Viral by design: products, apps, services that went viral without huge investment

Viral by design: products, apps, services that went viral without huge investment

Monday August 28, 2017,

3 min Read

There are many examples of products going viral due to good marketing and advertising. Lego religiously invests in great design and branding to make its communication go viral across mediums. Pokemon Go was all the rage in 2016 with its promise of a better gaming experience. The Philips Hue lightstrip earned PR and social amplification because of how innovative the product was.


Image: Shutterstock

Designing a great product goes without saying, but when UI, UX, and consumer interaction combine, it makes for a great product that goes viral. There isn’t really a formula for it, but there are examples from where we can pick up growth insights to inculcate in our own products and services.

Slack: Slack is the startup unicorn that has beaten all expectations without spending a single penny on marketing. The first marketing person was hired after experiencing a lot of organic growth. Slack introduced podcasts, various blog posts, and some innovative on-ground events to create significant impact. Design is its go-to-market strategy and has been for many years. The idea of a group chat for work isn’t new, but the design made it so simple and effortless that Slack offered it for free when others were charging a bomb due to their B2B contacts. When startups started adopting it, the media started covering it, giving them millions in free PR and advertising. Slack dominated with its unique approach to UX and intuitive design philosophy in its UI. Diogenes Brito (lead design+engineering) mentioned further about his usage of intuition in the design process: “We use our intuition. User feedback is also regularly trickling in from outside of the company, and everyone serves weekly support shifts to better empathise with customers.”

Draw Something (app): Very rarely do you see existing IPs being taken to another level through virality and demonstrating the impact of good design on an app’s success. Within 10 days, Draw Something had 1.2 million users across the world playing the game. The secret sauce was the collaborative nature of the creative outlet. Players could connect with people from different countries and casually play the game. It was a one-of-a-kind experience where the UI environment made it conducive to play more and it leapfrogged into an over $200 million property over a few years. It was incredible design matched with incredible play time. Draw Something became increasingly viral, with many people sharing their experiences and great design work (on tablets and smartphones) on Reddit, Facebook, and Imgur. That’s where it went to the next level.

Dropbox: Not a lot of people know that Dropbox wasn’t adopted quickly when it was first launched. It was an innovative service offering cloud storage at affordable rates. Its website received a lot of traffic but poor conversion rates. People came in and didn’t realise it was a safe space to store important documents. The impetus to offer up your personal data to share it across the internet with a simple link came in when Dropbox started offering a really good referral programme incentivising people to invite their friends to download the app and start using it immediately. Signups increased by 60 percent and the simple experiment worked wonders. What changed? A button on the website that said “Get Free Space.” This simple design choice tilted the balance in favour of the company, with customers coming in droves and asking their friends to sign up as well. Now Dropbox has well over 180 million users on its platform.