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Low Friction to No Friction: How UX Can Make or Break Adoption

You only get one shot at winning a user and, unfortunately, no two users are alike. Add one too many friction steps and that user is gone. So before you try to push out a new application to your users, make sure you’ve analyzed the software you’re looking at through these lenses.

The majority of user experience and friction isn’t technical at all so let’s start there.

First and foremost a user doesn’t yet exist. It’s just a concept we’ve come up with to generalize someone who would be on your application. But, if you’re about to launch an application, you have no one on your app… you have no users. If you find yourself contemplating what a user would want or wouldn’t want stop. Users are people — and they’re all generally smart people. People have different goals, preferences, stress, and experiences. Just like you don’t want to think of your employees as numbers, don’t think of the people adopting your app as users.

People will adopt your application for a reason. Find common personas of people at your company and brainstorm what reasons they have to use this application (“Group A will use this application to _________. Group B will use this application because they get ________”). Think what value that person gets from using the application. If you’re struggling to find value then the app might not be for that person — or that person for the app.

Now: List all of the reasons of use and value provided. Ensure the application you want to use has these features for these different people.

Friction Is Every Step People Have to Take in order to Receive the Value They Desire from Your Application

You should think about these steps, if not list them out. Remember that friction exists in the real world too. To illustrate this, here’s an incredibly simplified example of finding information online, using Google search.

A person wants to find something online:

  1. Get an internet connected device.
  2. Open the browser.
  3. Go to
  4. Type in what you’re looking for. Hit enter or click search.
  5. Read the results on the page. Click the one most likely to contain the information.
  6. Read the resulting page. Does it have the information? Yes: done; No: hit “back” and repeat #4.

Google’s goal is to reduce any friction that exists in the search experience. From creating world class smartphones, computers, and TVs, to building the fastest browser that you can also talk to, Google has gone to the extreme to reduce the physical friction involved in using They’ve spent a fortune on reducing friction in order to increase adoption.

Here are examples of how Google reduced the friction using its core application:

  1. They’ve created Project Loon and Google Fiber, which can power their Android phones, Chromeboxes, Google TV/Chromecasts (not to mention watches and eyeglasses).
  2. Most of their physical devices have a physical search button so people who don’t know what a browser is can still search. For people who know what a browser is they’ll probably want to use Google Chrome, which is available on every device they can name.
  3. On Android and Chrome, Google is the default search engine and this step isn’t normally required.
  4. Typing is a “friction-full” step. In case you don’t want to (or can’t), you can use voice search.
  5. Universal search and the knowledge graph make clicking through to many websites pointless. Google’s already done that for you.
  6. Google’s algorithms are designed for this to never happen.

That’s quite extensive just for one search. But for Google, friction is directly tied to revenue.

Look at your list of steps for each person and try to find the friction. Brainstorm solutions for each. Below are a list of common friction points and some potential solutions to get you started:


Low Friction

No Friction

What is this?Confusion adds the most friction to an application. People generally don’t have complete information why they’re at a site. Tell them why and what they get out of it.
  • Add a great welcome page or header that informs people what they’re looking at.
  • Have documentation nearby.
  • Unify messaging so that the name, url, etc. all communicate purpose.
  • Have documentation and tutorials built into the experience.

(groupon: group-coupon)

Sign InSign in is an incredibly friction-full process. What’s my username? Is it my email or a pseudonym? Which email is it? What’s the password?
  • Google/Facebook Connect or SAML/LDAP integration.
  • “Remember me” checkbox
  • Forgot password link prominent
  • Make sign in a requirement for an action (voting, commenting) and not for viewing.
  • No sign up required.

(visit no signup is required, but you’re most likely already signed in)

Create an Account
  • Same as above.
  • No signup required… or
  • With SSO integration, signing in is no longer needed provided they’ve signed into another application already.
Searching / Finding Content
  • Create a “discover” section and place search bars in conventional places.

(Think Amazon and Twitter)

  • Recommend content based on previous history.
  • Use powerful battle tested search functionality in your application.

(Think Netflix recommended content)

Thinking / Typing Content
  • Create multiple steps to simplify the process. Save that information for the next time the user does this action.

(Think Amazon’s buying process… after one time it’s just one button)

  • Limit the fields necessary to just one. Have the remaining be optional and not visually distracting.
  • Have the application “guess” and the user “check”

(Think sharing a link on Facebook)

Reducing friction can significantly increase adoption especially when the value received for the end user isn’t immediate. Look for ways where you can decrease friction in your app deployments and watch adoption increase.

Feel free to add any other common friction steps and potential solutions in the comments below!

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