It has quickly become the great Australian business dream to have an app. Nestled onto a stylish phone with those unmistakable rounded corners, amongst an array of other brightly coloured apps. Whenever someone utters the magical phrase “developing an app”, there’s the raised eyebrow and the slightly titled jaw of intrigue.
The desire to have an app is understandable. It seems to promise a superior user experience, it’s a progressive and edgy thing for a brand to do, and it fits within our world of smartphone ubiquity.
The reality is most apps will fail not only at their core business objective but in general. Many will have been expensive to deliver, and will have delayed other innovative improvements. It’s good to want to be cutting edge, and it’s even okay to fail, but it’s not okay to go down a path just because others have.
With that mind, there are some necessities when considering an app for business:
- Use technology that is appropriate for an app
If we think about the great apps of the last decade, those that come to mind do what browser technology cannot. The central theory behind the mobile device, and therefore the app, is that the user is out and about away from a larger computer and likely to be travelling or in a non-office setting.
- Uber, in that way, is the quintessential app in that it facilitates transport (and mobility) of the customer. It connects otherwise strangers using GPS technology.
- Tinder, similarly, connects strangers using GPS technology, often who are out and about. Tinder’s difference to other dating sites is the GPS element, which lends itself perfectly to mobile.
- Shazam was an early standout app. If you encountered a song over the radio or elsewhere, you could use Shazam to input the song using your device’s microphone, and inform you of the song title and artist, matching from an extensive song data bank.
If, for example, your business called for on-the-fly data entry for specialists in the field, then an app might suit perfectly well. But simply asking customers to input data through an app, and an app only, is likely to cause a few groans.
- The user experience is superb
The user experience (UX) of an app should be seamless. Too often, non-intuitive controls and inadequate testing leave users underwhelmed. In those critical first few uses of an app, ensuring an excellent UX is vital to secure users keep coming back.
It has to be convenient and time saving, but not just that. It also has to be the most convenient and time saving way of engaging with a brand to be genuinely successful.
- The app has a strong marketing plan
Only the very best apps will earn word of mouth discussion, for others, the app will need to be advertised; people aren’t likely to just stumble upon a corporate app in the app store and download it. In the case of an internal app for staff, this is obviously a separate issue, but take up and satisfaction is in no way guaranteed.
- The business is prepared for a long-term commitment
Much like a pet, an app continues to be your responsibility after the cute kudos subside. Apps need to be in a constant state of improvement. The better app developers weave ongoing maintenance and improvement into their processes. Apps that aren’t looking to change and improve will fail in the modern economy where users demand improvements to meet, and even exceed their expectations. Businesses need to be financially prepared to manage the app regularly once it has been delivered.
Apps are not the only form of digital delivery, and often they aren’t the right one. Other digital or browser-based solutions are often more cost effective and social campaigns are better able to get in front of eyeballs. Our mobile devices are already cluttered, and visiting app stores can be quite a hassle; so there’s a natural reticence apps developers must overcome.
The best businesses will look at apps as powerful, and potentially compelling, but only if they are truly fit for purpose.