For a mobile implementation to succeed, it needs to have two things: purpose and an ability to fulfil that purpose. Purpose is important to any initiative and is usually the key business outcome that underpins the application. However, this article is about the second thing: the elusive ability to implement a mobile solution that actually fulfills what it is designed to do.
Having spoken to and conducted workshops with hundreds of customers in the past two years, I have discovered a few rules of thumb for successfully implementing mobile applications.
Regardless of which industry, implementation success ultimately boils down to a few simple rules.
Put the app in users' hands early or risk them throwing it away once it is there.
Understand the needs of different ‘mobile communities’ and your environment: What operating systems (OS) do your target customers or users run? iOS, Android, Blackberry or Windows? Do you have a ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) policy that means catering for a diverse range of OS? Regardless of which OS you build for, it is important to ensure that your target user base can access your app on their phone. Poll your users to find out. If they can’t access the app, they can’t use it. Get a sense of your mobile landscape.
Decide on the tradeoffs: Mobility systems invariably involve building an app or a suite of apps. These come in two flavours: native and hybrid, both of which have different costs and benefits. Native mobile applications run faster and are more customisable but are more expensive and take longer to develop. In contrast, hybrid applications run slower and are less customisable but are cheaper and can be developed fairly quickly. If your mobility needs are simple and lightweight, the last thing you want to do is pay extra for a native solution. Yet, it could be disastrous to go with a hybrid solution if your customers require a highly responsive app. So, decide which factors best achieve the app’s purpose and select a flavour that suits.
Make it usable (UX and UI Focus): Ensure that the user interface (UI) is beautiful, clean and suits your user base. You can do this by increasing visual appeal through colour, readability through text size and accessibility through button size. Ensure the layout is intuitive and simplify workflows down to their bare essentials. The less your users have to think while using the app, the more usable it becomes, and the more they’ll enjoy using it. In the mobile world good design choices are rewarded.
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Put it in their hands: Use an Agile development cycle that get users to road-test the mobile app at key milestones. They will keep you on track and tell you early if you’ve started to veer away from the principles mentioned above. Consider giving a beta version of the app to test groups and using an application like HockeyApp to manage builds and collect key metrics about usage. It doesn’t cost much to get early feedback from users and it will be invaluable in the long run. Put the app in users' hands early or risk them throwing it away once it is there.
The key takeaway is to avoid knee-jerk developments. Mobile-enabled applications work best when their purpose is clearly understood, when they are focused on what the user is really trying to achieve, and when the unique nature of delivering experiences to small, mobile, sensor-laden devices is understood.
Raymond Yong is senior business manager at Davanti Consulting.
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