Video conferencing tool Zoom has become indispensable for businesses and people adapting to a new reality of social distancing. But why did Zoom become “the darling of remote workers during the COVID-19 crisis” when we have many other options to choose from? To be sure, Zoom’s ability to tell its story to investors and news media helps a lot. But after using Zoom daily for countless meetings, I believe Zoom’s rapid adoption comes down to this:

Zoom provides lovable features that inject humanity and personality into remote collaboration. And Zoom makes it easy to use those features.

Zoom is a brilliant example of how a business can make a product lovable by creating an experience that connects with people emotionally.

Let’s take a look at ways Zoom brings the lovable experience to life:

The Virtual Background

As many Zoom users have figured out by now, Zoom makes it possible for you to create a virtual background visible to other people having a Zoom conference with you. With a virtual background, you can utilize any background you’d like. Instead of your dining room, office, bedroom, or closet (not kidding about the closet), we can use a stunning vista of the Grand Canyon or a soothing beach. Your virtual background is your playground.

How many of you have used the virtual background? If you have, perhaps your experience mirrors mine: I notice the emotional moment — usually a smile, maybe even a laugh — when people notice each other’s backgrounds at the start of the meeting. These are “magic moments” when a product creates a change in the energy level of the people interacting with the experience. Magic moments create the emotional connection that creates brand loyalty.

The virtual feature also creates moments of sharing and learning. Example: one of my work colleagues, Mike, is a big Cleveland Browns fan – just like me. So during a recent team meeting, I used a virtual image of the “Dawg Pound,” a section in the end zone in FirstEnergy Stadium, the home of the Browns. Well, Mike loved seeing the Dawg Pound – another magic moment. On top of that, another colleague of mine, Ahmer, noticed the Dawg Pound image and commented on it. I learned something new: Ahmer is a football fan. Again, a virtual connection and a magic moment.

Gallery View

Zoom gallery view is another lovable experience that fosters the human connection. With gallery view, you can see more people attending your meeting. Simple feature, right? But it makes a huge difference. Why? Because with gallery view, we create more of a sense of community. Here, another magic moment occurs — when you see that you are not alone. You are reminded that you are part of a team. This week, a few colleagues in Chicago collaborated with our team in Washington, Florida, and Italy to conduct a workshop on storytelling. At the end of the workshop, we all turned on gallery view and took a picture of our best Brady Bunch impression.

We’re all in this together. It’s the little things that will keep our sense of togetherness intact as continue in this new normal. And we’re all encouraged to communicate more with each other as a team.

In addition, Zoom makes it easy to use gallery view and the virtual background. Had Zoom made the process complicated, user adoption would have suffered.

The Minimum Lovable Product

What lesson can we learn from Zoom? For me, it’s the importance of creating minimum lovable products that connect with people emotionally.

The minimum lovable product comes from practitioners of design sprints, which is an test-and-learn approach for rapidly creating product prototypes. “Minimum lovable product” (MLP) is the version of a new product that generates the maximum amount of love from a business’s early tribe members with the least effort. One of the essential ingredients of an MLP is creating that magic moment – which is not easily measurable even though it sure is visible.

MLPs are a fairly recent development. Before product teams began to embrace the MLP, design teams usually focused on creating prototypes that delivered purely functional benefits whose business value could be easily measured. The prevailing mentality was, “How does this feature contribute to the bottom line of the business? How does this feature improve productivity and save money?”

That mentality was, and is, important. But a sole focus on functional benefits would have disqualified a lovable feature such as the Zoom virtual background or gallery view, too. I can easily picture a team of product designers in the early 2000s reacting to the virtual background by nodding, smiling, and putting the idea on the back burner while perhaps thinking, “Nice idea, but too fluffy.”

Fortunately times have changed. Product teams are beginning to understand that human centered design is, in fact, critical to a successful product outcome. Products that create magic moments create user loyalty.

Just look at Zoom.

Mike Edmonds

Mike Edmonds

Managing Director, VP Product