“What makes a great app?” It’s a question I’m often asked when working with startups and entrepreneurs at Appster.
While there are numerous elements that define a great app – from its UX and UI design, to how addictive or user-friendly it is – we’ve gathered insights from mobile experts, and distilled it down to a select few factors below:
1. Provide a user-friendly experience
The mobile app landscape is a space that undergoes changes at a rapid pace – new apps are launched daily, and new technologies are revolutionizing consumer experiences. To stand out and boost customer loyalty, app makers need to focus on getting the basics right.
A survey by app market and data insights company App Annie indicates that a user-friendly experience has been voted the top factor (59 percent) for driving user retention, above other factors such as value-added features (35 percent) or targeted relevant content (29 percent).
Below, I’ll share a few tips for creating a user-friendly experience:
Convey value proposition early and quickly
With countless apps available on the App Store and Google Play, it’s critical that users understand the value of using your mobile app right from the very start – and within a short span of time.
According to a survey by research firm Clutch, 72 percent of respondents said completing all onboarding processes is less than a minute is a key factor in their decision to continue using the app.
Keep the onboarding process short and sweet
A Clutch survey showed that the longer the time it takes for users to provide information, the more frustrated they became. 28 percent of respondents were frustrated by a one to two-minute onboarding process, but when onboarding took longer than two minutes, the number increased to 33 percent.
While these timeframes may serve as a guideline, keep in mind that there are exceptions to the norm. A banking app will require more personal information and a longer time to onboard users compared to a note taking or fitness tracking app, for instance.
Regardless of the recommended timeframe (less than a minute), the main objective is to align your onboarding processes to the purpose of your users, as well as the functions and needs of your mobile app.
Don’t force a single app to serve multiple goals
Add too many features to your app, and it runs the risk of becoming a Swiss Army knife – a tool that performs myriad functions, but inevitably winds up confusing users.
Robbie Abed, formerly Director of Marketing at Y Media Labs advises:
“Apps aren’t websites, and need to have a laser focus to succeed.”
He shares that at Y Media Labs, the design, development and strategy teams start off projects by defining just two core use cases for building a mobile app.
Cut out the clutter
The three-click rule may have been busted as a UX design myth, but it’s a rule that’s still worth considering when designing your mobile app, as it makes you rethink the necessity of all the screens and steps you’ve included.
I’ve included a couple of tips below to guide you towards creating a simple, easy-to-navigate design:
- Test it out: Test out your product with friends and family in the early stages of design. Pay attention to the areas where they get stuck when using your app, and make corrections to remedy these points.
- Two-tap rule: In a Fast Co. article, former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer elaborates on her two-tap rule for app design. Says Mayer: “Once you’re in the app, is it two taps to do anything you want to do?” If no, time to redesign the app.” The Yahoo Flickr app illustrates this rule – from the main screen, users can browse through groups, set up alerts, take a picture and perform additional functions easily in just two taps.
2. Be adaptable in a competitive landscape
Apps that have continued to achieve user growth and revenue over time are adaptable to changes in a highly competitive landscape. Here are steps you can take to set your product up for long-term success:
Pivot quickly to cater to user demand
“Stay flexible” – that’s a key lesson that Rahul Varshneya, founder of Appreneurship Academy, an online workshop for aspiring app entrepreneurs has learned from working with businesses across diverse industries.
He elaborates in an Influencive article:
“There are no bad ideas, just bad entrepreneurs – those who can’t learn from their mistakes and pivot. You can always start with a product that doesn’t work, but you can always turn it around.”
Take Instagram as an example. Originally created as a check-in app called Burbn, founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger saw that the app wasn’t getting much traction and that most users were using the app to snap photos.
Noticing the user behavior, Krieger and Systrom decided to focus on a single aspect – mobile photos – and worked to pare down Burbn to a few core features, such as photo-taking, liking and commenting.
Pivoting swiftly was a move that paid off for Instagram – on the day of its launch, the app garnered 25,000 users and quickly rose to become the top free photo-sharing app.
Pay attention to new developments in your industry
App makers need to keep a close eye on changes occurring within their industry – or run the risk of becoming obsolete as new trends and competitors emerge.
Pandora is a case in point: while it was once a pioneer in the internet radio space, it now lags behind competitors like Spotify and Apple Music in more ways than one.
For example, its subscription-based premium service, which allows for on-demand music streaming was launched only in March this year – way behind other providers like Google Play and Amazon Prime Music.
3. Provide stellar customer support
A great app doesn’t just stop at providing a user-friendly and engaging experience; it also needs to deliver stellar customer support – and continue to do so long after the app development is complete.
Unfortunately, this is one of the most overlooked aspects of mobile apps.
A Gartner report on mobile customer service indicated that:
“There is an immense gap between mobile adoption and successful customer service and support on the mobile device, which undermines enterprise strategies for mobile…Through 2017, 80% of enterprises will not achieve competitive advantage through their mobile strategies due to poor customer service.”
Mobile app makers are forgetting that when it comes to customer loyalty, it’s about getting the fundamentals – like treating your customers well – right.
Here are some tips to help improve your app’s customer support experience:
Be where your users are
Make it easy for your users to get in touch with you through implementing an in-app solution for communication, such as a tap-to-call button or a live chat function.
Make it personal
Personalising communication with your users helps create greater engagement, makes your them feel valued and fosters a sense of connection.
While brands like Zappos go as far as reaching out with a homemade card or gift for special occasions or providing personalised mobile shopping experiences, simple steps – such as signing off responses with a personal name, as opposed to a “no-reply” address or a company name – are just as effective in conveying the message that your app is a human brand that engages in real conversations, and provides reliable support when needed.
Actively seek out and respond to customer feedback
A study conducted by mobile customer engagement software Apptentive and Survey Monkey showed that customers expect companies to be more communicative on mobile than on other channels, and to ask users for feedback.
Among customers who preferred to leave their feedback through in-app channels, 64 percent expected companies to seek out their feedback directly.
Yet, asking for feedback is just one part of the equation. 55 percent of respondents who leave feedback through in-app channels indicated that they aren’t likely to remain as customers if their feedback is seemingly ignored.
This shows that it’s equally important for app makers to acknowledge, and provide a timely response to feedback from users.
4. Stay ahead of rising trends
Successful apps stay relevant to shifts in the demands of their users and an ever-changing mobile landscape. App makers need to be aware of emerging trends and understand how these trends are changing the way individuals utilize mobile apps when conceptualizing their apps.
Here are two key trends you need to know:
Augmented reality apps are set to be a game changer in the mobile space
In a CNBC interview, Bertrand Schmitt, CEO of App Annie shared that AR looks set to create a relatively huge shift in the industry.
With the launch of Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore, users can expect “better, higher quality experience, as well as many more apps leveraging AR”. Schmitt further elaborates on AR’s wide-ranging impact, which will span across “gaming to non-gaming…social, and even some utility apps”.
Bots are the new apps
In a Forbes article, contributor Elad Natansan explains the rising importance of bots in the future of mobile.
The benefits are clear: within the context of messaging platforms, bots allow for easy engagement (there’s no need for users to leave a chat app), effortless installation (no app downloads or account registration are needed) and are never “shut off” (as bots continue to run in the background and are able to identify keywords, they are thus able to respond to a user’s intent).
While search requires user intent, bots are able to push the content that we require.
Over time, they can learn about the types of content we seek and engage with, and deliver content that increasingly meets our needs. For example, you might be chatting about your travel itinerary in a chat group. A bot identifies travel-related keywords in your conversation, and recommends tours and activities accordingly.
This creates a new dynamic and changes the way we browse and interact with apps altogether.
As we’re increasingly able to complete these actions, and more without leaving a messaging platform, users will eventually have little need for a separate native mobile app or to conduct manual searches in browsers.