The time people spend on their mobile devices is continuing to grow every year. As our devices become more sophisticated, the number of activities we can do on mobile is always growing, meaning we’re more likely to use them with greater frequency. Time spent with mobile apps is growing too. Adults in the US spend 2 hours, 41 minutes per day using mobile apps according to an eMarketer study. As of 2017, we spend more time with mobile apps than ever before. And though most of this time is spent in apps that provide core functions (think: maps, social networking, streaming music) this data does indicate that mobile apps are far from obsolete. The key is developing an app that provides genuine and meaningful value to users.
With roughly two million mobile apps available for download on both the App Store and Google Play, it is certainly a crowded marketplace. Businesses considering developing their own mobile app face serious competition and it takes a lot to stand out. There are many factors that go into determining how successful your app will be, but an understanding of a few of the basic functions users want and expect can help start you off on the right foot. Here I cover five important elements that need to be included in order to ensure your mobile app has a shot at success.
1. A Rich Experience
In order to design a mobile app that is going to be downloaded and accessed frequently by users, you need to offer an experience that isn’t available elsewhere. Often businesses get caught up in thinking that they need to develop a mobile app because it’s just seems like the thing everyone is doing. But if you aren’t carefully considering the reasons your users need a mobile app from your brand, you’re likely to end up duplicating a mobile browsing experience in a mobile app. Duplicative experiences offer little incentive for users to download your app — why take the time to download an app that will occupy space on their device without offering anything that can’t already be found online? In other words, doing this is a fast way to waste money and resources.
The most important function of a mobile app is to provide utility or value to users. Utility can come in many forms — entertainment value, a solution to a problem that does not or cannot exist on other web properties, or enhanced efficiency for tasks that are performed often — but it has to be there if your mobile app is going to be successful enough to justify the expense of creating and maintaining it.
Credit: MindClash OFFERING A RICH EXPERIENCE FOR MOBILE APP USERS IS AN ESSENTIAL.
Mindclash, a new trivia app, offers an incredibly rich experience for players. Those interested in trivia are provided a valuable experience when they use the app—there is a clear takeaway from using the program, whether it is for the joy of answering trivia questions, winning prizes, or engaging in some friendly competition.
Remember to always keep the needs of your users in mind. Don’t create a mobile app simply as a vanity project for your brand. Ask yourself whether there is genuine value you can provide to users through the development of a mobile app.
2. Intuitive and Easy Navigation
To the above point, the number one reason users give for deleting a mobile app is that they don’t use it (eMarketer). But if users do find themselves using your app consistently, that doesn’t guarantee that you’re safe from being deleted. 14% of smartphone owners reported deleting an app that was difficult to use (eMarketer). Intuitive navigation and overall usability are key functions your customers are looking for in mobile app experiences.
So what does usability look like on a mobile app? Minimizing clicks and actions is a big win for usability on mobile. On mobile, without the benefit of a mouse and a keyboard, it’s far more onerous to select objects and input information than it is on desktop. On mobile especially, scrolling is favored over clicking, so keep that in mind when developing the architecture and content of your app. Your mobile app should be optimized to keep clicks and field entries to an absolute minimum, all without limiting functionality.
Netflix makes it easy for users to navigate their app. CREDIT: NETFLIX
When it comes to an easy navigation, Netflix nails it. The video-streaming mobile app is completely optimized for users on their smartphones or tablets, and is entirely intuitive with where to click and what to click on in order to make a selection.
3. Seamless Checkout
Nothing is more arduous for online shoppers than the checkout process is. While minimizing fields is important, it’s impossible to eliminate all fields completely and the checkout process is where the most information input is required. The key is to only ask users to provide the information you absolutely require and to keep the number of fields as limited as possible. For example, do you really need two fields for the customer’s name? Or can you combine First Name and Last Name into a single field? Look for opportunities to autofill information, like City and State based on zip code input. These small touches make the process faster and easier for users. As with other areas of your mobile app, make sure fields and buttons are optimized to be easily selected by thumbs and fingers (as opposed to a mouse).
Pictured above, Seamless has an incredibly user-friendly checkout process. CREDIT: SEAMLESS
The beauty of a mobile app is how easy it is to save user information to make the checkout process as seamless as possible. Allow users to save payment methods and shipping addresses so that checking out becomes a matter of making a few selections from a pre-populated list.
The online food delivery service, Seamless, is a great example of a seamless checkout process—no pun intended. For existing customers, all the necessary information is automatically stored, and customers can make a purchase in just a few clicks.
4. Personalized Experiences
Everywhere you look, brands are searching for ways to make user experiences more personal, so it should be no surprise that personalization is equally important on mobile apps. In an eMarketer survey of internet users, more personalized experiences on mobile apps and mobile web was the number one user expectation for the future of mobile. In order to stand out in the crowded mobile app space, it’s critical to put personalization at the center of your strategy whenever possible.
Spotify personalizes the experience for users by curating custom playlists based on mood and interests. CREDIT: SPOTIFY
Personalization can be achieved based on a variety of factors, including demographics, behaviors that users take in the app, or the user’s current location. Over time, a retail app can customize content based on past browsing and purchase history. A news app might provide geographically-relevant content by default. These are examples of ways to make the mobile app more personal to the attributes and needs of your customers, which in turn makes them more likely to connect positively with your app and, by extension, your brand.
Spotify personalized the listening experience for customers by curating custom playlists based on their interests, as well as generic moods or genres. From a user perspective, this is a feature that is incredibly valuable, as it makes it feel like the listening experience is completely tailored to the individual.
There are a lot of cool things you can do in terms of the development of your mobile app, but unless those cool things also align with the needs and goals of your users, they are probably hurting more than helping. Cramming your mobile app full of features that aren’t actually essential to the tasks users want to complete is going to make the app clunky and more difficult to navigate than it needs to be. We know that users crave intuitive app navigation and that means that simplicity is key. You should make a simple, usable design a chief requirement of your mobile app development.
Simplicity is a key element when it comes to creating a great mobile app. Venmo, pictured above, exemplifies this key feature. CREDIT: VENMO
When it comes to simplicity, Venmo is a great example. When it’s time for a user to pay a friend on the app, the options are simple. The user can either request or pay with a simple note to accompany the monetary amount.
Consider what goals your users are looking to complete every time they access your app. Now focus all your attention on making those tasks as easy and enjoyable to complete as humanly possible. Additional vanity features will only distract from the tasks at hand and can actually make users feel overwhelmed and less satisfied with your app experience overall.
Driving Mobile Business
Only you can say definitively if a mobile app is right for your business. Many businesses are well-served by an optimized and efficient mobile website. But for those businesses that can offer utility or value to users through a mobile app, the five key attributes described here should be incorporated in the development. A rich experience gives users a reason to download the app in the first place and the incentive to continue using it on an ongoing basis. Simple design, a seamless checkout process, and intuitive navigation will make your app easy and enjoyable to use. Finally, the development of personalized experiences will help keep the mobile app experience relevant and ensure users continue coming back.
To learn more about mobile apps, visit Blue Fountain Media online.