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In this age of customer, the only sustainable competitive advantage is knowledge and engagement of users”

– Forrester

In business, there is a tool called Pirate Metrics that is used to measure the engagement of users with a product or service. Product managers and marketing experts consider Pirate Metrics as an important model for articulating the success of the product.

Pirate Metrics essentially includes AAARRR, which is Awareness, Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Revenue and Referral. Awareness is when a potential user becomes aware of the product through advertisements or word of mouth. Acquisition is when the company acquires the potential user to download or buy the product. Activation is when the user begins to actively use the product. Retention is keeping the user engaged to continually use the product. Revenue is how the company makes a profit off of the active user. Referral refers to when the user talks about the product to others. After Referral, the entire process begins again with the next potential user.

Design is a tool for engaging the users in some aspects of Pirate Metrics. While Awareness and Revenue is based on the company’s idea of a SaaS or PaaS and their marketing strategy, the other four can be associated with design.


Once the potential user is aware of the application, they must be acquired as soon as possible. After they download the application, their first impression determines whether they move on to the next stage. At this point, the UX designers have to make sure that the SaaS or PaaS is easily useable and attractive for the target audience. This is where On-Boarding becomes a vital part of Acquisition. Users need to fully understand the functions, usability, meanings and features of an application. Only through effective on-boarding, crafted by UX designers, will the user be encouraged to move to the next stage.


If the users truly understand the form and function of an application, they will begin to use it as an active user. For example, if it is a social media application, they will start using the features regularly once they’ve created the account in the Acquisition stage. In this case, the usability and features of the application have to continuously, yet subtly, become obvious to the user. Throughout their user experience, UX designers must craft intuitive and research-driven design to engage the users effectively. Some users may create an account but do not actively use the application – this means that the UX design has failed to show the users the true meaning of the application.


This is the most important aspect of using UX design as a tool for engagement. Once the users have become active, we need to keep them interested in interacting with the product. Different applications engage them in different ways. For example, Todoist is a website that allows you to manage your day-to-day activities by assigning a task and schedule to complete them. If the user completes a certain number of tasks in a day, they are awarded karma or points. By acquiring more points by completing more tasks, users move up from being a Novice on Todoist to higher levels. This keeps the user engaged with the application because there is a sense of gratification and achievement. Similar to this, UX designers also use completion meters, rewards and other innovative ways to interest the user. Gamification of simple applications or websites are a common way to retain the users to engage with the product.


Although this does not come under UX design per say, UX design of an application can be used at the referral stage. For example, many applications like Swiggy, Uber or Ola have referral codes for a user. If a friend of the user downloads the application and uses the referral code, both the user and their friend get a discount or coupon for engaging with the applications. This design of the SaaS or PaaS motivates the user to talk about the application to their friends and family, thereby allowing the company to use Pirate Metrics with more potential users.

Pirate Metrics and UX Design

As you can see, even though Pirate Metrics is a business terminology, UX design does play a vital role in user engagement. Without good UX design, users would lose interest or get frustrated due to bad design and would never be retained. Throughout their user experience, users need to see that there is a reason to first download the application, sign up for it, use it thoroughly and even refer it to others. Only good UX design that is supported by user research and data can achieve this full circle of Pirate Metrics. At Studio Fra, we believe in research and knowing the target audience in order to craft an intuitive design that will benefit the user and the client. If these four stages can be successfully completed by UX designers, revenue and awareness will follow.


Studio FraStudio Fra is a boutique UX design consultancy which specialises in crafting digital experiences and brand strategy for clients of all sizes. For more information visit www.studiofra.com

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Author Design4India

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