Making users feel special with an invite (or the Fabric invite email)

As a user, when signing up to a preview of a product you’ll likely receive a very generic thank you message, a mailchimp confirmation or nothing at all. When a company does something different it stands out and users generally notice.

To use crashlytics I needed to join the Fabric developer programme, a cross-platform mobile development suite from Twitter that includes a number of modules and tools to help with the application development lifecycle. Crashlytics is designed around crash reporting and alerts.

After joining the programme I received the standard email saying I’m on the list. Nothing to see here.

Twitter Fabric Invite

After 9 minutes a second email arrived. Enough time had passed that it could be personal and not automated, unlikely but I still like to believe.

Twitter Fabric Invite Email

A couple of items instantly stood out from the email.

1) Firstly the subject “Fabric access (need reply)”. 10 minutes ago I was told I was on the list, now I receive an email about my access but required a reply. It sparked my interest enough to open it.

2) The opening paragraph states the founder “pulled aside one of the devs to create a batch of one just for you.” – Instantly giving the user special treatment and making them feel important. I don’t believe this happened but there is still a positive feeling attached to the statement and the company as a whole. It’s a nice touch.

3) “Check your inbox shortly for the invite” – This keeps me engaged and the product at the front of my mind. It also starts to build the anticipation that I might be joining something special.

4) “Let me know once you receive the invite!” – A great way to engage with users and start the conversation. It doesn’t ask about first experiences or only get in touch if you need something both of which cause the user to think. It would be really interesting to see if this sparks conversations and what questions also are attached with the initial email.

A few moments later an invite code arrived and I signed up instantly. Sadly, I didn’t let Wayne know, sorry Wayne.

Why do round avatars look better than square avatars?

Since there introduction the usage of round avatars has always been a controversial┬átopic, like marmite, seems people either love them or hate them. I for one welcome them but I’ve always wondered why? Is it just personal preference or was there an underlying reason.

To understand this I started to look at how other websites approach avatars. Twitter for example has taken an interesting approach as it’s not fully committed to round avatars but it does have a very slight roundness.

Twitter with slightly round avatars
Twitter with slightly round avatars

While the roundness is subtle, without it timeline looks very different and quite jarring (definition: “incongruous in a striking or shocking way; clashing.” Incongruous: “Not in harmony or keeping with the surroundings or other aspects of something”)

Twitter with square avatars
Twitter with square avatars

To make it a easier to spot, here is a side-by-side comparison.

If we use the same style as Path or Dribbble then, for me, the avatars feel more natural, easier on the eyes and are more aligned with the rest of the interface.

Twitter with round avatars
Twitter with round avatars

But why?

After some research it turns out we’re pre-programmed to prefer rounded corners. As children we’re quickly taught that sharp corners are dangerous and hurt but rounded corners are safer and friendly.

Another reason is that the flowing nature of a circle and rounded corners take less cognitive effort, or brain power, to visually process. The less brain power required the easier user interfaces are to use, as described in the book “Don’t Make Me Think”.

Finally, the box appears to make you focus on the outline instead of the content inside. By using rounded corners the brain is less distracted and as such we process the important information.

How does this look in reality? With Missing Unicorns I originally had everything as a square but I wasn’t happy with it.

Missing Unicorns - Square version
Missing Unicorns – Square version

By taking into account why rounded corners look better for users I made a number of modifications as shown below.

Missing Unicorns - Round Version
Missing Unicorns – Round Version

The changes include:
1) A subtle roundness added to the outline of each person’s panel to draw attention inside.
2) The avatars are rounded to reduce the processing, especially considering the number of them on the screen, and to draw focus to the face.
3) Changed the social network connected icon to make it softer.

Personally, I’m much happier with this approach but really want to hear feedback from you. Sign up for a private beta test at

Finally, I’m looking at building a new tool focused around Product Design and UI/UX. If you’re interested in hearing more and would like to be considered for beta testing a new product then sign up below: