Summary: Many companies rush into mobile apps, completely unaware of the risks and challenges that come with the territory. If businesses don’t first address these challenges, their mobile app will fail…and all of the time and money invested in that app will go to waste.
The rise of mobile offers businesses the greatest opportunity since the internet. It creates opportunities for new companies, and helps existing companies increase revenue, improve communication, and become more productive.
However, mobile apps aren’t without risks. Creating a mobile app can be a big investment (depending on your approach), and presents a new set of challenges over typical application development. If businesses don’t first address these challenges, their mobile app will likely fail…and all of the time and money invested in that app will go to waste.
So, how can you avoid this fate? Today, let’s examine a few common problems that lead to mobile app failure. A mobile app will likely fail if:
1. Users don’t know it exists, or why they need it
The old saying, “If you build it, they will come,” certainly doesn’t apply to mobile apps. Whether you’re building apps for external or internal use, marketing will make or break the project. Users must not only realize the solution exists, they must understand why they need it. If not, your app will likely fail.
“Most business apps fix a pain point,” says Mike Templeman, CEO of Foxtail Marketing. “But if your customers have no idea your app exists, how on earth can they fix that pain point? Marketing apps is a difficult and rather novel process. Most companies don’t understand how to do it. That’s why I always suggest the marketing and publicity of the app takes up just as much planning as the technical aspects of the app.”
2. It doesn’t work everywhere
While improving, mobile networks still don’t offer 100% reliable coverage–a fact that must be accounted for in your mobile app. For instance, suppose you create an app for your field technicians or salespeople. If/when they enter an area with spotty coverage, that app must still function. Unreliable apps get abandoned quickly.
“Business mobile apps must contend with slow and intermittently connected networks,” says Karl Jacob, CEO and Founder of Hangtime. “An off-line mode is pretty much required and tolerating slow connections is required.”
Quick note: Some might think that the need for offline capabilities eliminates mobile web apps. This is a myth. HTML5 brings offline capabilities to web (and mobile web) apps, meaning your mobile web apps can function without a data connection. To learn more about HTML5, check out this article.
3. It doesn’t work across all platforms
Some companies make the mistake of building their internal mobile apps for a single platform. But, what happens if your internal staff switches to a new platform in a couple of years? Sure, you might choose the iPhone now, but what if your staff wants Android or Windows phones in a year or two? If you ever switch platforms, that initial application is useless.
“Business mobile apps must work on all devices supported by the company’s IT staff, but they also must recognize that non-approved devices often creep into IT environments,” says Jacob. “If you don’t support these devices it can cause a lack of usage among certain employees who are often executives.”
4. It doesn’t provide a user-focused experience
One of the biggest mobile app mistakes companies make: They approach the project from their perspective, and ignore the user’s point of view. They ignore critical questions, such as: Why should the user even use your app? Where will they use it? How will they use it? What problem does this solve? Without answering these questions (and others like them), your app will likely fail.
“Too many businesses think about what they want to push to the customer,” says Mike Brooks, Founder of Nuclear Chowder. “Smart businesses will always focus on creating an experience that benefits the user first. The more it benefits the user, the more they will use it and keep it on their device.”
5. It offers novel UIs for common tasks
I’ve seen some companies try to differentiate their mobile apps with a unique interface, or “revolutionary” new approaches to common functions. Don’t make this mistake. Unless you’re a larger company with the resources to start a new UI trend, it will only frustrate users…and likely kill your app.
“Although mobile productivity is relatively new, some standards have developed around how to do common things,” says Erik Rucker, Director of Mobile at Smartsheet. “However, the majority of productivity app authors still haven’t adopted these standard methods. They continue to invent new ways to do things, either because they haven’t noticed the standardized methods or they think creating a novel UI will differentiate their product. In reality, most novel UIs confuse users so it’s more effective to implement a standard UI when possible.”
6. It doesn’t fit with the company’s existing applications or strategyBefore you jump into mobile apps, consider this question: How will this integrate with my existing applications? Will it communicate with my existing database and systems? Some companies jump on the mobile bandwagon because it’s the hot trend, without first considering how their mobile apps will fit with their existing systems or overall business strategy.
“Many organizations fail to think through a mobile strategy upfront to ensure the resulting app meets their specific business needs and use cases,” says Tobias Dengel, CEO of Willow Tree. “Enterprises also need to aim to align their business goals with existing IT infrastructures to incorporate the right mobile platforms and better ensure a successful outcome.”
7. It strays beyond its original purpose
A few years ago, the social sharing site, Digg, was booming. Then, almost overnight, they lost a quarter of their audience. Why? They redesigned their site, and in doing so, changed some key features that attracted their users. Unfortunately, this is a common practice in mobile apps. In an effort to improve, some businesses lose sight of the app’s original focus…and lose their users as a result.
“When we see business apps fail its generally because in the quest to enlarge the user-base the product’s focus has swayed,” says Dan Bejmuk, Co-founder of Dreambox Creations. “Killer business apps are very good at their core capabilities and succeed because they make performing their tasks more enjoyable than the usual workarounds business users are notorious for. Apps with bloat and diluted capabilities end up becoming an animal in and of themselves which is where they generally fail.”
So, what do you think? Is there anything you would add to this list? If so, please share your thoughts in the comments.
If you enjoyed this article, sign up for email updates
We value your privacy. We will not spam you or share your email address with anyone. You're free to unsubscribe at any time.