by Robin Wirz (guest author), Netzwoche of April 16, 2014
User experience is the key to app success. Mobile users are very demanding and a great design alone is not enough. Professional mobile experience management also requires appropriate technical infrastructure and internal processes.
Mobile apps have become extremely prominent in the world of business. They are used in marketing and sales but they also as internal information channels and for process optimization. When it comes to apps, the user experience will determine whether they are a hit or a miss. The bar has been set very high because companies such as Apple placed a lot of value on usability from the outset, resulting in high expectations for apps amongst users. Whilst a strong design forms an essential basis, achieving an appealing mobile experience requires much more. An appropriate infrastructure and flexible processes facilitate this.
Apps Need to Know What Users Want
Users need to be able to operate apps quickly and intuitively, otherwise they won’t use them. A strong design is streamlined and adheres to conventions that users are already familiar with. Apps should fulfill their purpose right at the opening tap. After all, the aim behind mobile apps is for users to have the desired information and functions to hand immediately, regardless of where they are, whether they are on public transport, in a meeting or on the go.
Apps are often used in a casual way, meaning that the user’s concentration is limited. Apps should therefore know from the start what users want – based on location, time or previous behavior – and display the relevant content and functions in a way that is personalized to each user and their situation.
In order to obtain the really important information quickly, the content also needs to be made readily available. In a business context, this means making existing back-end systems mobile-friendly. Most of the systems in question are, however, not designed for mobile conditions. As a result, many apps work well on a WLAN but are slow or even unusable when the user is on the move. When this is the case, not even the best design can save the user experience.
In order to be able to offer a decent mobile user experience anytime and anywhere, apps also need to be designed to work over slow Internet connections. They should work well offline and synchronize the contents so slick and smart that the update process is as short as possible.
To do this, apps need a mobile-friendly infrastructure. It’s important to have a synchronization process which keeps data volumes to a minimum and provides personalized content, and mobile content management must be configured in such a way that the content can be kept up-to-date as easily as possible.
Interaction Increases the Fun
An appealing user experience will also have good opportunities for interaction. Functions such as ratings and favorites are a good start, but sharing, surveys and feedback are also popular opportunities for interaction, which then again support context-based personalization. Game-like elements such as collecting points and comparisons with colleagues (the keyword being ‘gamification’) also increase user engagement.
Push notifications and in-app messages activate users, encourage participation and provide mobile-specific added value.
Input is, however, a generally crucial point when it comes to mobile devices, particularly for mobile phones. The idea here is to reduce the amount of typing required as much as possible through context and other functions such as scanning, photos and voice input.
Mobile interaction opportunities such as these are being used more and more often. Yet a corresponding back-end is needed as well in order to collate inputs, process them and deliver them back to the users.
Flexible Processes for Mobile Dynamics
Many companies struggle to keep up with the fast-moving pace of mobile developments. As it is practically impossible to predict these developments in the long term, apps must be developed and optimized with flexibility. Of course, the basic concept and design must already be mobile-friendly. However, only constant trial and testing – a solid fact-based agile development – will enable to properly fulfill the mobile experience expectations of today and tomorrow.
This requires not only an appropriate frame of mind but also an appropriate infrastructure: apps and their updates need to be launched quickly and their success must be analyzed efficiently. Powerful, detailed analysis and A/B testing tools are essential for this purpose.
A constantly appealing user experience is therefore not just a question of design, but above all requires a mobile-friendly infrastructure and processes that allow for the required level of flexibility.
Original article/Source (in German): www.netzwoche.ch