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User Safety is the Missing Link for App Brand Equity

January 28, 2020
User safety

There are more connected devices in the world than ever before – it’s almost impossible to take part in the modern world without a smartphone, laptop, or tablet. There were over 194 billion app downloads in 2018, but for every app downloaded, there’s just as many deleted, forgotten, or discontinued. To retain users, some of the most successful apps have turned to bolstering user safety features to build better brand equity.

Building that brand equity is key for apps to survive – it’s not just about technical specs, it’s about the relationship they build with their users. Let’s explore how apps are embracing user safety as a means to improve user retention.

Retaining users means fulfilling a promise

Users give apps a chance to fulfill the promises they make in their branding. Uber promises its users it will get them where they need to go safely and efficiently. WhatsApp promises simple and secure telecoms for free. Bumble promises to connect single people with a swipe. These apps are so successful at keeping users, in part for the services they provide, but also for the way they make their users feel.

They place a premium on user safety, and make it clear through their marketing communications, their data policies, and their product features, that it’s top of mind. It’s one thing to say, “we care about our users,” but another thing to live it. 

Related: Ten Companies that Take User Safety Seriously

User Safety in design and execution

User safety isn’t just a feature, it’s a value that lives through every aspect of an app. Everything from the companies you partner with to the philosophies of your design influence a user’s perception of your brand. Check out these five tips for improving user safety in your app.

1. Implementing accessible design principles

Considering 26 percent of adult Americans have some type of disability, odds are your app will be used by someone who has some kind of impairment. Whether it’s someone who is colorblind, or someone who is physically disabled, it’s vital to keep barriers to entry for your app low. By not offering any kind of accessibility features, you’re not just preventing people from using your app – you might actively harm users who do.

Offer accessibility settings like dark mode, keyboard navigation, and display size sliders to customize your app experience. Also, considering following accessible design principles like consistently sized and simplified headers, consistent navigation, and concise forms. 

Promoting accessibility in your app not only boosts the amount of people who can use your app, but also gives the impression that your brand cares about the experience of all of your users.

2. Map “worst case scenario” journeys

Part of embracing user safety is acknowledging that life isn’t all sunshine and roses. Eventually, someone will experience some kind of trouble or threat to their safety through your app. Whether it’s an account breach, targeted harassment, or something else entirely, work your way through the journey to identify weak points.

When a user experiences some kind of crisis, is it obvious where they should go for support? What happens when they get there? Do you have the ability to rectify their problems, whether through customer service, community moderation, or another system? 

Take for example a dating app like Bumble. When someone experiences harassment, an unfortunate reality of online dating, Bumble encourages user reporting. In addition, they have monitoring tools in place that scan for red-flags like dangerous imagery and language, which can lead to shadow bans, IP blocks, and more.

These policies come from a proactive attitude towards user safety, fleshed out through consistent iterations and revisions to their security features.

3. Partner with companies that keep your users safe when you can’t

For all the steps you can take to keep users safe within your platform, sometimes you’ll have no choice but to escalate an issue to authorities. 

If someone falls and breaks their leg while using your running app, there’s no amount of safety policies that can get them in an ambulance. If someone is stalked and harassed by a user they met through your app, blocking and banning won’t always stop a committed criminal. 

So how do you emphasize user safety in a dangerous scenario? Partner with technology companies that can fill in the gaps. For example, Uber leverages RapidSOS to offer a direct API link to 9-1-1 centers so precise data can be sent alongside an emergency call. Providing a direct link, or as close a link as possible, to emergency responders isn’t just a way to cover your liabilities. It’s an investment that shows your users you’re committed to their safety, in and beyond your app experience.

4. Shore up your information security

It’s important to be mindful of the information your app is storing – and moreover, how it’s being stored. Data breaches are all too common in the news, from the massive Equifax scandal to Words with Friends’ breach: apps are consistently targeted by hackers for personal information.

Ensuring your defenses are up to snuff is vital to securing your user’s information, and more importantly, their trust. You don’t want your app to be the reason why a user had to cancel their credit card, or worse, contact the social security administration. If you don’t have the budget for the latest security tech and high octane testing, here’s a few fundamental rules to follow:

These are not the be-all and end-all of safety rules, but are a good place to start in your security audits.

5. Make the little changes for a big impact

Whether you’re implementing small safety features like confirmation prompts in forms or the ability to edit messages, the little things add up to make a big impact. Going the extra mile to make your user experience simple, accessible, and safe, go a long way in building brand equity for your app. 

Of course, the big gestures, like partnering with public safety, can make a huge splash in your PR and your bottom line. But, for the everyday app developer, following these tips can reinvigorate your app’s commitment to brand safety, and help you win the battle for reviews.

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