Creating a Successful Mobile App

Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 260 , Published on 29 June 2016

If an intelligent extra-terrestrial were to observe upon us humans, then I am sure they will be amazed by how much a single species has developed in comparison to others on the same planet with the same opportunities. There are a few major technological advancements which have revolutionised our way of living. Discovery of fire, agriculture, trade, internet, these are all the events which shaped human society. The latest addition to this list is the intention of smartphones. While you may think of it as just an advancement over the traditional mobile phone, but the opportunities that it offers are as enormous.

Smartphones have changed our way of living for good and future humans will acknowledge it as a remarkable invention which shaped the society. It has made possible the existence of applications markets. Any smartphone platform, be it windows, iOS, android is only as good as the applications available for it. I have seen people not buying a windows phone because “Temple Run” was not available for that for a long time. Developing good applications has made a lot of people very rich and famous overnight, and that is why this industry continues to attract new developers. Every year millions of applications are launched but only a few of them get noticed. Sometimes it becomes a great disaster of the time and money invested in the app when it doesn’t become noticed by people. So why is it that sometime app designed by some high school kid becomes a sensation while an app developed by huge investment don’t do very well. What are the things that make an app attractive? We can analyse this in two phases, first is acquiring the user and second is to retain them.

Image: pixabay

The hardest part is to convince the user to download and try the app for the first time. Let’s look at what motivates someone to download the app in the first place. Ask yourself the same question, the first thing which may come to your mind maybe:

• Good icon design

• Catchy app name

• Well written description etc.

But all of this doesn’t matter when the app cannot reach you. And how does the app reach their users?

• By being featured on the store

• By being referred by friend

• By watching ads on Facebook

• Mention of app in Blogs

• Mention in Awards for apps

Any app gets featured in the app store if there are lots of people around you using that app in the first place. When people write reviews on the store that means it is gaining attention and the appstore algorithm decides that it your app is good enough to be suggested to other people. The ads show any content if it is possible that content may interest you. This is decided on the basis of whether you have clicked on similar content before or if the people in your proximity are clicking on similar content. So if your social circle is using the app it is more likely that you will at least try it.

These will get your app noticed, but what really pushes the person to download the app are its perceived benefits, we will elaborate further upon this later.

It is good practice to utilise the above mentioned motivators for pursuing people to try your app, but it is equally important to stay clear of the de-motivators which dissuade people from downloading any application. One of the common mistake developers usually do is in effort of providing many functionalities to the app they often ask a lot of permissions for the app. One should remember that unless you are Facebook or WhatsApp, you cannot get away with asking unnecessary permissions. As long as your app can work without accessing contact of a person it is a good idea to avoid that.

Next comes even tougher part, engaging your users and stop them from pushing that uninstall button when they have less storage in their phone. When the app is unable to engage the user for longer time then we see fads, apps which become quick success and fade after a short while.

Why the user does keep using the app and what stops them from uninstalling the app. Following are common point which can be noticed in most of the successful apps,

• Networked:

This is perhaps the most successful factor. When your app has a big user network and if a person has more connection then it is tougher for them to stop using the app. Ask yourself, what stops you from uninstalling Facebook or Instagram. Building a network is very expensive process and each new node increases the value of network exponentially. And hence, loss of even one node will reduce the value of your network similarly. And that is why preventing user attrition is important for apps. Also, if there are more than one factor connecting the network nodes, then network can easily adapt to the loss of node, this is called network resilience. Facebook does exactly this when they allow you to log into other services by using their ID. Using “log in via Facebook” option in your app benefits you by not having to make your user network from the scratch and it benefits user by increasing their network resilience.

• Personalized:

It is harder for your user to leave if the app provides personalized service rather than a standard one. What stops you from uninstalling your Clash of Clans game, you have already spent so much time on that you don’t want to waste the effort. Who would want to abandon that beautiful village and all those defenses.

• Cookie crumb theory:

Just like small pieces of sweet cookies user gets sweet sense of accomplishment and the trail of such achievement never ends. One such example is candy crush game levels which never seem to end. What happened to you Angry Birds app after you finished all the levels? Exactly, for continuing engaging the user you need to provide non-monotonous unending experience. Each finished level or completed part is like a pat on the back or a treat for which user keeps coming back to the app.

• Sense of superiority:

And it helps if your app provides the user to compete in the social circle you have provided. Facebook does that in terms of likes on actions, Candy crush does that by showing your friend’s progress on the map. It can be seen everywhere, friends sharing their score and challenging their network to beat them. This is what essentially happens when people shared their Temple run or Flappy birds score screenshots on social media when the app did not provide any effective way to do that.

This is not the complete exhaustive list of functionalities, you must also look at your user segment and modify your app accordingly. For example, YouTube app provided offline functionality for their users in developing countries like India where slow network was limiting their services. Also if the user will try the app and use that if they perceive any benefit to be achieved out of it. You keep Duolingo app on your smartphone in hope of speaking in Spanish or French someday even if you rarely open the app.

These rules are not necessarily limited to the application development business but also apply to any service industry. So next time when you are planning to create a new revolutionary app or a service, be sure to consider the above points. Best Wishes!

This article has been authored by Nitish Tripathi from IIM Kashipur


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