With approximately 2 million applications available on each of the major operating systems, it's clear that there is a market for apps that work well. They are also a way to make money, as proven by the success of apps like Uber, which is valued at about $60 billion, and of course Pokémon Go.
It's easy to see why so many companies gravitate towards apps as a seemingly efficient way to give their customers another channel to engage with their service offerings. But app development is something of an art form, and many businesses get it horribly wrong. The result? Wasted money and a tarnished reputation.
If you are a small business owner or app developer, then it's useful to know what not to do so that you can avoid the pitfalls of making apps for apps' sake.
Common mistake 1: There's no need
In many ways an app is like a miniature business because it should exist to address a human need. The greatest apps are built to solve a problem that we didn't even know we had - to scratch a real-world itch with the click of a button. If you find yourself saying "I wish I could..." in everyday situations, then perhaps you need to get into app development.
Apps can be broadly divided into 2 categories. Utility apps exist to make your everyday life easier. They remind you to drink water, help you find a cab or warn you when there's bad weather that's going to affect your business trip. They succeed because they address a problem most consumers didn't even know they had, and before you know it they become an indispensable part of our daily lives.
The second category of apps gives people ways to do what they want instead of what they need. This category includes games, social media applications and so on. Unlike utility apps these are purely for pleasure, and they work because people enjoy using them.
One of the most common mistakes that companies make when developing apps is that there is no real need for the app in the first place. Market research is a great test to decide whether you're investing in an app that's worthwhile or not. If it doesn't help people live an easier life, or one that's more enjoyable, it's probably not worth it.
Common mistake 2: Forgetting the customer
With the rise of ecommerce, physical stores are becoming obsolete and the modern consumer is spending more and more time in a virtual space. This new customer has new needs and expectations, particularly when it comes to apps. They expect personalization, rock solid performance, and rewards for their loyalty. And they want it all to be delivered in a way that is intuitive and easy to understand.
Companies in the app development space often forget that they are connecting to customers on the other end of the app itself. You need to invest in proper User Experience (UX) design to make sure that the user journey is fluid and simple - we all know how frustrating it is if you can't navigate back to a previous screen, or a button is just out of thumb reach.
Make sure you integrate some kind of personalization and a loyalty or rewards system, and update the apps to correct flaws so that they work well on every browser. A great experience will get people talking, and word of mouth is a powerful tool that drives successful apps. Build it for the people and you might get it right.
Common mistake 3: Poor testing practices
With the speed of technical advancement, it's easy for those in the digital world to forget that the consumers you're targeting might not be up to speed with the latest tech. Great applications work across a broad spectrum of browsers and devices, and are built to reach as many people as possible.
Although there are certain protocols in place for getting an app released on one of the major app stores, smaller personalized apps do not have to meet these criteria. Event apps or advertising apps are often built by teams who aren't specialists, meaning they don't go through formal compatibility testing.
The result is glitches in performance and exclusions that can do serious damage to a company or brand's online reputation. It is more efficient and sensible to invest in thorough testing up front, and then a regular maintenance program.
The app world is exciting and it can be hugely profitable if you invest the time and money needed to make sure that your offering is worth the time of modern consumers.