Critical Path Newsletter
Successful Mobile Apps – The 5 Keys to Becoming Part of a User’s Lifestyle
Unless you were living on a deserted island in 2010, you have been bombarded with news reports, market forecasts and customer input about mobility.
But for every monumental success like Angry Birds, there are thousands of apps that fail. iTunes alone boasts 330,000 mobile apps, and this number is in the millions when you consider other app stores, direct downloads, and mobile web applications.
At Macadamian, we’re constantly developing new mobile products for our customers, and over the course of the year we’ve distilled 5 key elements that make the difference between a mobile product that becomes part of your customer’s daily lifestyle, and a product that is lost in the shuffle, “collecting dust”.
I’m going to give you a sneak peak into each key element today, and in the next 5 releases of the Critical Path, we’ll tackle each one in depth.
Offer Real Value
“We know that mobility is important, and we are feeling pressure to release a version of our software on a mobile platform. How do we figure out what features to offer, when the users themselves don't even know what they want?”
Many product strategy discussions start like this. There is a high sense of urgency to do “something mobile”. Pressure comes from all directions – RFID, QR codes, Near Field Communications, Social Graph – everyone wants to jump on the latest options.
Urgency is a double-edged sword, and rushing to market without a tested mobile strategy is a sure-fire recipe for failure. How many of the 330,000 iTunes apps offered today do you think offer something no one really wants?
The best organizations innovate using an integrated process that involves a combination of
- User input that uncovers what your customers really value
- Technology exploration
- A process for systematic innovation that allows for early testing with customers and quick iterations
One of the clearest ways to stand out from a crowd of competitors is to have a stand-out UI - one that is visually stunning and intuitive. In a mobile context, when users are on the go and using a screen one tenth the size of their desktop, this principle goes from best practice to must-have.
An analysis conducted by eMarketer indicates that 73% of users expect that a mobile app developed by a brand they already use will be easier to use than the original product. 69% of users say that their vision of the brand would be negatively affected if the app is not useful or easy to use.
2011 is the year of v1.0 mobile products. Those that are a hit with users will have an audience for v2.0 and onward. And those that don’t? Look no further than PinchMedia, whose 2009 presentation showed apps experiencing a dip in usage falling to less than 5% only 20 days after downloading.
Eliminating Barriers to Adoption
Discoverability and availability are crucial.
Today, the number of ways that a customer can acquire a mobile application is confounding. App stores, social networking recommendations, mobile web sites, add-ons to desktop and web software, and the list goes on. These are even affecting traditional industries – Finance is one of the top industries for iPad downloads, and Google’s Android store has just opened a Healthcare downloads category. Before a user can even decide whether to adopt a new mobile solution, he has to be acutely aware of its existence.
There is a basic human psychology that connects how users purchase or download your application with how they feel about its usefulness. The industry is rightfully focused on making the product usable once it is downloaded, but those who recognize that usability starts before the app is downloaded are one step ahead.
Make no mistake, 2011 will be a race to get the best solution to your customers before your competitors do.
You have a great idea, a great differentiator, a stunning UI. The blueprint is all there. But two weeks before shipping, how close is the near-finished product to the original design? With the extra burden of ramping up on new platforms like iOS and Android, something has got to give, and usually it's the timeline. The product manager is forced to ship late or cut features.
While there are often a number of reasons for getting in this situation, the root cause is most often a lack of streamlined product creation process.
Does your company do a "hand off" from product management to engineering, with you left crossing your fingers that the team will get the design right and on time? Do you get pressure to "sign off" on requirements that you know will change over the course of the project?
When the product managers, UI designers, and engineering team all follow an integrated process that have them working together on a daily basis - the team stays flexible, communicates, builds momentum, moves quickly, and meets tough deadlines.
While products that get to market quickly may be an initial success, if they were not built with a sound long-term strategy, they can easily end up costing several times more than the original budget for your organization to maintain in the long run.
Consider vendors who quickly developed a native application to run on the iPhone in 2009. With the explosion of Android, they are now looking at “porting” their application to Android. Except that Android offers a very different user experience, and a “port” ends up being almost a re-write. Then, an HTC Android phone is very different from an Android Honeycomb tablet, so you may need to do two re-writes. Each one needs to be tested. Costs begin to snowball.
For organizations that have carefully surveyed the market and know which platforms and form factors they plan to support for the longer term, it is vital to be clear on a long-term design, development, and QA strategy. For example:
- Do you build a web application or a series of native platform applications?
- Do you use a cross-platform framework like PhoneGap, Titanium, or SproutCore?
- What is your UX strategy to support Android (and even iOS) variations and fragmentation?
- Which subset of platforms, form factors, and emulators will QA test on?
- How will you push and maintain upgrades across different platforms?
How can we help?
We’d love to share more on mobile strategy with you. How does one really offer true innovative value to the user, to the extent that your solution becomes part of their lifestyle? What techniques exist to combine user input, technological breakthrough and systematic innovation?
Send us a message and we’d be happy to discuss! Or tune in next month when we delve deeper into mobile innovation.