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Engaging Consumer Apps | @CloudExpo #Mobile #DigitalTransformation

The biggest problem with ‘innovation’ is that most of what we put into that category is actually damaging to the user experience

How to Create a More Engaging Consumer App for Business

The development of your app isn't something that happens overnight, but rather it is something that takes place over time and through multiple iterations. While you may have developed the framework for your app already, improving engagement and innovating to provide a better user experience is a completely different process. There are plenty of ways that you can improve user engagement, but these five strategies will help you improve your app while also reducing the risk that your "innovative" updates actually decrease user engagement.

Use 'Innovation' Thoughtfully
The biggest problem with "innovation" is that most of what we put into that category is actually damaging to your overall user experience and engagement. When it comes to adding new innovative features to your app, it's important that you really sit back and think about how your end-users will think about this feature as it relates to their experiences with your app. Ideally, you want them to feel slightly better about using the app when you innovate, but you don't want to elicit extremely positive (or extremely negative) responses.

The above idea might seem counter-intuitive, but when you design for user engagement, it's extremely important to internalize. If your user wakes up and launches your app, only to see that an overnight update has changed everything that he knows about how to use your app, then it doesn't matter how good or "innovative" it is. The only thing that he will feel is a sense of overwhelm and a loss of connection to the app that he once used and loved.

Instead of using every update as an opportunity to innovate, try removing barriers that have caused problems for your users in the past. For an app that's focuses on delivering pizza for a nationwide brand, a good example of innovation would be to add a feature that notifies users on their lock screens whenever their pizzas are sent out for delivery. On the flip side, an example of negative innovation would be a full redesign of the entire app to put more of the user focus on the menu, while completely changing the order process to make it more "intuitive" by adding an intelligent, voice activated ordering system. Even if it was the best possible change that you could have made to that app, this type of innovation will, more often than not, overwhelm rather than excite.

Making Communication Intuitive
One of the most important things that you can do when creating an engaging app is to eliminate the negative side-effects of what your app is trying to do. For any app that involves voice communication, a common barrier can be the number of steps required to actually reach the point where the user speaks to someone. An app like Uber, which allows users to hail personal drivers quickly and easily, requires users to deviate from Uber and call them via their cellphone.

This causes a litany of issues, one of them being the fact that it can take multiple taps and app changes to actually contact the driver. Another, is that it requires you to give out your personal phone # to a stranger, obviously eliciting privacy concerns. An easy way to keep users more engaged by making the user experience more seamless, is by integrating in-app voice and video communication with SDK's like Agora, which gives app developers the ability to easily add high definition in-app calling directly into their app. Which would allow end-users the ability to talk to the driver without having to switch to their phone and giving out their personal phone number.

Use habit building strategies
One of the most powerful systems for engagement is the development of positive habits that are related to your app. This system, also known as the cue-habit-reward system, can be used to dramatically increase the usage of your app, and it's extremely simple to implement.

The first thing that you need to do is create a cue for your user to take action on something, with the intention of that action becoming the habit. Once they have successfully done it, your job is to reward them within the app, creating a positive association related to that specific action. For example, in an app that is designed to track your weight, a splash screen that congratulates the user on updating her weight, or that gives her a reward of a free trial of an upgrade-only feature for hitting a specific (or interim) weight goal. Something as simple as a reward or positive feedback encourages users to reengage with your app.

Keep It Simple, Stupid
The growth in the US app market has largely (some would say entirely) been from apps that do only one thing. Tinder and Hinge help users find people in their areas to date, but they don't try to replace social networks, manage finances, or help calculate a tip. This simple functionality is one of the key reasons that they have been so successful thus far.

When your goal is to keep your app engaging, it's important that you make your app easily understandable and simple to use. No user wants to wade through menus or spend hours trying to figure out what your app is supposed to do. The first screen that users see when they launch your app should include all of the functionality that you are trying to integrate, and it should do it in the simplest way possible.

If the focus of your app centers around trying to make it easy to learn another language by speaking with someone in the country where that language is spoken, make the "Connect" button the center of your main screen. Ideally, your user should be able to hit that button and connect to their language partners, and there should be no barriers to distract or annoy them. If you do need additional functionality, you can make it easily available (this is key) in a sub-menu. If it's not needed, that's great, but if it is then it's only a tap away.

Integrate Community
A key measuring stick for any engaging app is its ability to integrate community into the mix. When you have users that download your app and are using it extensively, having a community of other users that they can talk with, or letting them share their successes with friends and family can help solidify the app in their daily lives.

Some users will be hesitant to do this at first, which is why it can help to use a community as a barrier to a greater reward. In Candy Crush, for example, users can tap into a community via Facebook to get additional lives if they run out during play. This does two things for the game: it makes the game part of an online 'identity', giving more incentive to play it, and it lets users show off their engagement with Candy Crush, connecting them to people they know who also play the game, which helps interest and engagement to snowball over time.

More Stories By JT Ripton

JT Ripton is a business consultant and freelance business, marketing and technology writer out of Tampa, you can follow him on twitter @JTRipton