Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. - Arthur C. Clarke

What is a magical experience?

If you manage to optimize the mundane and delight users in the same process - you created a magical experience. Uber creates two magical experiences for users. The first one happens when users tap on their phones and a car with a driver appears in front of them. The second magical moment happens when users leave the car at the place they wanted to go while the payment happens automatically. Frictionless. Easy. Magical.

Where is your magical moment?

Where in your app are your users experiencing a magical moment? First ask yourself - what would your users be most disappointed by if you removed it today? Imagine Uber removing their two core features - ease if finding a ride and frictionless payment - it would not be the same service and value proposition anymore. They would lose users fast. On the flip side, would users care that much if Uber were to remove their FAQs? Probably not.

Beware the Bloatware

You quickly realize that your app is made of one or two core experiences or features that represent the majority of value for your users. What about your other features you may wonder? They can create unnecessary noise and distract your users from the actual core of your app. Bloatware comes to be known as bloatware when it becomes so unwieldy that its functionality is drowned out by its useless features. Software bloat can slow down your app and confuse new users by the number of possible features and options that are presented to them.

How is Bloatware created?

This problem arises for example when development teams are told to blindly follow roadmaps that have been handed to them by management. Usually, the viability of these features is not questioned, tested with users, or analyzed after it was released.

Even if the analytics numbers show that users do not interact with the features it is decided to keep it in. This happens because a lot of time and money have gone into the feature (Sunk-cost fallacy), someone in management has a political stake in the decision or, the whole development team is so busy developing the next feature that there is no time for looking back and questioning what they did last week. Fred Brooks in his book The Mythical Man-Month coined the term second-system effect (also known as second-system syndrome) that explains that bloated systems are created due to inflated expectation and overconfidence. Small, elegant, and successful systems are succeeded by over-engineered, bloated systems.

How can you make your app more magical and less bloated?

1. Find your magical moment

When you show your app to users, watch them closely while they go through your experience. When their eyes light up after an interaction with your app, you found your magical experience.

You can ask your users how disappointed they would be if you would remove Feature A or B today. It is a better benchmark in evaluating how much your users actually care about your features than asking what features they like. Be data driven. Analyze your data and see how your users are moving through your software. This can give you a good indication of what users actually value.

2. Remove the noise

You now have now quantitative and qualitative data that backs you up. Search for opportunities to trim your app of features that do not help your users achieve their goals. Slim down your app and make your value proposition clearer.

3. Double down on your magical experience

Lastly, focus on the magical experience in your app and see if you can make it even more frictionless and magical for your users. This is the most important thing you can focus on. Find any opportunity to cut down the steps for users, the text they need to read, or the time they have to wait until they achieved what they wanted to with your app. The more magical and valuable your experience is for users, the more successful your app will be.