We naturally understand that an article of “dos” should accompany some “don’ts” so we have a future companion piece to this article coming soon. But for now, here are ten things you should keep in mind as you build a successful app and the business that will sustain it.
Keep a consistent look and feel
It’s important to respect the capabilities and functionality of different platforms, but for basic interactions, like access to a menu, for example, the steps should be the same across all platforms. This doesn’t just simplify the process for those who want to use your app (and share it with their friends, who may use different platforms) but also for your development team, who can count on specific menus and functions being consistent on every platform.
Keep it simple
Those of a certain age will remember getting phone calls from elderly relatives for help programming a VCR or answering machines. Those days are gone, not because there are no more old people, but because people make traditional phone calls less and less, and because technology is so rampant in all aspects of our lives, the grandmas of the world have had to do a bit of learning on their own. For those who are younger and familiar with technology it’s often easy to forget that there’s still a significant percentage of the population who do not find digital technology intuitive and keeping them in mind isn’t just about demographic awareness; it’s a business rule that goes back to ancient times: keep it simple. No one ever complained about a successful app being “too simple to use.”
Keep content consistently coming
If you’ve navigated one of the most difficult steps to become a successful app, that is, actually making it from wireframes on a whiteboard onto your user’s device, you need to keep them engaged. Apart from crashing upon first launch, there’s nothing that might lead to users deleting your app sooner than a lack of steady content. It doesn’t need to be hourly or even daily, but as long as your users know someone is “minding the store” they will stay engaged.
Plan and budget carefully
As you continue to develop your app, it’s sometimes easy to get lost in features that seem exciting but are not what the end user wants or needs. Consistently keep the danger of feature creep on your radar and frame development decisions from the viewpoint of your users.
In an age in which “burn rate” has entered the popular vernacular due to shows like Shark Tank and Planet of the Apps, it’s also important to keep a close eye on funds, not just for the development phase, but for the go to market and post-launch phases. It isn’t just important to budget money, but your time as well.
Research the competition
You should be tracking your competition, not only because in the flat world of app development, your great idea that-only-we-have can be incorporated into a competitor’s app tomorrow, but because you need to see their strengths and weaknesses in their user experience so that you can add those inputs to your development process as you develop and refine your offering over time.
Market, market, market
Anyone who has launched an app can tell you that coding is perhaps one of the easiest parts of building an app. Not because coding is easy, but because it’s a universe that you can control and dictate. On the other side of coding lies marketing – not just to the general public but even within the app marketplace your app lives on. There are ways to get your app featured and moving in the rankings and all those strategies need to be tied in with your original go to market strategy, which should be constantly updated as your development team iterates.
Allow customers to save info and customize
In a world in which technology has greatly reduced our expected waiting time for loading and logging in (soon users may demand us to move at the speed of thought!) a way to alienate a customer is to make them log in every single time they use the app. While there are some financial apps that have to deal with legal constraints and regulations, most of the best apps have found a way to allow their users to log in quickly (either using thumbprint or short codes) as well as save things like credit card information for a more frictionless e-commerce experience. The more users can customize the way they use the app, the more often they will feel it is theirs, not necessarily yours. And that’s a good thing.
Use cloud and device tech
As technology becomes more and more integrated with different parts of products or services, they should be linked to your app whenever it makes sense. A good example would be the American Airlines’ app feature that allows you to determine where your luggage is at the tap of a finger. AA’s computer system always had a general sense of where these bags were at any given time, but now, during your layovers you can actually see whether bags have been loaded or unloaded. It’s not a feature that users ever expected or even demanded, but once made available, is a perfect example of integrating already existing technology to surprise and delight users.
Prepare for rapid scale
Perhaps all development teams dream of rapid adoption, but only the best plan for it by ensuring that their app can sustain high volume usage. This should be done by frequent and comprehensive testing and by making sure that your app isn’t a memory/processing hog (not everyone has a device with a lot of those resources to use). But sometimes there are network issues that have nothing to do with you: but the user won’t know or care. If there’s a performance issue they will blame the app, not their provider. Cover your bases as comprehensively as you can.
Remember users’ privacy and security
Many of us are still reeling from the downpour of emails into our inbox as the GDPR deadline finally came and went. Ironically, the sheer number of emails and notifications meant that many of those emails went unread and the majority of users clicked through or “agree” on all the new cookie permission requests that suddenly appeared on websites they frequently visited. Users are demonstrating through their actions that they don’t care about privacy and security. However, it’s your responsibility as development teams to be accountable to these regulations, even at the chance of irritating users, because the fines for non-compliance can be massive enough to take you out of the game entirely, which won’t be a win for anyone.
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Stephen writes about startups, hiring and career issues for VocaWorks.