Using badging to guide users through a multi-tabbed app


This is a quick blog post detailing the changes in app usage patterns after an app redesign and the subsequent introduction of in-app badging. If there is one main takeaway from the blog post it should be this:

Learning how to use a multi-tabbed app is hard, but great content and badging can help. If usage of multiple tabs is critical to your app experience, you probably want to find ways to help users get comfortable navigating your app.

Fresh content and badging

Here is how we approached the problem for Poesie:

1. Why did we introduce a multi-tabbed design?

Poesie is a poetry app that helps people read, discuss, and even share their own poetry. One of the main requests from users has been “Help us discover more poetry!” To achieve this, we needed to offer more discovery opportunities and entry points. A redesign in August spread our product across 4 tabs, including daily curated content, searchable libraries, and an activity feed. This has lots of upside in terms of exposing more features, but makes navigation and development of usage patterns a bit more complicated.

2. How are we helping users develop a multi-tabbed usage pattern?

In the case of Poesie, we are helping users develop multi-tabbed engagement patterns by: (1) making sure each tab includes fresh, new content on a regular basis, and (2) badging the tabs to alert users to that new content. Fresh content encourages visits, and badging the tabs helps guide users through our complicated app.

3. What fresh content did we include in each tab?

We have three badgeable tabs: the main daily poem tab, a tab of searchable libraries, and an activity tab (notifications + feed). The profile tab is not currently badgeable.

  • The daily poem has new content each day by definition and is the default landing page. This is the core service of the app.
  • We added personalized weekly suggestions to the library tab, which makes it fun to visit each week and helps people get used to visiting the library.
  • We added additional user-to-user and app-to-user notifications in the activity tab, making the tab more useful and exposing users to a feed of community activity below the notifications.

4. What are we sensitive about during this process?

An approach like this has the potential to be distracting and annoying to users, so it is extremely important that users appreciate the content they see when badged (i.e., “what makes a good notification?”) and that the frequency of badging does not disturb from core app experiences (i.e., you should not have to tap 3 badges upon each app open before your interface is clean enough to enjoy the main landing page experience).

5. What is the end goal?

At the end of the day, we want people to use multiple tabs because we think it will help them achieve a positive app experience. In the case of Poesie we want people to find and read more poetry, with each tab representing a different discovery method. That means we don’t just want a “tap on a tab”… we want people to tap on the tab, consume the fresh content we were badging for, and then even stick around (or come back) to use the services of that tab at a later date without needing a prompt.

6. Should an app really require badging to guide usage flows?

Yes and no. At the end of the day, it would be fantastic if people spend hours a day on my app, exploring the whole product and checking back regularly for new content on their own. But the truth is that people will only spend a limited time in the app, which means (a) it will take them a long time to learn and develop navigation patterns, and (b) they may appreciate alerts for new information to consume. If the (unbadged) features in a tab are truly useful to users, they should begin to develop their own usage patterns after learning about and experiencing the features.

Usage pattern in charts

Finally, here are some screenshots and graphs to show you what this looked like for Poesie.

1. In August, we redesigned the app to split apart “daily poems” from “searchable libraries” and “notifications + newsfeed”. We also introduced a “profile” tab.

2. Because the core usage pattern of our app (reading today’s poem) is entirely contained and badged within a single tab, we immediately see a drop in navigation to the secondary library tab. We are glad that our primary service is cleaner, but it is sad to see that fewer people are discovering our libraries.

3. In October, we introduce “weekly suggestions” to the library tab, which comes with a badge.

4. As expected, badging of the secondary tabs greatly increases tab visitors. (We also launched some more notifications in the feed tab.)

5. Most importantly, people are using the tabs after they are badged to explore and discover new content.

We hope that adding this content and badges improves the overall app experience… we will see this in our ratings, user surveys, and user retention further on down the line!

About me: I have spent the last year building and growing Poesie, an iPhone app that delivers curated arts content in a social and interactive context. You can download the app here:

I love music and literature. This is my app:

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