Founders! I want to help you to figure out, how to turn your product into a playground instead of a mere tool. One that lets users [...] instead of nudging them to a anonymous /uniform/ pointless action. Get in touch for a free short consultation:

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1. Make your product connecting, not just "social".

Most entrepreneurs only have tools to design one-person experiences: they research individual goals and needs, sketch one-person flows, and test prototypes with one person at a time.

Humans are social creatures. Most of our goals and needs are about other people and things we could do together. On balance we find one-person flows less meaningful than being together with the people we love.

So what do entrepreneurs do? They put a bit of social icing atop that one-person experience their design tools led to: a share button here, a sprinkle of notifications & permissions, and a last-minute viral loop.

Users come for the thin layer of social, then slowly discover the product is actually isolating! Eventually they'll churn—headed to the next social promise.

A huge opportunity awaits designers who can put the social experience first, using social design techniques.

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2. Get clear on what's meaningful for users**.**

There's a difference between what users want to get done, and what they find meaningful. If you ask people what they want to get done in email, they'll say they want to reply to emails, archive things that don't require a response, etc. Ask instead what they find meaningful, you'll find they're doing beautiful things in email: keeping up relationships, mentoring young people who write to them, etc.

An email client designed just for the former will miss many possibilities to support people's sources of meaning.

One challenge here, is that we lack vocabulary to name these sources of meaning precisely, and test designs for them. This can be overcome with the card format we use in Values-Based Social Design:

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3. Let users make their own experience.

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Experience design aims to create a replicable experience, perhaps a series of feelings through narrative arc, or feelings of delight, or calmness. To do this, it uses theatrical elements like settings, timings, props, and messaging. Ritual design uses the same tools, but does not aim not to create a replicable experience, but rather to create an environment where users can build their own experience, and live by the values they came with.

Consider the Jewish ritual of sitting shiva:

During shiva, the immediate family who are sitting shiva are visited by other family and friends who share memories and console each other. The mood and nature of the space is decided by the people involved.

This ritual is not about designing an experience for the widow or their community. It's about giving space to the bereaved to have their own experience. Space for the values that come to play after death.

Once again, the standard tools of designers fail us. Analysis methods like "hard steps stories" can surface alternative design approaches to let users make their own story.

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4. Make a space for exploration.

Many entrepreneurs think they're making a tool or toolkit. Something that lets customers get something done or made quickly, so they can get back to the important things.

It's a tempting idea:

If we make a tool that accelerates their work, our customers can spend more time doing what they really want in life.

But in reality, most people's lives are an endless checklist. Trying to get a million things done. Completing one checkbox just gets them to the next, not to what they really want in life.