Let’s be honest: if I asked a random selection of strangers to explain what in-app feeds are, odds are the vast majority would meet my question with a blank stare. For a feature that has more or less defined the way we interact with a generation of digital platforms, in-app feeds remain a feature set that has gone largely unnoticed. But despite this lack of awareness there is a simple truth about feeds: regardless of what type of app you’re developing, the right implementation of in-app feeds can improve your end users’ experience and your engagement metrics.
Feeds are an in-app space where users can share updates and other users can comment or discuss the update. If you’ve used a social media app in the past several years, you’ve undoubtedly experienced an activity feed in one variety or another. Activity Feeds traditionally exist in two ways: activity feeds and object based feeds. Activity feeds provide a chronological stream of posts, typically accessible in one area of an app. Object based feeds provide all the functionality of a feed, but centered on an object, or element, of an app.
Here’s just a few of the ways that feeds can make any app better.
Conversation and discussion have been the cornerstones of education since antiquity. When it’s time to have more contextual conversations in a learning management system, it’s time to break out activity feeds. Since feeds are an in-app space where users can share updates and other users can comment or discuss the update, a discussion can take place around a single topic. In the context of education, that means an educator can create the space for guided discussion.
As an example, say a history professor has found an online lecture that’s relevant to the current curriculum. Using feeds in the same way I did in the photo above, the professor could embed the lecture video along with a discussion prompt. In the comments below, each of the students could comment and engage in a contextual conversation. They could even attach a longer written response by uploading or linking to their Google Drive or Dropbox account. The best part is that there’s now a dedicated space in the LMS where everyone can return to the discussion at any time.
According to a study by Asana, managers on average said 67% of their time was spent “working on work.” This is due in no small part to how few most work conversations actually occur where a person is doing the work. Since object based feeds take the functionality of activity feeds and center them around one of several objects of an app, this provides an elegant solution to that problem.
The above image shows a mock-up of a CRM using Weavy's Feeds API, along with fictional contact cards. In this example, each contact is treated as an object, and each object has a unique feed where users can share updates, give feedback, comment, or even post images and upload relevant files. It's easy to pick up because end users have already learned to use similar community features. Object based feeds give users the ability to create spaces dedicated to the task they’re working on in the most logical place possible: where they’re working on it.
With the advent of smart devices, health tracking wearables, and widespread access to broadband internet, there has been a race in the SaaS space to create platforms that can increase access to care and reduce friction for patients and physicians alike. One place where medtech can make a measurable change in patient outcomes is by facilitating more effective differential diagnosis.
Since many different medical conditions can present with similar symptomatology, an accurate differential diagnosis requires that a physician or physicians have as much data as possible to rule out incorrect diagnosis and recommend the correct course of treatment. With a feed centered around a single patient, a team of physicians could easily collate, share, and discuss a patient’s medical history, the findings of recent examinations, and important metrics from lab results. Not only can this improve a patient’s treatment outcome in the near term, this feed could be referenced for accessing future conditions, creating an enduring digital record not only of medical history, but also important discussions and observations that may become relevant for later diagnosis.
The explosion of social media in the last twenty years should be market validation enough for the power of community features to create product stickiness, but even apps that were never designed around community can benefit from community features. One informal survey of mobile games showed that the introduction of social features had positive effects on engagement, retention, and increased the average lifetime value (LTV) of their users. Community features help sate an innate need to share information and interact with others.
Community features are a natural fit for lifestyle apps centered around topics like physical fitness, mental health, or hobbies. End users are already coming to lifestyle apps in order to be more engaged with topics important to them, so giving them the ability to connect with each other is a natural extension.
Above is Apple’s fitness app, designed to help users plan and log their exercises. With a community feed users could post photo updates with their progress, use polls to ask questions about a specific exercise, or simply keep each other motivated in the comments. A simple change like this transforms the app from something a user opens once or twice a day to something they’re checking regularly. It also gives end users an incentive to refer the app to their friends and family.
These are only a few of the ways that in-app feeds can improve the in-app experience for end users and help add value for developers. Feeds allows developers to make their app a user centered experience so they’re not just interacting with technology, they’re interacting with each other.