A consumer app is only as successful as the sum of its parts. Simply take a look at any user’s mobile app download history, the number of apps left on their devices, and the number of apps that actually use consistently to know the aforementioned statement to be true. Then, just ask any user why they don’t use a consumer app anymore, and you’ll get an answer that more than likely fits into one of the sections in this article.
Think of mobile apps like a machine run by gears, such as a watch. If any one of those gears is loose, weak, or simply janky in any way, the machine won’t work, or at least it won’t work properly. And this is how consumers feel about a mobile app that has a weak aspect, whether the “not working” aspect is a bug or the fact that the consumer app simply doesn’t provide enough benefits.
The following sections in this article include the aspects that every consumer app needs to succeed. Whether you are a business considering creating or revamping a consumer app, or you are a developer or agency looking to build better apps for your clients, the aspects below will help you achieve fantastic results in your app development and design.
This advice is pretty obvious. After all, who wants to use a poorly built mobile app? Consumers won’t waste their time on a slow-running, buggy app. But how, exactly, do you ensure a great consumer app? The cheaper option is to use build-it-yourself software and templates, most of which require a monthly fee. If you need something quick and simple, this option can work. However, DIY app building tools won’t be able to produce the same high quality, unique functionality as provided by a professional developer or agency in a custom-built app.
A professional can really learn your business, take the time to understand what exactly you want to offer, and build the app perfectly fine-tuned to consumers, which insures a much greater rate of success. Plus, a professional can build a native app that works across a greater variety of devices (think about how many different Android devices there are). Any complicated functionalities are much more likely to work smoothly in a custom-built app…as long as your developer knows his or her stuff!
Along the same lines of a custom-built app, a consumer app should be familiar to, well, the customers. After all, if consumers don’t recognize the mobile app as belonging to a certain business, they will be less likely to trust it, and consequently less likely to use it.
Any brand look should be congruent from store to website and more, and an app is no exception. Again, a professional can create this congruency best. After all, a professional will be able to capture the entire brand, from look to voice and all of the other subtleties that go into maintaining the brand’s identity. The Mulberry website has always been one of my favorites with its clean, beautiful design, and the app is no disappointment with a look that beautifully mimics the website.
If a consumer app doesn’t look nice, how do you think this will reflect on the brand? Maintain an aesthetic look and feel, keeping in line with the brand, of course. The Walgreens app does an excellent job of maintaining the company’s identity, including the crisp, clean look found in its stores.
Even more importantly, included in the aestheticism is the navigability as well. Make sure users can easily figure out the layout and interactions in the app in a short amount of time. In fact, it’s always a good idea to include a quick tutorial walk-through upon the first use. Just keep this tutorial short and sweet.
How is the consumer app useful for the users? Make sure that your app is beneficial enough that consumers, first, want to download it and, second, want to continue using it. An app could provide extra discounts not found in-store or on the website, exclusive promotions, better tracking of orders, or points for purchasing directly from the app.
A restaurant app can even allow customers to order ahead of time, such as with the Taco Bell Live Más app. Taco Bell added a lot to make its app useful to customers, including games and special offers. Customers can order ahead of time and easily customize their orders (the app then later remembers these preferences.) I wish I’d known about this app sooner to speed up my kids-are-screaming-and-need-to-be-fed-now Taco Bell runs.
If an app can use the device’s capabilities, then by all means, use them! This can add to the app’s usability, and any native app should be able to easily and smoothly access capabilities such as the camera, microphone, flashlight, and more.
For instance, the Real Agent Guard app is a personal security system that taps into even the most intricate parts of a mobile device. When the app is armed, such as by a real estate agent on the job, it keeps track of the user’s location in real time via the phone’s geo-tracking capability. Users can also enable a Panic button, which immediately dials 911 when pushed. Or if the phone is turned off or destroyed without the user first disabling the app, it immediately sends an alert via push notifications to the monitor. And these are just a few examples of the many ways this app cleverly and seamlessly uses any mobile device to help keep someone safe.
Not every consumer app has to include offline capability, of course. But a great many apps should allow users access while offline. This creates an added benefit as well (users don’t have to lose precious data when using an app while on a road trip).
A great many apps offer offline capabilities only if users pay an extra price, such as with Spotify’s Premium music account. However, this pricing difference makes sense with Spotify. After all, they couldn’t make much money offering every aspect of their music streaming for free. For some businesses, though, it may be better to simply include offline capability for free as an added benefit to consumers and to surpass a competitor’s app.
A Human Touch
Just as websites need to be thinking about providing that human connection to keep users coming back, apps should do the same. An article on VentureBeat discusses ways to give apps a human touch, and makes the all-important point that human elements bridge an emotional connection between a brand and its consumers.
One of the ways to provide a human touch is with an authentic, caring voice, whether it’s a written notification or an audio message. Another important consideration is in the psychology of human behavior. For instance, Tinder’s swiping right for approval is based on the fact that humans associate movements to the right with positivity. What users see upon opening the mobile app or the discounts and offers sent to specific users – these and more are elements that you can tailor depending on the user and his or her personality and preferences…and something that sometimes requires a human advisor to decide upon, rather than leaving the decision up to algorithms.
Retail apps must provide security for users. Even if a consumer app doesn’t provide purchasing options, ensuring that all of the user’s information is safe is a huge way to build trust and prevent users from deleting the app off their phone. Yet, a great many apps make all the wrong choices when setting up their security features.
Bluebox did a study on some of the top apps boasting security and found some common major flaws. One of the mistakes made was in using 3rd party code libraries to speed up production, but leaving consumers open to a widespread breach. Another big risk was the lack of data encryption written to disk, which means personal info is available hackers who have accessed an app or device. Both developers and business owners alike should read the above summary by Bluebox as it provides many excellent points for keeping a consumer app secure.
If consumers can’t find the app or don’t know about it, then how will they know to download it? Make sure the iTunes, Google Play, and App Store listings are search engine optimized. Businesses should also promote the app on their website and social media for an organic boost in views and buzz surrounding the app.
In fact, any business, upon release of their mobile app, should promote it and spread the word to consumers via a campaign. And any successful campaign will focus on the unique features that benefit users the most, which is what IKEA did when launching its Catalogue mobile app. The promotions focused on the “Create Your Space” feature, in which consumers can place furniture from the catalogue in a room to preview how it looks.
Once IKEA got the word out initially, this incredible consumer app pretty much sold itself thanks to its one-of-a-kind feature.
Of course, rigorous testing is a given during all stages in building any mobile app. In fact, user experience testing not only helps you know if the consumer app actually does what it’s supposed to do but also lets a business know if the different features are really what interests users.
Another important consideration: a consumer app is a long-term commitment. Mobile apps are never perfect when first released, and clearing out bugs as soon as possible is an important part of keeping users happy. Not only that, but new benefits should be added or revamped from time to time so that users remain engaged and excited about the app.
A Consumer App That Lasts
While some of the above aspects of a consumer app could be considered more important than others, a mobile app really should include all of the above (with a few exceptions) for the strongest possibility of success. The success really does rely on the strength of all of its parts put together. After all, a huge campaign can’t help an app that’s not useful or not navigable. And a buggy app will quickly lose users even if the idea is extremely useful. So, be sure to keep all of the above aspects in mind when developing a consumer app to ensure one that consumers want to download and continue using even after the initial “newness” has worn off.