.”

“Keeps them coming back for more and more and more and….”

“We’ve made boredom extinct.”

“Our competition is sleep.”

“Trigger the urge to check for updates just that one more time.”

One can’t fail to detect the unmistakable scent of manipulation in all of the above. The person likely to say this sort of stuff isn’t the sort of person you’d go on a road trip with.

And I used to be this person, till it hit me that we weren’t fooling anyone but ourselves with our part-technical-part-psychoanlytical babble.

The answer for us has been a total abandonment of addictive UX designs, and a sweeping embrace of retentive UX design.

Yes, the word I’m addicted to, is retention. And it’s the antidote to addiction.

What’s Terribly Wrong With The Pursuit Of Addictive UX Design?

I won’t delve into how smartphone addiction (which is, fundamentally, app addiction) ruins one’s mind. That research is out there for anyone to read and muse over.

My problem with the pursuit of addictive app design is that, at the end of the day, it’s not even smart business.

For starters, it’s immoral.

Then, it’s unsustainable.

And further, it’s tiring.

Answer this, will you?

● Why would you want your app’s user to fall in love, head over heels, with your app?

● Why would you want them to keep on scrolling, tapping, and swiping?

● Why would you want to obsess over cold, hard metrics such as average session duration?

After all, you don’t expect (or want) your in-store customer to stick around all day long, do you?

The nobler goal is to anticipate the wants of your app user, service those wants, close the transaction, and leave them with enough reasons to repeat the behavior. In other words, the goal is to retain the app user’s interest and trust.

Retention: The Noblest Goal For UX Design

It’s amazing what a change in approach can bring about. 2021 is the 15th year in business for Neurointeractive, my UI and UX services outfit that has been carved out of the parent Neuronimbus. I see these 15 years as three distinct durations:

Phase 1: The first 5 years; years we consumed struggling to articulate what we stood for as a specialised team.

Phase 2: The next 5 years; years of doing more things right than wrong, and learning every day.

Phase 3: The last 5 years; years of realizing we couldn’t do me-too UX designs anymore, losing sleep over our identities in the design world, and finally finding answers.

The answer was retention.

A word blissfully devoid of the odors of marketing-speak.

A word that means what it seems to mean, nothing more and nothing less.

And it’s not just the word that I endorse, it’s what it entails. A word that says without saying, “This is a relation built on an agreeable past; a relation of mutual trust, a relation of transparency.”

Today, every little design decision we make every day reflects our belief that the noblest goal for a UX designer is to make the customer return. This is the crux of successful UX design. Crux. Say it aloud, and tell me if you’re immune to the throb, the hiss, the crunch in the word. We say it at every opportunity we find. For us, it’s a musical acronym for our design philosophy: CRUX, that’s Customer Retention through User Experience.

How Does The Crux Methodology Play Out In Real Life?

In many ways. Here’s how Neurointeractive’s CRUX approach will play out for, let’s say, the UX redesign of an e-store.

● Imagine the web store as a collage of dozens (often hundreds) of digital journeys playing out together.

● Isolate each journey and define its long-term success metrics;

● Compare actuals with desired, and identify the starkest gaps.

● Take a step back, and identify the digital journeys that contribute the most to revenues, and promise impressive returns on effort.

● Tweaks these pathways, A/B-tests the hell out of them, show awesome results, and retain all of these tweaks in all relevant journeys.

The result: every dime we bill to your clients works towards solving problems that matter, and every little success we achieve becomes a part of every relevant digital journey.

Why and How Retention Beats Addiction In UX Design?

Can’t comment on anyone else, but intelligent brands are the same in that they respect their customers. They know that a customer isn’t a guinea pig whom they can inject with doses of dopamine via infinite scrolls, flashy images, and in-app scratch-cards.

And these brands know the art of business is based on trying stuff, measuring results, identifying what works, and doing more of it.

The ideal customer for these brands is one who’d return willingly, not one who’d fall in love with the app. Customer lifetime value over average session duration — any day of the week.

When your app’s UX focuses on retaining your users, you find everything falling in place:

● No more brain-busting discussions on trivial matters such as finding the right shade of corporate blue

● Clients feel compelled to think their app goals through and articulate them clearly

● UX designers know exactly what success will look like for the customers who’ll use the app

● And, most importantly, a general sense of calm prevails over everyone involved in the UX design project, because the focus is on repeating successes, and not making app users behave like junkies.

Today, Neuronimbus’ digital experiences portfolio is of 100+ full-fledged apps built for B2B as well as B2C clients. These 100+ apps demonstrate the key tenets of our ‘retention-first, razzmatazz-later’ approach of UX design.

In fact, it’s after we shaped and embraced the CRUX approach, that we’ve felt confident in our skin as a UX services company; a company with an opinion and the readiness to back it with proof.

Write to me here to know more details of how Neurointeractive has built terrific apps for businesses in the finance, manufacturing, automobile, and tech space, firmly rooted to the CRUX methodology that plays for retaining end-users, instead of making them app addicts.




A digital evangelist, entrepreneur, mentor, digital tranformation expert. Two decades of providing digital solutions to brands around the world.

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Hitesh Dhawan

Hitesh Dhawan

A digital evangelist, entrepreneur, mentor, digital tranformation expert. Two decades of providing digital solutions to brands around the world.

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