When designing your product, consider carefully who your user is. Based on that, you may need to tune the difficulty of discovery of them or even refrain completely from including any. Heavy gamers are notoriously among those users that love finding hidden gems during gameplay, but even “serious” software programs like the Office Suite have included Easter eggs.
If you are a designer or developer and you have the chance to introduce an Easter egg in your product, make sure of 5 things:
1. Know your product
If your product is a non-entertainment one, but mission critical of some sort, you might want to go easy on the eggs. Also, products that are meant for elderly, where everything needs to be simple and focused… probably not a good place to hide your eggs either. On the other hand, products which are meant for a broader audience, very tech savvy people and of course gamers are potentially a good host for your Easter eggs.
Think about your product’s purpose and its users first, make sure that you got the fundaments right — users should not be wondering whether they are looking at an Easter egg or a bug — and then start building away.
2. Choose the right context
While Easter eggs might be a fun 2 minutes break, if the user is in a critical mode, make your product as task oriented as possible. That is obviously not just about the little unexpected delights, but anything else what in a specific moment could cause distraction and potentially much bigger trouble. It’s not a case that the Tesla dance can be triggered only when the driver is outside the car (more on this example later).
3. Make it hidden enough… and then leak it
It’s not fun if you end up with an Easter egg that no one ever found beside your QA team. It’s ok to get users to know about it before they even realise themselves. Even the fact that there is an Easter egg will make the most curious of your users want to stick around just a little bit longer and try yet another crazy set of actions just to see if some magic happens. If you’ve ever been on a treasure hunt, you know the feeling I’m talking about.
4. People love references
Getting the pinball to suddenly show up in your Word 97 was surely fun, but how cool is it when what you discover is actually more than entertaining, it is a reference? To make use of cultural references is like telling your product for a second to actually and fully speak the same language as your user. Think about the Shire to Mordor walk in Google Maps! Even the caution banner for road works and similar was hijacked to say that “One does not simply walk into Mordor” . That is what makes your users not just stare in delight, but actually appreciate the meaning of it with a smile on their face.
5. New in, old out
Digital products have this huge advantage to change themselves for the better continuously through releases. Easter egg “releases” could be thought in the same way: it can be relevant for a specific period of time (for example a special occasion) or simply the reference gets weaker and the joke old.
If we are talking about a “regular” app, and by that I mean something other than game or a very big and complex product, maybe you want to keep the number of hidden eggs quite low. It’s ok to retire some and plant others.
Bonus: Analyze the result
This is of course a nice to have, but quite a powerful one. If you can add analytics to your Easter egg and even do some A/B testing, you could get to see, first of all, the ratio of finds, and then what impact it has on different metrics, engagement and even conversion. I am not aware that any company talked about it openly, but I am sure it is a valid point to consider and relatively extra work to do when the implementation effort has been done already.