Building an app is incredibly hard. Building an app that people love, use a ton and helps grow your company is even harder. Getting close to the perfect app can take some doing. While you may just want to sit down, build an app and hope for the best, you have to invest some time in strategy in order to get it right.
Even though it sounds like we’re only talking to the startup crowd in this article, the same strategies apply to any business and can be adapted for even the largest of enterprises if approached from the department level. If you don’t build your app the right way you can end up launching something that never reaches the heights of what it could be. On the other hand, get it right and you could have the next Candy Crush, Snapchat or app that helps your business experience explosive growth. We’ve worked with thousands of apps and know what it takes to make an app as close to perfect as possible. We’re hoping this distilled guide of the top strategies will help you on your journey to app nirvana:
First - Build the right product through vision
This first point might sound like pretty simple advice but really should be the starting idea from which you work. You can accomplish this by employing the technique of visioning what the end product will be from the customer perspective. What will the product do for the customer and what kind of purpose does it serve? One of the many ways you can do this is by using the Jobs-to-be-Done Framework which we highly encourage.
Vision ensures that everyone on the team is building towards a common set of goals and thus end product. Even if it is just you on the team or you and another co-founder, put time into identifying the vision.
Second - Start with an MVP and, if possible, a concierge MVP
It’s tempting when you’re building the perfect app to not want to release something out to the world that doesn’t do everything perfectly. However, this is often a mistake because it prohibits you from gaining valuable feedback from the market and customers. The best small batch concierge MVP can actually help you grow and minimize the risk of building a product that someone doesn’t want.
Third - Interview users and learn
Once you’ve got your MVP or concierge MVP up and running, the next order of business is a continual discussion with your customers/users. Find out as much detail as you can about how/why they decided to use or buy your app. Users present an incredible opportunity to provide you with real insight into your app that is actionable, especially during the earlier stages. Once you have conducted a few of these interviews, a common set of threads and trends should occur. Make sure you have enough interviews to truly get a picture of where and what you can improve. Unfortunately, there is no magic number of interviews you need to do so use your own judgement on this.
Fourth - Experiment
Experiment and test your theories. Since now you’ll have some theories from the interviews you’ve conducted with your customers, it is time to make some changes based on those theories. It might be tempting to just run amok at this stage implementing as many new changes as possible but take heed - make sure you test these changes and iterate as you go. Experimenting, measuring, iterating your processes, features and app is the only way you’ll get close to app perfection. Expedia, for example, runs more than 1,700 A/B tests per year (link) to make sure they deliver the exact product to consumers while improving their revenue.
Fifth - Test your app - users won’t accept poor quality
According to SOASTA, “88% of Americans have negative feelings about brands with poorly performing websites and mobile apps” (link). A further 34% of users will use a competitor's app if your experience causes them to be unhappy (link). While these statistics might seem alarmist, they do expose an inherent problem for you and your company; it’s incredibly easy for a customer to switch to someone else or simply not use you and your app if they have a poor experience. The only way to prevent app problems is with sufficient focus on quality and testing. Make sure that mobile app testing is a key part of your development cycle and someone in your organisation is ultimately responsible and accountable for the quality of the app.
Once accountability and responsibility are defined, the next step is to ensure sufficient testing occurs. There are many different strategies you can take to testing your app and far too many to explore within the context of this article. However, fundamentally, you need to ensure that the top areas of your app are tested on the most used devices/OS combinations of your customers. In taking this kind of approach to testing, you are ensuring that the largest segment of users is being represented. Ensure some exploratory testing is conducted on the actual devices and under lots of different conditions to really get a true picture of what usage will be like.
Sixth - Make design a top priority
Design is paramount in ensuring that what you build gets used. People simply won’t use an app that confuses them or irritates them. Mick Rigby, CEO of full-service global mobile marketing agency, Yodel Mobile has this to say about design:
“Good design should be synonymous with good functionality. Don’t forget that Apple is very much about the design, so good-looking apps that feel intuitive will be noticed by Apple and could be more likely to get featured. Beyond a slick and ergonomic aesthetic, you need to ensure that every element of your app design has purpose. Approach your design with mobile capabilities in mind and be resourceful by getting your designer to collaborate closely with your app developer. This could birth design ideas that they didn't even know possible.”
Seventh - Add a dose of humility
Is it possible to add humility to your app? Probably not, but it is possible to have humility surround your company and, as such, is most likely correlated to how consumers view your app. There are plenty of examples of hubris in the app world that have derailed many a promising company or career. So when you’re building an app, take a small slice of humble pie and approach the project with this in mind. In doing so you are opening the doors for honest conversations with customers, providing better support for issues that might crop up and will prevent you from over managing the overall process.
Let’s be honest here - building the perfect app is a combination of many different strategies that need to be used at different, various times. The strategies we’ve discussed this far present an opportunity to understand the kinds of things we’ve learned as a company both from the failures and successes in working within the application industry as we do. While many of the strategies sound like they have a focus on mobile, they are easily applicable to desktop and web apps too.
Do you think the perfect app is possible? Let us know in the comments below!