There’s a small likelihood you’re the only company working on a product like yours.

So how do you stand out?

The most common way I hear is by creating a better product than your competitor. There are a lot of articles out there on why you should listen to your users and build what they request.

While I don’t disagree with those articles, I wanted to shine light on a much less spoken about but just as effective method.

This method is extremely quick to implement. In fact, any one of the examples mentioned below can be implemented in less than half a day.

This method is known as making your users smile.

Below are five proven ways successful companies have done so.

 

  1. Give your product a personality

Users are jaded from their experiences with customer service robots. It has come to the point where several credit card companies make “speak to a real person” a premium feature for their cards.

Your product is the constant medium between you and your users. By giving your product a personality in ways users don’t expect, you are making the interaction feel more real and significantly more personal.

One of my favorite companies to give a real personality to their product is Mailchimp.

In the image above, Mailchimp does an incredibly creative job making the user smile while also educating them about the proper size of an e-mail.

Another great example from Mailchimp is when you’re about to send an e-mail out. For anyone who hasn’t sent out e-mail newsletters before, when you’re about to send an irreversible message to thousands of people, there’s usually a high level of anxiety involved.

By having a funny image of a sweating monkey’s hand scared to press a button, it gives you a sense of humor and turns an otherwise high-anxiety moment into a pleasurable one.

One more great example I learned about while watching Y-Combinator’s “How To Start a Startup” series, Kevin Hale from Wufoo talks about creating small but fun experiences to win over the hearts of their users.

In the example above you can see the small detail of when you hover over the login button, a small overlay saying “RAARRRR” comes up. Kevin stated,

“This experience is very memorable. Some of my favorite login pages are those like Wufoo… When you contrast that with Google or Yahoo sign up pages, there is a big personality difference, you don’t start off your journey with a smile.”

Kevin’s message hits it on the head. When your users enter your site, it’s a journey. Attitude is everything, and it’s up to you to set the tone of their journey.

  1. Take advantage of loading times

Hipmunk waiting

No one likes waiting.

Loading screens suck, but for now they’re a part of our lives.

There are way too many sites out there who accept this and don’t do anything beyond that.

Smart companies see this space as an opportunity to take an otherwise lousy part of your product’s user experience and make it memorable.

When thinking of examples for this blog, the first one that came to my mind was Hipmunk. I don’t believe any other site does as good of a job of making their product more memorable.

In the image above, Hipmunk takes an otherwise boring experience and makes it fun. Hipmunk is the first company that comes to my mind not only because of their superior product to the competition, but also because their fun chipmunk makes me smile, which makes me remember them.

  1. Give your community a mascot

reddit snoo death

This method may not work well for everyone. However I’ve noticed when implemented correctly, it really facilitates the ability to give your product a unique personality.

When you have a mascot, you’re able to give your users an avatar for your product. This is incredibly valuable because if done correctly, this avatar becomes the very thought to win their top of mind share.

Twitter has a bird, Github has an Octocat, and Mailchimp as a chimpanzee.

However the most effective of them all is Reddit’s alien, Snoo.

Reddit is the 28th most visited site in the world and anyone on that site recognizes and loves their mascot, Snoo. Even if you’ve only been once, there’s a high likelihood you’re familiar with the alien mascot.

Reddit co-Founder Alexis Ohanian drew daily doodles for their mascot banner which he would update every day. He even stated there were people telling him they would go to Reddit every day just to see the new doodle and what their mascot was up to for that day.

In one event, he drew a series of doodles which depicted Snoo having a stomach ache and eventually an alien popped out of it and killed the beloved mascot.

From Ohanian’s book, “Without Their Permission,” he stated this caused an outrage in the community. The alien ended up regenerating over the next week and all was well.

By having a mascot, Reddit was able to give one of the world’s largest communities a common bond.

  1. It’s okay to make a mistake

Users make mistakes on your product. It happens. With most apps out on the market, when you make a mistake you’re redirected to a bland screen unforgivably telling you that you made a mistake.

In a real-life situation, you wouldn’t hover over someone’s shoulder and just coldly tell someone they’re wrong. So why would your app do that?

Github 404 - Make Users Smile

Github does a great job of making me not feel stupid when I incorrectly type a link. Their 404 page (pictured above) is by far the best I’ve seen. It makes a reference to a movie I love (Star Wars), has cool animations with the screen based on my mouse movement, and then gives me the option to make another search. It’s a fun 404 page.

The back button can be poisonous in this situation. It reminds the user they made a mistake. By giving the user an option to do a search on the 404 page, it lets them know they can still move forwards without going back.

Again, users will make mistakes on your product. Let them know it’s okay. Your product’s job is to make your users feel like a better version of themselves.

  1. Go the extra mile

Surprise your users.

Users are a lot more loyal and a lot less price sensitive than you might think. By creating a great user experience, many people would be okay with paying a higher price.

Zappos has made this very famous. Tony Hsieh has put a very large focus on creating an amazing user experience for any Zappos customer.

“We’re not trying to maximize efficiency. We’re trying to maximize the customer experience” -Tony Hsieh

Zappos’ most notable extra mile grab is upgrading random customers to free next day shipping. When you order a product online and choose regular shipping, we’ve become accustomed to waiting a week before receiving our product.

After ordering, many Zappos customers have this same thought and then end up seeing a package on their front door the next day. Even though it’s just a slight discount, a surprise like this is a truly memorable moment for any customer.

Camperoo (YC S13) is another great example I have come across. I recently spoke with the CEO of Camperoo and they completely control the user experience for their users.

Once a user makes a booking on their site, Camperoo handles their complete itinerary from managing their friend’s bookings to making any transportation reservations.

People aren’t used to this kind of personal concierge service with the current incumbents and by going the extra mile like they did, they made their users smile, which later led to their massive growth in customers.

Conclusion

In an environment where you’re not the only one in your industry, you need to work hard to stand out. If you’re already at the top of your industry, then you need to work harder to stay on top.

By making your users smile you’re able to stay at the top of their minds and you’ll be the first company they refer their friends to. To make your users smile, remember these quick five ways you could be optimizing your site for happiness.

  1. Give your product a personality
  2. Take advantage of loading times
  3. Align your product with a mascot
  4. Make your error pages fun
  5. Go the extra mile

I would really love to see some other examples where you’ve seen companies make their users smile. If you have any that you’d like to share, please post them in the comments below or tweet them to me at www.twitter.com/willietran_.