There are many illustrations of mobility apps which are for the most part frustrating to use, counter-intuitive, sit uncomfortably within the mobile eco-system they are designed for and so become a poor representation of an organisation’s brand. Take a look in an App Store and you’ll see these apps tend to fall in the 3 star or less rating category.
Not a great way to start off a consumer’s experience of an organisation’s service offering!
So how do organisations go about avoiding this?
There are many obvious things to do like ensuring that developers or marketing do not, in isolation, design all elements of the mobile app. Avoid enforcing brand standards not designed for mobility. Do not adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to all mobility platforms and user interface orientations. These are all well-known issues and have been well discussed in general media. They are prerequisites but not guarantees to ensure a great mobile app.
The following additional core principles need to be followed:
Less is more!
In today’s world of information overload, time-poor consumers and the general rush to get things over with and move on means that every aspect of the mobile application must be geared around doing a small set of functionality well. Not a lot mediocrely. Don’t mix marketing in with services, or attempt to advertise or promote branding where it makes no sense, or confuse the consumer with a multitude options – at best this frustrates the consumer!
Context trumps everything!
Where, when and for how long a mobile app is used by the bulk of your consumers are very key questions. A mobile application must be designed from the outset from the consumers’ context of use.
This is best illustrated in an example: You have just had a great dinner out with a group of friends and face the inevitable task of trying to calculate how much each person should pay plus tip? So a good bill tip and split calculator will come in handy. Now the consumers’ context of use for this mobile app is within a noisy environment with many distractions, mostly used in late afternoon or evening (perhaps the consumer has had a few drinks so may be a bit fuzzy?), and the app must provide results within the shortest time possible – everyone partaking in paying the bill will no doubt be watching your use of the app! As an illustration, take a look in the App Store and see how many of the available apps in this category are aware of the context? Not many!
Any example can be used, but the sooner organisations come to terms that their mobile apps are most likely used whilst a consumer is on the go, be it walking, in the gym, sitting in a train or in other unmentionable places, during meetings, and so on, the sooner they’ll realise what will work and what will not!
Interaction is physical!
This is a no brainer but missed often in mobility, for the most part it is your consumers’ thumbs, fingers, and voice that drive the interaction with the mobile application. So make it easy to use with one hand or even one finger, reduce the number of presses, gestures, repositioning, switching of orientation required and take into account not everyone has huge hands! Don’t use sound unnecessary or at least ensure it can be turned off or on easily. If the use will be mainly at night cater for this in the colours used, or even better adapt colours to the situation.
Give your App a purpose!
The mobile app needs a purpose; don’t try to make it an all-singing-all-dancing version of a desktop or browser-based capability. It must also not be too generic or too all encompassing. Mobile devices are just that – used in mobile situations – so suits single purpose-based apps, for example: play music, look-up weather, get directions.
Your App will evolve, accept it!
No matter how well designed and structured, all mobile apps ultimately suffer the same fate as fashion. New approaches, devices, colours, themes and ways to interact will come and go. What really works well this year may be viewed as backward in a few years. It is important from day one to accept change, and it is necessary to watch and adapt to change in time. Never, ever assume that the initial build of a mobile application is all that is required. Consumer reviews, ratings, feedback and new technology will drive continuous change. Embrace this, rather than fight it.