Forest is a popular productivity app which helps users to combat their phone addiction and focus on their work at hand. Users of the app would set a timer to be productive, planting a virtual seed in the app which would grow into a healthy tree, so long as users resist the temptation to use their phones before the timer is up. Should users falter, their tree would wither away, destroying their forest of healthy trees.
From Group 5’s presentation, I gained several key insights regarding Forest and I would be highlighting two of those below.
Firstly, I learned about the pros and cons of having a freemium vs paid business model. On one hand, it is easier for freemium apps to build up their initial user base compared to paid apps. With a sizeable user base, there is often a network effect where users themselves are influencing others and helping to bring in more users, creating a large user base. With this, the last piece of the puzzle is simply to generate attractive premium content and hope a proportion of their user base would be willing to pay.
On the other hand, paid apps belong to a more traditional business model. While it is true that developers need not bother with deciding and separating free and premium content, it is often difficult for paid apps to get users to take the plunge. Furthermore, it is also challenging to draw recurring revenue from their existing users.
In the app market today, there are many apps which are struggling to find a suitable business model, and it is important to first understand their differences in order to find the right business model for the app.
Secondly, it is essential to understand the nature of the app and to make design decisions around this understanding. For instance, Forest is marketed as a productivity app. As a result, it should (and does) adopt a minimalistic design and a simple interface. Users of the app hope to be productive, and it makes no sense for the app to have excessive gamification or other bells and whistles which distract users. Furthermore, the use of advertisements as a way to monetise is hardly aligned with the point of the app.
These are two of my personal thoughts from the presentation:
The group mentioned gamification and competition as one of the ways to retain users. Personally, I feel that I would use the app because I want to be productive and not because my friends are using it, thus having a competitive element to the app would not retain me as a user. Furthermore, I feel that the nature of a productivity app is vastly different from a game-based app like Candy Crush or FarmVille, and I am not comfortable nor inclined to share this aspect of my life with others on social media. With that being said, I feel that notifications, as mentioned by the group, would be a great way to draw me back to the app.
Lastly, I think it may be a good idea to incorporate “productivity statistics” to Forest. Since a proportion of Forest users are likely to be efficiency junkies, I think relevant information regarding when and where they are most productive is a useful feature aligned with the goals of the app.