CEO of Duolingo and Co-founder Luis von Ahn was tired of the gray and dry design aesthetic edtech companies used to emulate the universities. Instead, he and the company’s early team sought inspiration from games such as Angry Birds and Clash Royale, creating a class that screamed more cartoon chaos than lecture halls. That frantic creativity brought the company’s distinctive mascot: a childish and rebellious evergreen owl named Duo.
Duolingo has not yet worn the old colors – it wanted to rethink learning languages from the bottom up for mobile. It therefore replaced the top-down curriculum with analytics-driven growth strategy, which is being consumed by recently dubbed product-led growth ethos.
Used by companies such as Calendly, Slack and Dropbox, product-led growth is a strategy in which a company reproduces its product to create loyal fans — customers who make the product popular with others, Forming a viral growth loop. This is an attractive route as it greatly reduces the cost of acquiring users while increasing engagement and thus retention. For example, Duolingo has taken this model and has found ways to embed engagement hooks, pleasure and addictive education features within its main app.
With the initial venture capital in its pocket, Duolingo can focus the product on profits.
In part one of this EC-1, we explored how Ah’s previous products around CAPTCHA launched Duolingo, to disrupt language learning and crowd translation as a casual iteration of the top education app by a pair Rise and fall of. Of interns. Early signs of success provided the energy to focus on development to accomplish two things: know what they are working on, and gather a lot of user data so that it iterates the product into something Kept doing what was ever more accustomed to use.
Now, we will analyze how Duolingo used product-led growth as a lever to expand its consumer base, and how a company built on how it balances its craze with educational results Tries to do.
From Angry Birds to an entertaining and sometimes booby kill
Tyler Murphy, who was launching the company’s iOS app after graduating from his internal position at Duolingo, noted that Gaming World was rapidly innovating around them in mid-2010. Angry Birds was no longer just a popular game on mobile, and video games were generally becoming more engaging with in-app currencies, progress bars, and an experience that felt creatively addictive. He suddenly gave connections to the entertainment that sports provided and required patient learning for languages.
“If the skill became harder and harder, wouldn’t it be nice how a character becomes more powerful and powerful in a game like this?” He remembers asking. Duolingo drew early inspiration from Angry Birds as well as Clash Royale, following the game’s debut in 2016. “Half the people in Duolingo were playing Clash Royale at some time,” he said. “And I think that shaped our product roadmap a lot and our design language a lot.”
The games solved a problem that was quite personal for Murphy. The employee, who would go on to become chief designer at Duolingo, went to college to teach Spanish to students, but eventually left the field after struggling to inspire children in a classroom setting. The realization that Duolingo could borrow from gaming rather than monotonous edtech companies gave the team an adrenaline rush – and permission – to experiment with new approaches to learning.
Every game needs more leveling of experience points in one way or another, and for those learning Duolingo, this progression comes as a skill tree.
These trees, which were conceived by a design agency during the company’s early development, are Duolingo’s core experience, a visual representation of language skills that are interconnected and become progressively more difficult and sophisticated over time. Each skill is a prerequisite to the other. Sometimes it’s just logic: To be able to speak about restaurants, you probably need to be able to introduce yourself first. Sometimes, however, it is an essential building block: to speak about your routine, you need to be able to speak about basic everyday activities.
In Duolingo, each unit has its own suite of skills, each of which is divided into five lessons. Once you complete all five lessons, you can move on to the next skill. Complete all the skills and you can proceed to the next unit. Depending on the language, a user may encounter an average of 60 skills in nine different units within a course.
Increase power of a cartoon owl meme
Duolingo had its own “leveling up” model, but now had to integrate it into every nook and cranny of its app. One of its first challenges was to rebuild the teacher – student emotional bond that can help students stay motivated to learn. No one likes to fail, and Duolingo stumbles upon a scalable approach through his cartoon owl mascot Duo – also thought out by the design agency behind the skill trees.
Whenever users succeed or fail in their lessons today, they are likely to be encouraged or engulfed by Duo’s presence. Designers dipped the entire product, seeing Super Mario Bros. as a way to use iconic art to create a compatible gaming experience. In early iterations of the application, the Duo was present but a static, more of an icon than a personality. That has changed as the company increasingly emphasized engagement.