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Having developed over 160 mobile apps across across a number of different industries, we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t when it comes to mobile apps.
Here are a few of our top tips to help you on your way to creating a successful mobile app.
A good app...
Does not translate your existing offering
The mobile context, or rather the situations users are in when using their mobile device, must be considered when it comes to mobile apps.
Don’t just take your website (if you have one) and put it on mobile. An app should complement your website or mobile website, not imitate them.
When a user opens an app on a mobile device for example, they are more than likely going to have different requirements to a user visiting a desktop website, and because of this, it’s important to really take advantage of the native features that are available on mobile devices.
Think about things like location services, NFC, maps and cameras; these mobile features are a great way enhance the user experience. Location services provide a great way for retailers to target consumers while they are shopping at physical stores for example, and they are also useful for locating stores nearby, with the use of maps as well.
It’s really important for businesses to consider the mobile context around their app. Although the most widely used location for mobile activity is in the home, it shouldn’t be forgotten that mobile activity while on the move is hugely popular as well.
Keeps it simple
We often see people coming up with lots of ideas for their apps without realising that most of the time simplicity is key.
It’s really important to remember that we as individuals find the simple apps most useful and most appealing. The best apps are the ones that perform tasks really well. Try not to cram too much into your app, keep it simple and also keep it useful.
Have a think about the apps you use regularly. Why do you think you use these apps so often? I tend to use apps like the Met Office, GeniusScan, Dropbox and Barclays on a regular basis.
The reason I use these apps so often is because they provide me with a quick and easy way of doing a task while on the move as well as when I’m at home. They are simple and they make my life easier.
Recent findings from Nielsen show that consumers are wanting apps that provide ‘real-world tasks’. Some of the fastest growing apps on Android include the Lloyds TSB and HSBC banking apps, as well as the likes of Instagram, Flipboard and Asda.
This just goes to show that the most successful apps tend to be the most simple ones that get the job done!
Offers a two way value transaction
Mobile apps are a brilliant way of finding out essential information from your most loyal users, but in order to get access to this data, businesses must ensure that their app is giving the user value, otherwise it will be downloaded and then deleted, or not downloaded at all.
We’ve been asked to create apps that immediately after installation ask the user to fill in long forms of personal information. This might be fine in certain situations, i.e. medical apps that need further details to be useful, or for a recruitment app perhaps, so the user can receive job alerts.
In examples like these you need to input data and you understand the value at the end of it. But if a user has to fill in lots of information and is getting nothing out of it, they won’t want to use the app.
The “stickability” of an app, or in other words, how often people keep going back to your app, is also really important.
The stickability of your app will depend on the value people are getting out of it. Think about how often your users will be using your app.
For example, I use GeniusScan a couple of times a week while I’m in the office, I also check the Met Office each morning and then I check train journeys a few times a week. All of these apps provide me with value and have formed new habits in my day-to-day living.
Forms new habits
It’s amazing to see how apps are changing behaviours and forming new habits, and these changing behaviours must be considered as it will impact user expectations.
If you regularly check your bank balance or transfer money through your banking app and for some reason it isn’t working, how do you feel? Frustrated probably!
This is because we have formed new daily habits with our mobile devices and when the apps we use aren’t available to us for whatever reason, it means we can no longer perform the task we wanted to.
A lot of the most successful apps available to us are forming new habits and changing behaviours. Earlier this year for example, Australian bank ANZ announced that their mobile banking logins had exceeded internet logins for the first time; this shows the shift we are seeing from desktop to mobile and how people are becoming reliant on their mobile devices.
Instead of checking balances online or in the bank, we are now checking our accounts on mobile because it’s quicker, easier and more convenient.
The same goes for retail apps. We are seeing a huge increase in the amount of time spent in retail apps, and research from Flurry confirms this with users spending five times longer in retail apps in December 2012 than in December 2011.
Consumers are using mobile apps to assist with buying decisions while in-store, as well as making purchases directly through transactional apps. The fact that these retail apps, especially transactional apps, are still in their very early stages gives even more reason for brands to be analysing how changing behaviours are correlating with metrics.
From browsing all the way through to purchasing items, retailers know better than anyone that getting this user journey right is essential for their bottom line. And this brings us onto our final tip.
Learns from user behaviour and responds
With a large number of businesses investing in mobile apps, it’s essential that they are measuring and monitoring the performance and usage of these apps.
You wouldn’t have a website without analytics, so why would you have an app without them? Continual improvement of mobile apps is vital to any mobile strategy.
This ensures apps are up to date with all of the latest devices and operating systems, as well as making sure users are getting exactly what they want from an app, to ensure you are getting the best return on investment.
We often find that people are not aware of the mobile analytics tools available to them. When businesses or brands don’t listen to feedback, or track any analytics in their app, then problems will start to occur.
App updates are expected in order to continuously improve an app. Maintaining an app is a continual process that requires changes to be made based on user feedback and a thorough understanding of the analytics available.
Exceptions to the rule
The purpose of your app and the business objectives that you set, as well as KPIs, will be the main things that determine the success of your app.
There are lots of other points I could go into about mobile app development but these are a few examples of the kind of things we see coming up regularly.
This doesn’t mean that every single app will follow each of these points but if you stick to the core principles, you will be on your way to creating a successful app!