European Congress of Small and Medium-size enterprises
On the 20th October 2017 I took part in an expert panel about mobile apps during the European Congress of Small and Medium-size enterprises. During the panel we talked about many important aspects of mobile apps, but some questions didn't get a sufficient answer due to the lack of time. Let's do that now, shall we?
Does every business need a mobile app?
It may sound a bit controversial - especially at a mobile apps panel - but we believe most companies don't really need a mobile app. Most companies however do need to be present on mobile devices in some form or another. This is not the same thing. A mobile app in the sense we use is a native program written for the iOS or Android platform. The user needs to find that program in the App Store or Google Play and manually install it on his device. Because of that the process of actually using the app takes longer and requires a lot more effort.
In many cases a well made web-app (HTML5) will be more than enough. Users can access it simply by entering the url (or tapping on a link) in their web browser. An action they are used to doing and are comfortable with. No installation is required. No additional hassle. The "app" downloads as we start using it.
There are of course businesses for whom a native app makes more sense. A lot of b2b apps, field agents collecting data, location data based apps etc. All of those and more will benefit from a native app.
In the consumer segment a native app makes sense if we know, that a large group of users is actually using our current product / website. If we have an ecommerce solution and most customers do one purchase per year - a native app won't really make much sense. We can of course engage them in loyalty programmes, but that will only work for certain goods (like clothing) and a bit less for others (like mobile phones that we purchase once every year or two).
Push notifications are a great way to reach our customers. They are NOT however without caveats. Right after apps that crash or don't work at all, intrusive and annoying push notifications are up there on the list of reasons people uninstall apps. So if you believe you can send free marketing messages every day or even every week, you may find yourself losing users.
Geofencing and messages
Another case is the geolocation / geofencing and it's uses in marketing. It is a bit futuristic, if not outright scary - if we walk by a store and just because of that we get a discount if we go right in. This is a service that invades our privacy a lot and is not recommended by either apple or google to overuse. It also drains battery, so most people turn it off for apps.
Is a cheap app really a good choice?
Most of the time, the cheapest apps are using templates to cut down the cost. It means the app was already made before and it's only slightly modified to accommodate a certain product or service. In most cases apps like that are made for the sake of "having an app" and those companies would benefit a lot more by having a well made responsive website. Using templates also means that the experience is not fitted especially for you, but generic.
What is user experience?
User Experience (or UX) is a mix of a lot of small elements that combined make the product easy to understand, easy to use and fun. Building a mobile app it's important to take everything into consideration, including even often overlooked elements like the words you use.
MVP - how to build a MVP that doesn't lie.
MVP's (minimum viable products) are one of the first milestones of every startup. They're the most basic part of the service - feature limited - used to test the idea on the market and verify it's reason for being. Usually they're also made with a low cost attitude and quickly. While being agile and quick is good, it is also important to think about quality. If we want to test our app on real people - and it looks half-baked - they will automatically assume it's not a real, trustworthy product. While that "made in the garage" look may have some appeal to startup communities, real users can be influenced by it. And not in a good way. Remember - limit what the app does, but don't limit how it looks and works. It's an MVP but it has to be perfect or you won't prove a thing.
The bottom line is - DO GOOD WORK. If your work is sloppy people WILL know and judge you. And you only make the first impression once.
MVP's are the daily struggle of countless startups. Sadly most of them focus on the first word more than the other two...
Hated and loved by many users, skeumorphism is not as obsolete as iOS 7 made us believe.