7 Deadly App Traps

Apr 152016
Mobile Devices
There’s no shortage of competition when it comes to designing and releasing apps. So, when it comes to making the most of mobile, what can you do to help your app gain maximum visibility and success? Avoiding ill-timed trends and mobile pitfalls may be a start. Read on to learn more about which “app traps” to avoid.

Mobile apps are hot. Beyond hot.

In fact, let’s go with on fi-yah. As a core component of synergistic 3rd Platform technologies (the current fusion of Cloud, Mobile, Data and Social that’s fueling explosive IT growth), the indisputable promise of mobile has marketing pros scrambling to take advantage. The value is obvious, because the folks you want to engage with are flat-out everywhere. Like Waldo. And that’s no exaggeration. Now your organization can connect around the clock with established customers, targeted wannabes and colleagues, as well. No matter where they are.

CNN money says that 55% of American adults have smartphones and 42% own tablets.

To substantiate, here are a few essential data points. CNN money says that 55% of American adults have smartphones and 42% own tablets. And while internet usage on mobile devices has previously exceeded that on PCs; in January of 2014, apps usage blazed past PCs, as well.

As a result, competition in the apps world is ferocious. This means whether your app is for customers (B2C) or colleagues (B2E), it’d better be killer. Or no one will use it. If you have the idea that an internal app can be less alluring, forget about it! Your colleagues use all manner of consumer apps, and your internal app better be just as good. Odds are, you’ll get one shot to ignite their interest.

Step back from, steer clear of and avoid altogether what we’ll call the seven deadly app traps.

So when it comes to making the most of mobile, what’s the plan? How can you be sure your app gains maximum visibility as opposed to unwanted exposure? Simple. Step back from, steer clear of and avoid altogether what we’ll call the seven deadly app traps. Essentially, these are inconspicuous hazards (think cons, dupes, and snares) that will hurl your app to that vast heap of poorly-adopted, ill-considered technologies. Not exactly career enhancing. You know, that unwanted exposure thing. That said, let’s get to it.

TRAP 1: Jumping on the latest ‘cool app’ trend

If you’re choosing an app because it seems like a cool idea, or it’s the one someone you know chose, or it’s the app flavor of the month…don’t! No matter how enticing the would-be ROI or the rumored assurance of viral adoption, it’s likely a bad idea. When choosing an app to develop, refer to the mobile section of your organization’s digital strategy. What. No digital strategy? Hmmm, you’re going to need to fix that. For now, let’s go old school and review your firm’s primary objectives. Are you fixed on explosive growth or improved sales execution? Maybe a clear purpose is to improve product development efficiencies. Whatever it is, select an app that directly aligns to one or more of your org’s main goals. This will help secure buy-in across the organization and reduce the chances of deploying a seemingly stellar one-off app that points nowhere. Once you’ve settled on the objective, talk to the business. Understand how each LOB is pursuing said goal, then figure out how your app(s) can propel their efforts. The idea here is for your apps portfolio to point solely to the achievement of coveted business goals. That’s how you give it (the portfolio or the app) weight and value.

The idea here is for your apps portfolio to point solely to the achievement of coveted business goals.

TRAP 2: Settling for Skeuomorphic design

Skeuomorphic design, simply put, is an ornamental depiction on an object (in this case an app) that reflects the form of the object in a previous physical state. Think of the faux leather stitched onto a digital calendar, or the fake wooden-esque bookshelves holding up the walls of a digital library. Early apps are overrun with this design premise and it’s beyond time to let go. Yves Behar, founder and design Principal of the much-lauded firm fuse-project, calls skeuomorphism “extraneous visual noise. Cute perhaps, but not useful.” He’s not alone. Other design notables have said the approach is outmoded. In short, a traditional visual metaphor no longer translates to modern users. We don’t need to interpret the digital medium in mechanical real-life terms. Of late, Microsoft is getting raves for its new-found design DNA. The focus is on simple, flat, crisp and bold. Start there.

In short, a traditional visual metaphor no longer translates to modern users. We don’t need to interpret the digital medium in mechanical real-life terms.

TRAP 3: Ignoring more sophisticated features for sake of simplicity

You’ll want to consider how best to incorporate more advanced features into your app, like location, push and diversity of touch points. These can enhance value and effectiveness in unique ways. Location provides the whereabouts of the user (with their permission) so you can deliver worthwhile, targeted information that takes proximity into account; like a nearby event, attraction or sale. A push, on the other hand, alerts your user with a sound or vibration informing them that something has occurred; such as letting them know an item they were interested in is now available, or the question they asked yesterday has been answered. A push can also be applied to spark engagement and offer reasons for users to happily tap-tap-tap those buttons. Every app has buttons of course. They provide the key mechanism supporting user interaction with information. Voice is another. When it comes to buttons, you’ll want them to be obvious. Be imaginative without being too showy. Since buttons have a very specific purpose, any superfluous elements applied can detract from usability. The buttons on your app should be colorful, bold and sharp. If users require more than a split second to figure out where the button is, that’s a problem. And you’ll need to deliberate on how to include swipes, pinches and (wait for it) whether or not you want your app to recognize facial gestures. Yep, apps can take advantage of libraries providing facial gesture recognition. These elements of mobile are fast becoming commonplace and they shouldn’t be an afterthought. Figure out the benefits of each and appropriately build them in.

You’ll want to consider how best to incorporate more advanced features into your app, like location, push and diversity of touch points.
Yep, apps can take advantage of libraries providing facial gesture recognition. These elements of mobile are fast becoming commonplace and they shouldn’t be an afterthought.

TRAP 4: Being clueless regarding app development options

Without getting too technically deep, you’re going to want to understand a bit about the architectures behind build strategies. It’s important because the path chosen by your developers can significantly impact function, usability and cost. Essentially, there are four methods available: Responsive Website, Mobile Web Application, Native Application and Hybrid Application. In short, Responsive Website and Mobile Web App are the most cost- effective and the easiest to maintain. While Native Apps are the highest performing in terms of speed and customized experience. Though many factors must be considered here, a popular choice is Hybrid Applications. Primarily because they combine the cross-platform capabilities of HTML5 with offline, and they offer the device-specific experiences of Native Apps. To underscore, Gartner has predicted that 50% of total mobile apps developed by 2016 will be Hybrid Apps. By way of example, take a look at the mobile offerings from Netflix and Yelp.

It’s important because the path chosen by your developers can significantly impact function, usability and cost.

TRAP 5: Failing to cultivate a cache of committed beta users

The best path to understanding the good, bad and the ugly of your app is to listen to folks who are actually using it. So cultivate a tight, committed group of beta users. Choose from among those who’ve shown a sustained interest in the projected value of what you’re offering. Internally, you’ll know exactly where to look. If you need external audiences to trial your app, post a sign-up option on review sites like Dribble, Forrst or Ember. These community portals are committed to helping developers and designers improve their craft by sharing prototypes and applications in progress. You can also encourage selected followers on your social media assets to download your prototype and get in on the ground floor. In all cases, offer beta users at least one terrific token for contributing to the success of the app.

The best path to understanding the good, bad and the ugly of your app is to listen to folks who are actually using it.

TRAP 6: Dismissing the need to incorporate analytics at the outset

The use of analytics is deeply-rooted and unquestioned when it comes to websites and business intelligence efforts. Yet mobile app projects often employ little, if any, in-depth analytics. Instead, marketing types routinely obsess over app store user reviews, download statistics and B2E user surveys. While these data points are valuable, they only tell a fraction of the story. Delivering the full potential of mobile can only occur when analytics relevant to business goals are incorporated into and used with each app. According to Gartner, there are three core components of a mobile analytics solution; Benchmark, Operational and Behavioral analytics. Through these, you can uncover many critical insights, such as understanding the user path. Are users progressing as you’d expected? Is the menu easy to navigate? Every menu tap, level completion and specific conversion can be wholly exposed. What’s more, you can benchmark your app regarding session length, frequency of use, retention and even know when it stops working. Also, deploying personas is a practice that can offer vital demographic information. To be sure, here’s where you’ll want to engage a provider who has demonstrated undeniable expertise. And the market is flooded with candidates, so think carefully about your choice. Perhaps enlist some selection guidance from a trusted source.

Delivering the full potential of mobile can only occur when analytics relevant to business goals are incorporated into and used with each app.

TRAP 7: Launching an app without realistic, comprehensive testing

Here’s a stat to evoke a deer-in-the-headlights response. 57% of users abandon a mobile app after waiting three seconds for it to do something. And…80% of those users never return. Never. Imagine the failed efficiency for internal users, not to mention any lost goodwill and wasted revenue opportunities with customers and partners. Certainly, testing your mobile app is imperative. The thing is, there are so many moving parts. Device variance is huge. Each contraption with its own quirks – including resolution, graphical interface attributes and processing capabilities. Then there’s device OS versions, a vast array of screen sizes, inconsistent battery consumption specs, and more. Plus, when it comes to mobile networks, low bandwidth and high latency are kind of the norm. Not really the best scenario. Yea, lots of parts, moving.

57% of users abandon a mobile app after waiting three seconds for it to do something.

So, listen up, here’s where you’ll want an experienced testing partner to concentrate their efforts.

Usability Testing

These tests focus on user-centered interaction and are performed from the user’s point of view. Elements typically considered are ease-of-use, aesthetics and speed.

Functional Testing

Test cases here emphasize whether an app can do what it’s built to do. User commands, data manipulation, searches, business processes and integrations are most often involved.

Compatibility Testing

Sometimes referred to as rendering testing, works to validate the app across a breadth of mobile devices, OS’s and OS versions, screen sizes and resolutions.

Performance Testing

The point here is to determine how well an app actually performs. This testing area evaluates factors like server connection changes (2G to 3G and back), shared image sizes, battery consumption, memory leaks, and device resources (think cameras and GPS).

Accessibility testing

Ensuring your app is accessible and effective for users with vision loss, hearing loss, motor control loss, and even information processing challenges is essential. Be sure to test for Section 508 Compliance.

Data testing

Since data almost always gets pulled from various sources, extracting the appropriate data can be a complicated process. Data testing makes sure that the data surfaced aligns with what the app is looking for.

Now let’s break for a second

I can sense you reaching for the Ibuprofen. The intent here is not to suggest that marketers become experts in the various contingents of mobile app testing. Rather, to acknowledge that a certain level of fluency in the topic will bring substance and value to discussions with your comrades in IT.

And speaking of the fine folks in IT, you’ll need to develop genuine partnerships there. The most effective approach demonstrates consideration and respect for your inherent (and often glaring) differences, while being relentless in the pursuit of mutual understanding and success. To complement your marketing moxie, having a few key insights into the kind of decisions IT needs to make can offer tremendous advantages. Ultimately, your app will be scads better for it. And the sometimes-prickly process will be much more cooperative. So, go ahead. Build an app. Avoid the traps. You got this!