1. Grow like Path (part 1)

    Path Logo

    Last week Path 2.5 was released with great enthusiasm. Path continues to focus on fostering a user’s close and real network versus any available connection on web. From a new notifications center to video support, Path 2.5 is a significant update in breadth of features. From a growth perspective, Path 2.5 explores a “nudge” notification, invite tracking, and expanded Facebook permissions. I will be focusing on these new growth tactics and include some thoughts of my own. 

    Due to the size of Path 2.5, my thoughts will be divided into two parts. Part 1 will do a deep dive into connecting with friends on Path and invitation flow. Part 2 will explore Path 2.5’s new engagement mechanics, such as nudge and notifications.

    (Subscribe Now to get Part 2 in your email box) 

    Expanded Friend Panel

    Path 2.5 significantly updated and expanded the friend panel. Top additions are an invite “CRM”, suggested connections slider, and a divided invite/find friend flow. 

    Let’s start from the top and work our way down. 

    Path friend suggestion: Who is Steven Ray?

    In Path 2.0, friend suggestions were placed a page within the friend panel. Path 2.5 moves friend suggestions to the top of the panel to encourage a user to form relationships within Path. 

    This is a bold move when compared to the Path 2.0 because Path has a higher bar to produce relevant invites than the normal social network. Path runs the risk of displaying irrelevant connections every time a user open’s the friend panel. This would have an adverse impact on the user experience since Path prides itself on fostering real relationships with technology. 

    In my user experience, Path’s suggested connections are typically not relevant. For example, Path considers Steven Ray the top user I should connect with in Path, but I do not know Steven Ray. I have no friends in common with Steven. However, Path’s second friend suggestion is far more relevant, Cameron Gawley. We have three friends in common and I personally know him.

    Every time I open my friend panel, I am reminded that I do not know Steven since he is my top suggestion. Now, I should probably meet and befriend Steven at some point, but Path is designed and positioned to foster existing relationships, not making new relationships. 

    Since I am far more likely to add Cameron over Steven, Path should incorporate the option to delete a suggestion. The standard leftward swipe to delete is already part of Path’s UX. Including a deletion capability for suggestions will also greatly improve Path’s recommendation algorithm with additional data. 

    Path needs to expand suggested connections to include invites to non-Path users. In its current implementation, suggested connections leans towards the concept of “any connection” over finding the “right connection”. In Path 2.0, an UX assumption was that a user’s close connections probably lie off of Path. That assumption probably still applies to Path 2.5. Including invites to non-Path users that Path knows are relevant via expanded Facebook permissions (covered later in Part 1) would foster finding the right connections and support Path’s product vision. 

    Find Friends

    Path 2.5 adds two new buttons “Find Friends” and “Invite a Friend”. This is an intriguing decision as both buttons share functionality. My guess is that the data suggested messaging and usage challenges with a single list. Regardless, let’s take “Find Friends” first.

    "Find Friends" in Path 2.5 looks very similar to Path 2.0’s "Add Friends" page.

    "Add Friends" in Path 2.0 combines invites with non-Path users and existing Path users. Path probably moved towards "Find Friends" in Path 2.5 to place a greater emphasis on maintaining relationships within Path and a greater confidence in the size of Path’s network. 

    The one aspect of this new flow in “Find Friends” is that it still contains non-Path invite capability. For example, when I select “Find friends from Facebook”, Path 2.5 moves to following invite screen. 

    This is same invite screen from Path 2.0. 

     

    Invite a Friend

    A few weeks back, I wrote a post on how Path can improve their invite a friend flow. In Path 2.5, I saw a hint that some of my recommendations are being worked on at Path. Path now asks for second screen Facebook permissions to access my custom friend lists. 

    I was excited at possibility of “Invite a Friend” with contextual listing in Path 2.5; however, Path 2.5’s “Invite a Friend” implementation is roughly unchanged from Path 2.0. My hunch is they are experimenting with contextual listing powered by Facebook lists. 

    In Path 2.5, inviting my friends has simplified into a single universal list. Path 2.5 does not distinguish between channel type and marks Facebook contacts with a Facebook logo. 

    Path dropped manual invites within the “Add Friend” page and moved it to the search field. This move was wise because my close connections are probably already in my address book or on Facebook. Close contacts outside these two options probably won’t have the capability to use Path. 

    Invitation Content

    Path made some impressive improvements to invitation content. Path invites now include voice notes or written notes.

    This new content is a movement towards hyper-personal invites. This fits very well with Path’s product vision. Since video posting options are available in Path 2.5, Path should also support video notes in invitations. Most smart phones now have a front-facing camera and video notes are incredibly powerful. I have personally received video notes and I can attest to the sincere connection that instant forms. 

    Invitation Tracking

    Path 2.5 includes an interesting invite tracking capability. This type of tracking was a feature I suggested in a post a few weeks back. Invite tracking is an excellent addition to encourage the need to add specific people to a user’s Path.

    (note: “David Bower” listed twice is not a mistake. Path does not link contacts between my address book and Facebook)

    Including a time stamp on invites seems like too much information for the user. Path probably included a time tracker to develop a forcing function/ gamify the invite with the implied user motivation of “Hey, don’t forget about David!”.

    Currently, Path relies on a user to send another invite. Users are not marketers and probably won’t take the effort to learn how to optimize their invites. A better invite flow would be to remove the invite from the friend panel until a predetermined time set by Path. Path can use an in-app notification to remind the user to resend an invitation. 

    After the in-app notification, Path should add the remind button back to the friend panel until the user resends an invitation. 

    This invite process is better for both the user and Path. Path can optimize invites and user’s don’t have to think when they should send another invite.  

    Reminders should also be expanded to connecting with Path users. Path 2.5 rolled out “nudge” to encourage Path user to return, to be covered in Part 2 (subscribe), so it is possible that a Path user you want to connect with simply forgot about Path. Including resend reminder button would be another opportunity to reengage a dormant user. 

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    As I reflect on Part 1, I understand the circumstantial culture challenge Path faces with the digital generation. The way people form lasting friendships today is far less predictable than a decade ago. People are far more likely to have disperse close friends in multiple, unrelated networks than a “nuclear” close friend circle with strong commonalities. The sentimental and nostalgic idea of having “your BFF crew” from elementary school till marriage is rare in today’s world. More than 60% of Americans don’t live in their home town. 1 out of 5 Americans plan to move within the next five years; however, half of all Americans keep in contact with their loved one with at least one phone call and text message a week. This behavior is where Path can thrive. 

    As Path continues to grow, it will be fascinating to see how they solve this heterogeneous close network problem. It is a problem worth solving. As our relationships become increasingly disperse and lack interconnectedness, we have a higher risk of developing shallower and shallower bonds between people. I hope these posts, in some way, will help the Path team create a deeper, richer, and closer world. 

    Part 2 will be released next week. Subscribe here to get my next post on Path in your inbox (along with my other thoughts)

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