On Delightful Product Experiences


Calm’s Insight

Calm is my favourite example of a consumer product that started with a core insight, learned more about their customers over time, then used that understanding to build out features to solve more of that customer’s core needs, improving engagement and retention along the way.

I meditated for approximately three months in 2018. My Calm subscription is now three years old.

Calm beat Headspace because they realised first that their users don’t buy because they want to meditate, they want to manage their anxiety.

This insight led the product team to expand into sleep stories, soundscapes, mood check-ins and gratitude reflections.

Bundling habitual features for managing anxiety that require less effort than meditation solves the churn problem in meditation apps. It’s easy to give up on meditating but sleep is such a foundational pillar of your overall wellbeing that if an app helps you drift off 45 minutes quicker, you will never leave. It’s the definition of vitamin vs painkiller. I even think the team could identify customers who use sleep stories >3x a week and double their subscription price — those users wouldn’t even blink.

While understanding they are in the business of managing anxiety improved engagement and retention, Calm had another insight that accelerated their top of the funnel metrics — the team realised Calm is a content company, well before Spotify & Clubhouse made audio cool again. The very best content companies use established talent to attract audiences. So now I fall asleep listening to Matthew McConaughey, Stephen Fry and Idris Elba and every now and then LeBron James gives me a pep talk on the way to work.

I signed up to Calm because I wanted to meditate more, I will be a subscriber for many more years because Calm helps me sleep with a regular roster of stories from the most gorgeous voices in Hollywood.


I’m a sucker for a test flight app, always wanting to try the new, new thing. The cycle usually involves a download, a couple of days of playing around, then relegation to page 5 of my homescreen. Matter broke the mould, I’m several months in and remain enamoured, so I wanted to share…

Matter is a social reading app that allows you to follow authors and discover new content recommended by others. I love it (and I’m not the only one) for a few reasons:

  1. It’s designed around the author, opinion writers on the internet, regardless of whether they self-publish or write for a publication, meaning you can follow your favourite writers globally regardless of how they publish their work.
  2. But it’s not just a news aggregation tool, the Discover section is excellent and comprises the recommendations of public thinkers, combining contemporary writing with resurfaced content from the last twenty years. The focus is not on the news, but on thoughtful ideas. My Sunday reading now comes almost exclusively from the Discover section in Matter.The articles @getmatterapp team pick in “Weekly Roundup” are easily the best reads of the week for me. Every time. It’s now one of the things that I look forward too. Amazing app, even more amazing team.
  3. The UX is delightfully intuitive and solves many of the problems with existing news aggregators. You can easily bookmark articles, highlight them to save interesting quotes/topics for the future, and listen to articles when you’re on the move. This app is an “aha moment” again and again. When we launched audio, we were overwhelmed by the reaction. And, there was a common request: more human-sounding voices. Today we're excited to bring you just that. A voice so human it can be hard to distinguish from, well, a human. Give it a listen (tap unmute): https://t.co/PtCKqJ7rHG https://t.co/grQcR6Fwr4
  4. The team is iterating so quickly. The app changes for the better every week, so I’m excited to see what comes next. @benspringwater It’s amazing waking up to a Matter update. I’ve never used any product before, where I’m thinking, “It would be cool to have this feature”, waking up next morning and the feature magically appears in my notification.
  5. Sign up for the beta here

What I’m Reading

“In recent years scientists from leading universities, including UCLA, University College London, and Yale, have made remarkable insights into the neurobiology of symbols. A major finding from their work is that the brain is not very good at distinguishing between the metaphorical and literal.”


“If you did talk to your real friends like you talk to yourself, you’d never have another friend in your life. So much of internal conversation is coercion, threat or punishment. We’re basically just giving ourselves a good telling off all the time.”

“One of the great necessities of work is making it meaningful to yourself and then creating a circle of conversation where you can have that meaning reinforced.”

“The thing to emphasize here are the long term consequences of poor decision making by national elites. As procurement and development programs run so long, mistakes made in 2003 or 2013 reverberate decades later. Today we the enter the 2020s with a military built during the 1980s.”

“This does not make conflict inevitable. But if the Chinese have concluded that military means are the only way to bring about Taiwan’s integration into the People’s Republic of China, Beijing's leaders will soon face powerful pressure to escalate towards war. Waiting until the 2030s or 2040s to sabre rattle is to wait for the U.S. military’s counter-China modernization and procurement programs to run their course. There will be a terrific temptation to "resolve" the problem before these programs have been implemented.”


“Wisdom is different from knowledge. Montaigne pointed out you can be knowledgeable with another person’s knowledge, but you can’t be wise with another person’s wisdom. Wisdom has an embodied moral element; out of your own moments of suffering comes a compassionate regard for the frailty of others.

Wise people don’t tell us what to do, they start by witnessing our story. They take the anecdotes, rationalizations and episodes we tell, and see us in a noble struggle. They see our narratives both from the inside, as we experience them, and from the outside, as we can’t. They see the ways we’re navigating the dialectics of life — intimacy versus independence, control versus uncertainty — and understand that our current self is just where we are right now, part of a long continuum of growth.”

“In other words, economists believed that if they told the public the complex truth, they’d be activating deep-seated irrationalities among the hoi polloi. Instead of revealing what econ really says about free trade — that it offers huge opportunities but also real dangers and drawbacks — they decided to push a simplified fable in order to push back against what they saw as society’s innate tendency toward protectionism. They decided America couldn’t handle the truth.”