Zero states are the messages that our apps tell us when we haven’t made anything yet, our lists are done, our notifications are all read, or when our searches have no results. As app designers, we often focus on giving the user what they needed so we don’t talk much about what happens when there is nothing to give. And nothing isn’t a bad place to be.
Don’t get hung up on showing nothing to your users. Some apps should always give something (think searching on Amazon on Google), others should be more responsible and stop showing things (endless social media and YouTube videos) but most of the time users want to know that they’ve ACCOMPLISHED getting to nothing! This can be super important part of their workflow.
So the next time you’re designing an interface that can have “one or more” somethings show up, take a step back and consider what you’d like to communicate to your users if there aren’t any to show. It could be a good time to relax and let your hair down with something funny, congratulate your users, ask them to create, or point them to another aspect of the app that needs their attention. You should never leave someone wondering, “huh, so I guess there aren’t any then?”
I saw this email in my inbox yesterday and I immediately flagged it because it hit a certain nail right on the head for me. This is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot, and watching from my company and from other companies. As you look past direct marketing efforts—and I wouldn’t recommend that this be done lightly because direct marketing and sales is SOOO MUCH easier to track and account for. And what can be tracked can be improved and that’s a great space to be in. But as companies look past that, they look for more comprehensive approaches that support indirect sales, word of mouth, influencers and just groundswell for your sales efforts. And then we start talking about brand and there’s a million ways that we see brands. Not all of them are successful. Not all are even noticed or appreciated. And if you don’t apply regular and intentional pressure then you will still have a brand, but it will be obscure, absent-minded, flighty and limited to the exposure that just happens and that’s not the impression you want.
So back to this email. It’s from Atlassian, makers of the supremely popular project management software Jira. And here they are sending me an email about incident management. Now I honestly didn’t know they had any product offering in that space, and that’s the genius here because they know that I do think about incident management and that’s a particularly nasty area that IT and Development groups need to have great controls and procedures in place for. It’s like Atlassian knows who I am! (And they do, because I’m fitting a profile they’re targeting for, but that’s not the point!) The point here is that they’ve just shared something with me that I appreciate. That maybe I need. And there’s a load of people like me out there that got this email and said to themselves, “Huh. Atlassian. OK, nice! I appreciate that!” Now I forwarded this on to the right guy in the company and I never clicked on the button in the email. Which means that they couldn’t track what they just did: they build trust. Now further, I forwarded the email onto my executive team as an example of this kind of marketing and now all of them are thinking good things about Atlassian.
How do you measure that? You don’t.
I’m thinking about basketball camps that Nike sponsors. I’m thinking about JR Smith’s new “Supreme” calf tattoo. I’m thinking about what Beats did for the Olympic athletes as they took their brand to the masses. There is a way to attribute the spend, but it’s not easy and it’s sketchy but it’s real. By providing value to people outside of your direct sales and marketing efforts—by providing exposure away from your buying channels you’re letting your brand breathe. And here’s the nail for me today:
If your your company has a mission to accomplish outside of just revenue, then you need to talk about it with your customers and prospectsoutside of your sales channels.
When you’re ready, get out and get talking about what your company is doing for people. Show them what you want to do and introduce them to people that are making amazing things happen with your product or service. You won’t be able to measure it, and you’ll need a discipline around it, but don’t think for a minute that if done correctly, it isn’t going to make a big difference.