All over the globe, people can be seen tapping and swiping away on their smartphones. To put a number on it, Businessinsider.com estimated that one in every five people in the world would own a smartphone by the end of 2013.
Market research firm eMarketer threw some more light on this trend. It predicted that the global smartphone audience will reach 1.75 billion in 2014. Close to 49% of mobile phone users, approximating 2.23 billion people, will go online monthly via a mobile browser or app this year.
As these statistics indicate, mobile devices will continue to present an immense opportunity to businesses to market their products and services to consumers. A mobile application has become one of the preferred methods to capitalize on this communication channel.
There are a number of reasons for companies to consider having a mobile application for their business. These include:
- Customer engagement
- Customer convenience
- Capitalizing on mCommerce
- Making use of location-based targeting to attract customers
- Delivering mobile coupons
- Building loyalty via rewards and incentives
- Additional source of revenue through monetization of premium content
The incentives are several, but along with them comes a considerable challenge. With new mobile apps flooding online stores every day, getting users to click the ‘install’ button, keep the app on their device for the long term and give it a good rating, all depend on a few critical factors, which are explained below.
11 Best Practices to Remember for Creating Good Mobile Apps
- User-Focused Conception: What the user wants has to be at the starting point of the mobile application development process. Researching the requirements of the target audience will help to ensure the app’s features are aligned with their needs and expectations. This will also lay out the strategy for all the stages of application development.
- Focus on the Local Market and Solve a Pressing Need: In 2010, Uber launched its mobile app in San Francisco to solve a local problem of not being able to get a taxi easily in the city. The app, which connects passengers with taxi drivers, is now available in over 70 cities across the world. Thus, by focusing on a smaller market first, a mobile app and its associated business model can be slowly perfected and its reach can then be expanded to other geographic locations.
- OS- and Device-Optimization: According to Gartner, 968 million smartphones were sold to end users around the world in 2013. Android-based phones garnered a market share of 78.4%, iOS was at 15.6%, Windows at 3.2% and BlackBerry at 1.9%. Clearly, Android and iOS remain the most popular operating systems for mobile devices. Developers have to take the platform into consideration before proceeding with creating an application. According to Mashable, the Application Programming Interface (APIs) required for the design, the value proposition of the platform, and the screen ratio of the devices should play a role in the final decision.
- Seamless User Experience: The user experience is at the heart of the application’s success. Mobile app users rarely hesitate to post their feedback on app stores when they are unhappy with how an application works. How users perceive performance is affected by the time the app takes to start, how it loads, whether transitions, animations and effects are seamless, and the frequency of errors and crashes, among other issues. Additionally, in an e-commerce mobile app, the navigation through the app and the security of the checkout process are critical for closing sales.
- Social Sharing Capabilities: Mobile applications need to have social plug-ins to enable users to share gaming scores, purchases, interesting content, and more. Popular social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, can be integrated into the application to allow users to be unofficial app endorsers and spread the word about it.
- Analytics Generation for Actionable Insights: According to an article on thenextweb.com, some of the most popular analytics tools for mobile apps in 2013 were Google Analytics, Segment.io, Mixpanel, KISSmetrics, TestFlight, Localytics, Geckoboard, Mobile App Tracking and Clicky. From traditional metrics like user activity, geographic location and amount of time spent on the app, analytics tools can now also communicate where the user is tapping on the smartphone screen, among other insights. Analytics tools give crucial information about what is good about the app, and as importantly, where it is going wrong.
- Robust Backend: A robust backend for mobile applications, popularly known as MBaaS (Mobile Backend as a Service), is integral for data storage, user management, social network integration, push notifications, analytics data, secure connectivity and more. With options available for both cloud and on-premise MBaaS, pricing, time to market and features of the service should play a role in the final decision. According to Gartner, by 2016, 40% of mobile application development projects will make use of cloud mobile back-end services.
- Loyalty Incentives: The Starbucks mobile application is linked to the Starbucks card and allows users to track the number of stars they have accumulated and redeem them. The Nike + app rewards users with NikeFuel, allowing them to collect awards and surprises. Entrepreneur.com predicts that this gamification of mobile apps to enhance stickiness, will be a trend that continues to gather steam in 2014, making routine chores and activities fun.
- Rigorous Testing: There are various aspects to testing a mobile app, each of which is critical for its optimal performance upon release. These include testing across diverse devices, for different network connectivity options, such as on Wi-Fi or mobile networks, and for performance, security and compliance factors. Since users place high value on the functionality of the app and are quick to uninstall it in case of errors, considerable importance has to be given to the testing stage of development.
- User Data Security: Warning against relying solely on a platform’s security features, the US Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection advises adopting reasonable data security measures to protect the interests of mobile users. Transit encryption, secure generation of credentials and an iterated cryptographic hash function for passwords are some of the ways suggested to make sure users can enjoy an app without fear of their information being compromised.
- Updates for Improvement: Based on feedback from users and analytics tools, a mobile app may require some revisions after release. The update stage is important to fix bugs as well as make improvements, and requires its own rigor. The Google Play store has a checklist for publishing an update to an app; the App Store requires approval of the new binary before release.
In summation, these 11 factors can make a monumental difference between making a success of a mobile app and its rejection by users. To ensure these factors are taken into consideration in the development of a mobile app, businesses can turn to a specialist IT service provider with expertise in the domain.