May 29, 2013

Last Impression

First impressions matter but it’s the last impressions that keep your users coming back

“One more,” I told myself.

I slowly lowered my arms, touching the bar against my chest. Pushing forward, I lifted the weights, extending my arms in a deep exhale.


I re-racked the bar, releasing my grip.

I sat up, wiped down the bench, and walked toward the exit. As I left the weight room, I couldn’t help but notice the large mirrors facing me. Naturally, I stared at myself as I continued to walk toward the full-body mirror, observing my larger-than-normal, engorged muscles (thanks, hypertrophy).

Thinking back on this moment, the purpose of these mirrors became very clear. The mirrors are intentionally positioned as encouragement to return to the gym as the results - enlarged muscles - are an unavoidable form of positive feedback. The mirrors are the gym’s last impression.

It’s well understood that first impressions matter as product designers heavily invest in optimizing landing pages and on-boarding flows. First impressions are critical for shaping initial opinions but over time, the significance of these first impressions fade as last impressions impart an even stronger influence.

There is also substantial evidence that people tend to remember recent events the most vividly, while information which was learned a long time ago eventually fades from memory: this suggests that in the long run, there should be a bias towards last impressions.[1]

As humans, we tend to overemphasize our most recent memories. Last impressions can have the most significant impression and may be the deciding factor on whether users return to your product or recommend it to a friend.

Here are some observations from a few products you’ll recognize.

Netflix - logging out

Netflix leaves users with a image of a cozy, happy family as they browse the selection in an attempt to attach emotions of togetherness with its brand.

Facebook - logging out

I question Facebook decision to advertise on its logged out page. Although this may generate significant revenue considering its large volume of users, it does so at the cost of inciting a cold last impression.

Twitter - logging out

After logging out of the website, Twitter up-sells its mobile and tablet apps to encourage users to continue the experience on the go. Clever.

Pocket - saving a page

After clicking the “pocket” browser extension, a brief message is displayed. While functional, “Page Saved!” isn’t the most inspiring message. Perhaps Pocket could experiment with different copy (“Your Pocket’s No Longer Lonely!”, “You’ll Enjoy This One Later :)”, “Pocket’s Aren’t Just Lint Collectors”) to elicit surprise and just maybe a smile or two.

Buffer - buffering a page

Buffer presents a friendly message with a personal touch. The words “your Buffer” are very intentional, impressing a sense of ownership. “Keep it topped up!” reminds users to fill their Buffer queue so that it doesn’t run dry.

Mailchimp - logging out

Mailchimp teases its upcoming features, leaving users with curiosity or anticipation of what’s to come.

Mailbox - zero inbox

After processing all emails, Mailbox users are delighted with a new image each day and the comforting message, “You’re all done.” Also note the share button in the bottom left to encourage users to celebrate inbox zero with their friends.

Consider the impression left by your product when users log out, complete an engagement loop, or near the end of their session experience. Is it a good one?

P.S. subscribe to my email list and I’ll send you a FREE copy of the upcoming book, Hooked, by researcher and blogger, Nir Eyal, in collaboration with myself.

[1] Bounded Memory and Biases in Information Processing by Andrea Wilson

This was originally published on 5/23/2013 at

Photo credit: Stephanie Poteet

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