(Every Tuesday, Kyle St. Romain will talk about the business and legal side of the app world. While his opinions don’t always reflect those of Rocksauce Studios, you should hear him out…the guy knows his stuff!)
I read an interesting article recently by Robert Plant in the Harvard Business Review. It was titled “Five Steps to Fixing Bad Apps,” and in it, Mr. Plant talked about five common pitfalls companies have in meeting their customers’ expectations for their mobile app. The companies referenced in this article include: American Airlines, American Express, Amazon, and Apple – the “A” list, if you will. While this article is geared toward helping established companies meet their customers’ mobile needs, I think these points can be tweaked to help new apps just as well.
Your customers need to be able to recognize your app. Big companies don’t really have this problem, since we have all likely heard of Amazon before and may have even looked to see if they had a mobile app before knowing otherwise. In fact, we expect it of them.
The problem for new apps is letting people know you exist, mobile or otherwise. To do this, you should consult with a designer to ensure your company sends a consistent message across all channels. From your logo and icons, to the specific colors and fonts you use, your company needs to reinforce its presence everywhere a potential customer looks.
Once you know what your message is, you need to spread it. Social media, local advertising, and networking with established websites online will all help raise awareness about your app. Branding can be expensive and seem like a frivolous pursuit upfront, but it’s often said that its easier to steer the ship in the right direction from the start than to change course mid voyage.
- Customers’ Needs
This is obvious, but your app needs to meet your customers’ needs. If you don’t know what those needs are, you need to stop everything and go figure it out. You can also read my article on The Importance of Primary Research (AKA, Go on a Survey) for additional tips.
For example, we can all generally agree that note taking apps make our lives easier. What we cannot agree on, however, are what features should (or shouldn’t) be included with the app. The only way to know this is to talk with your customers. Not everyone is the same, so focus on your target market, listen to what they have to say, and fulfill their needs. Remember, it’s not about you; it’s about them.
On a personal note, Mr. Plant’s article commended PayPal as being a leader in the way of mobile security. Frankly, I’m glad, because it’s about the only thing the PayPal mobile app does right. Can we say, iPad support?
- User Experience
User experience is absolutely critical to the success of your app. Even if you solve a real problem, have an incredible marketing team, and the most secure app on the planet; if your customers cannot use it, they won’t. User experience is perhaps one of the biggest booms in creative talent brought by mobile technology. With small screen sizes, limited attention spans, and demanding customers – your app needs to integrate seamlessly into your customers’ lives. It’s definitely worth spending a couple bucks on a hotshot user interface designer; they can really help make your app standout.
- Customer Loyalty
Finally, the success of your app depends on customer loyalty. If you have a million downloads, but no repeat customers, then you have nothing. To be truly successful, you need to create an app that solves a need and keeps the customer coming back. One way to help ensure that customers stay with you is by regularly updating your app and adapting it to your customers’ needs. For bonus points, figure out a way to make your app go viral, i.e., have the customer do the marketing for you. For inspiration, take A Look at Dropbox’s Business Model.
So there you have it. While this list isn’t exhaustive, it’s a start. Each topic needs a lot more attention than I’ve given it here. Perhaps the most important tip of all is to have fun. If you and your development team enjoy working together and enjoy the product you’re making, it will show. Life’s too short to have it any other way.