Facebook Paper App

I was excited to hear about the new Facebook Paper app.  I like the app – it’s very well done. You may know that my company, Appington, is the innovator of in-app voice. Unfortunately the Facebook guys didn’t contact us while they were developing Paper, as we’d have offered many suggestions for improving their voice tutorial :-) 

We’ve worked with several mobile app and game companies to introduce audio tutorials and in-app promotions to their apps. Check out a few recent ones:

We’ve tested thousands of prompts against millions of users to measure their impact and correlate with other factors. As a consequence we’ve driven 30-60% improvement in revenue, and even increased Facebook sign-in by over 150%. In other words, we’ve done voice tutorials a bunch of times so we know what works and what doesn’t.

The Paper voice tutorial closely resembles some of the tutorials we’ve worked on. It’s pretty cool – and flattering – to see one of the biggest companies and apps out there validate your concept, and try to imitate you inside their product.

But they could do better. Here are a few suggestions we have for Facebook Paper:

  1. Add more character to the voice: The current voice in Facebook Paper resembles Siri – it’s emotionless, almost as if generated by a text-to-speech system. The true power of voice comes from its ability to raise real emotions in people. Facebook Paper went for the “safe choice” which uses voice to communicate information but isn’t really exciting and doesn’t build strong emotions with anyone.
  2. Use variety in tone and copy: Mix it up with different confirmation and action words. Voice and audio are powerful when they come in a variety of forms. Instead of a flat “great”, use a range of alternate messages to keep up users’ interest.
  3. A/B test: I don’t know whether Facebook Paper has a single hardcoded version of its tutorial with one actor and one set of copy. But they should be testing real voices and different lines with users. In our experiments we’ve seen that sometimes the same words spoken in a different tone of voice, or by a different actor, can drive tens of percentage difference in users using features. You might believe your actor “sounds great” but voice has a dramatic impact to real life usage of the app. Without trying a few different actors or lines, it’s impossible to know. Hunches aren’t data.
  4. Use voice notifications: Give users relevant and timely information, like “You have a new post from one of your friends – check it out,” or “You have a pending friend request.”
  5. Localization: Deliver voice guidance in the user’s own language. Voice localization is an easy way to drive more engagement across a global audience and it’s easy to do without requiring expensive graphical UI changes.

Those are just a few ideas for better voice tutorials. We’ll continue to work with cool game and app developers to drive new audio concepts for driving engagement. It’s exciting to see Facebook starting to venture in this direction!

We’d like to welcome many other apps to try out voice tutorials and audio for engagement in mobile apps, and we’d love to hear from you! Message me at twitter or email if you’d like to find out more.

With over 8,000 attendees to Apps World Europe it’s evident that the Mobile Community is continuing to grow and thrive!  Over the course of two days Appington was, especially, proud to be able to demo our technology to several hundred of these attendees.  If you walked around long enough you noticed our table in the Startup Village and possibly had the opportunity to speak with Matthew our Director of Developer Relations all about how adding voice prompts to your mobile apps can increase retention and revenue.

Several of the top attended talks were focused on how to continue to grow your user base and keep the users coming back!  We at Appington are excited to work with mobile publishers and help them make their dreams of being a top publisher a reality. Keep an eye out for team Appington at other mobile related events and don’t be shy, come and say hi!  Keep up to date with our whereabout by following us on twitter: @appington – See you again next year at Apps World Europe!

There are just 4 days left on the latest Humble Bundle. I grabbed it immediately as it includes Ticket To Ride, subject of a funny Table Top where they played it the analogue old school way.

It was a pleasant surprise to find that TTR uses voice prompts. Unfortunately they only use voice to help with the initial menu navigation and haven’t gone any further. The tutorial could definitely do with voice instead of having to read lots of the text dialogs, as well as providing explanations of why it wanted me to pick particular cards. It also took me a little while to understand the rules exactly, especially what were valid moves and what weren’t. Having voice tell me why what I was trying to do wasn’t allowed would have been immensely helpful. Hopefully they’ll add more voice in the future.

I highly recommend the Humble Bundles – grab this one quickly before the clock runs out!

Interval Run is available at the App store, updated with Appington Amplify. (It’s a health and fitness app.) Much of my work has been on Appington’s backend – SDKs and the dashboard - so it was gratifying to hear Samuli Riihonen (the developer) say:

From the moment I started, it was less than 30 minutes and I was up & running with Appington SDK, hearing voice prompts

We’ve only had a few days of data come in so far, it isn’t statistically significant, and Risto insists on longer time periods, but I’m going to brag that as well as being an easy integration, the one-day retention bumped 11% for users in the voice group versus the control (silent) group.

Add a Welcome Message

First impressions are everything. With so many choices, especially for F2P (Free to Play) games, you want all the odds to be in your favor to keep a user once you’ve convinced them to install your app and launch it for the first time. Use a Welcome prompt that brings users into the mood of the app and explains what the app is all about. A simple example of how this can work: Shopping

Better Tutorial with Voice Prompts

Have you ever played League of Legends? Did you ever read any of the texts or did you just listen to narration that explains how to start playing the game?

Let’s be real: when people play games, nobody wants to read texts or pop-ups. People play games to have a good time, and for most that doesn’t mean staring at a small font on a small screen (whether iPhone or iPad is immaterial at this stage). By adding a voice-based tutorial, you can let your users sit back, relax, soak in the entertaining experience and actually feel what the game is about. To know if your tutorial is working, measure your tutorial completion rate – and also, how many people spend enough time to understand the tutorial, and whether they’ve really learned what the tutorial was there to teach.

Here’s what we’ve done with a game called RocketSpace.

Promote Key Features

Don’t have a tutorial? Not a problem: you can still prioritize the two or three top features you want all your users to master, and promote them with voice prompts during gameplay when the time’s right. Also, unlike popups – which typically pause the gameplay, require you to read something, understand it, and then do it – with voice prompts you can educate users unobtrusively, give them sixty seconds or so to use the promoted feature, and if they haven’t, nudge them again.  Example promo.

Encourage Users

Unlike banners, which users must stop and read, voice prompts can play during gameplay. They’re a great way to maintain high engagement and excitement, with messages like “awesome,” “great job,”, “that was a great game“, “keep going,” or “you’re almost there.” There’s the right way and the wrong way to do this. When you encourage users, make sure you use a “persona” that fits the style, attitude and goals of the app.  Also, in apps as in real life, a little thanks and encouragement go a long way towards making people feel happier and more engaged.  Here are a couple of examples:

Add Variety

Nothing is more boring than seeing or hearing the same thing over and over again. The same applies for your first-time user sessions. When you’re promoting features, encouraging users, or challenging them, it’s important to mix things up a bit. Saying “Great job” five times in a row doesn’t work nearly as well as “Great job,” “Awesome,” “Way to go,” “Fantastic,” “You got it.”

Encourage Users to Play with Sound On

As stated in a previous blog post, 73% of people play games with sound on. In our research we’ve learned that, on average, users with sound on (at least 10% volume) play longer than those with sound off. As games are also gaining much richer soundscapes overall, we recommend you tell your users to play with sound on. You can easily do that with a short interstitial or screen that reminds the minority 27% of users to increase their volume.

Where to Go From Here?

These are just some of the tactics we recommend customers adopt to drive retention using voice prompts. We’ve built much of this knowledge into our platform. You can check out the platform here, or reach us via twitter or email risto at appington replace with dot com.

I get asked this question a lot, so here are the facts.

We’ve been measuring this since starting Appington, and have results validated by hundreds of thousands of users worldwide. We get data from various different game types (casual, puzzle, casino, arcade etc) and from iOS and Android. The results are consistent across game types and platforms. Here’s the rough breakdown:

  • 73% of users worldwide play games with the volume at 10% or higher (on a linear scale of their volume setting)
  • 3% of users worldwide have a headset plugged in while playing games

The bigger differences we see depend on the users’ geographic locations. The percentage at 10% volume or higher is:

  • 78% in the United States
  • 58% in the United Kingdom
  • 90% in China and Korea

We’ve also discovered that users with sound on tend to have longer sessions than those with sound off.

The above numbers are based on work we’ve done here at Appington during 2012 and earlier in 2013. I’m sure they’ll change in the future somewhat, and we’ll continue to keep an eye on them.

What are my conclusions from these figures?

  • The majority of users play with sound on
  • Messages delivered via audio can have a significant impact on the overall metrics of a game or mobile app

What volume level do you set your devices to?

We’ve continued the research into apps in the AppStore and what they’re doing to drive engagement.   We went through of a the top games across several key categories:  top 200 games (free and top grossing), top grossing action, adventure, arcade, casino and role playing games.  Here are the results:

  • 1143 games evaluated from 563 developers (average 2.03 games per developer)
  • 782 games with some audio (68%)
  • 690 games with sound FX (60%)
  • 430 games with background music (38%)
  • 200 games that use voice prompts (17%)

Out of this, something jumps at me:

  • The use of voice (17%) is higher than anticipated (I was expecting around 2-3%), but still lower than Health & Fittness apps (23% of H&F apps use voice prompts)

What are the most common ways to use voice prompts among the 200 “voice enabled” games ?

  • 26% use multiple voice actors, male, female, happy, sad
  • 21% of use voice for encouragement “great”, “awesome”, “ultrakill”
  • 19% of games use voice for “announcements”, such as “level start”, “level end”, “powerup”
  • 7% of games challenge users with voice “Do you have what it takes”
  • only 4% of apps use TTS (text-to-speech)
  • 3% of games use voice as part of the tutorial

Some of the most popular phrases & words used:

  • letters
  • numbers
  • “ready”
  • “go”
  • “bonus”

What do I think of the above:

  • Extremely happy to see many apps use multiple different voices, that really introduces variation and builds a more interesting experience
  • Glad to see people use voice prompts for encouragement, as it typically works well for that
  • Voice prompts as part of the tutorial seem like an uptapped opportunity (League of Legends players, anyone?)
  • Happy to see the low number of TTS use in apps, as using TTS usually really sucks

Notice: Some of the results might be skewed a bit by large number of casino (bingo, slots) games as part of the result set.  As I get more time, I’ll publish more results broken down in specific sub categories.

Comments & feedback, always welcome.  Leave me a comment down below, or on twitter: @ristoh

**Self Promotion: I’m founder & CEO of appington, a company that builds an engagement platform that uses audio & voice to drive retention and engagement in games.  Check us out at http://www.appington.com

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