Monday, August 10, 2015

VIP Mobility - 3 keys to great mobile apps

This was nearly an article entitled "How to make a great Apple Watch application". But after a few discussions and some research it strikes me it’s of more use to go back to first principles. Regardless of use case, form factor, operating system, or manufacturer there are some universal rules that should be considered when it comes to mobile. So without further ado here is the VIP list of mobility:


Value like beauty is often in the eye of the beholder. With many business cases there is a degree of science and a pinch of art. (For more on this topic please read Enterprise Mobile Tips and Tricks). The value from a mobile application might be as simple as returning more to the bottom line than the cost of implementing. With enterprise applications this is often about saving money by increasing efficiency. Likewise some consumer applications reduce reliance on staff to provide services by leveraging self-service mobile solutions. Additionally mobile applications are directly sold to make money; examples include content creation tools and games. Finally from a business perspective there are many indirect forms of value obtained from mobile applications. These include marketing & advertising, brand awareness/experience, and customer engagement. So is value wrapped up in saving money, making money, and marketing? Take off your bean counter hat for a second and think about the value from the user’s point of view.


An application is intuitive if it can be used instinctively. Einstein’s famous quote “Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler” is very true when it comes to the functionality of applications. There is a good reason for the User Experience groundswell; it’s hard to argue with sales of Apple products. However in business there is always pressure to build things as cheaply as possible. Unfortunately this often means sacrificing usability for features. Thankfully now most organisations are realising that the opposite is true. And start with fewer features, get quick wins, and then add more when practical. Additionally the maturing of the mobile user and mobile apps is a classic double edged sword. Expectations are higher but users are more familiar with the mobile paradigm. Often it is said that people are more tech savvy than they used to be, but actually tech is now more people savvy than it used to be. Great UX is now becoming the benchmark for any great mobile application.


You can argue that popularity is the consequence of value and great UX. Certainly when users are empowered they will not continue to use an app that is clunky, ugly, or not useful. In the case of employee facing enterprise mobile applications there is a greater opportunity for management to enforce their will on the users. However like with the path of least resistance it won’t be long before users will work around an application or process that they don’t like. Does that mean build a valuable app with great UX and they will come? No way! Popularity involves many other factors; planning, exposure, market forces, timing, and perhaps a degree of luck. You might have the most functional, simplest, or cheapest app on the planet but if no one has heard of it or there are 10 other established apps with similar features you will not succeed. Consider also your audience, what works in one geography or culture might not suit others.

VIP Mobility

So what makes a good mobile application? It has to meet its objectives, be useful, and do what it says on the box. It has to work and be performant. It has to be valuable to the creator and the user, it has to be intuitive, and of course it needs to be popular. So now go forth and create your own VIP mobile applications.