As I tried to drill down into why so many people, including myself, love and use certain sites/apps/services, I’ve found common threads that tie addictive Internet products together:
Rapid Cadence. Cadence is the rate at which the content flows or changes. How often you can find something new determines, to a large extent, how often we check in on a product. Among the most popular layouts on the Internet and mobile is the “waterfall” design. Newest stuff goes to the top and slowly falls down over time. The design is incredibly simple – one column of content, with all of the external stuff thrown around the outside. Basically a big list. The tricky part from a product perspective is how to get the list just right.
Signs of User Activity. Social proof is a very real thing. Every successful consumer product that I can think of has user interactions front and center. They have numbers of upvotes, points, comments, likes, retweets, favorites, repins, etc. on every piece of content, and on the home page.
One-Click Interaction. Every product I can think of consists of serving up a list of content that people can react to with little to no effort. Almost all consumer products are driving you to do one thing. They put that one thing front and center. That thing is usually typed out, also — you can either click a thumbs up on Facebook or you can click “like.”
Notification of Interactions. I’ll go back to a product every now and then if I think there’s going to be interesting stuff happening there. But if there’s going to be something that involves me? I’ll hit that site all the time. The quickest way for any new user to reach the “aha” moment is to have a solid, positive interaction on your product. Sometimes that just means somebody paid attention to them enough to respond to a comment. Sometimes that means “karma.”
(1) “How often you can find something new determines, to a large extent, how often we check in on a product… The tricky part from a product perspective is how to get the list just right.” Another way of putting this: You must achieve high content liquidity and high relevance (signal-to-noise ratio) for the user.
(2) Cf. Addictive product = high content liquidity + high signal-to-noise ratio.