I hate your App. No, I really do. I hate its cutesy, ironic icon, it’s ‘Shake 2 Share’ feature, it’s chatty ‘Oops… I goofed!!!’ error messages. I hate the splash screen (which is just an advert for a product I’ve already bought). I hate your pushy push notifications and I hate letting you know my location. But mostly I hate your app because you made it for YOUR benefit not mine.
The biggest mistake you can make when building Apps for a client is to consider the needs of the client over the needs of their customers. We flatter our clients by making their brand look cool, relevant and shiny while making their customers feel… well, irrelevant and a bit dull. This is probably not a good thing.
The problem starts with your first visit to the ‘imaginarium’ (or whatever you call the sofa outside the breakout room where you and that contractor guy design apps). You’re starting from the wrong place. Don’t worry about the App, that’ll come, start by answering the following three questions:
When they said ‘we want an App’ did they really mean ‘we want mobile?’
Sometimes there’s not much you can do. The client has a well-developed App concept and doesn’t want you to feel round the edges. They know what they want and they are probably right. Focus on the detail of the UX and push for an aggressive comms and marketing strategy for launch and your work here is done.
But often ‘we want an App’ means ‘we want to be relevant in mobile but are a bit scared’. Tell tale signs here are: wanting an App that replicates all or part of a web site, wanting something a bit like a competitor’s App (only better), or only wanting it on iPhone. These signs are a clear indication that your client is looking to get a foothold in mobile but is unsure how best to proceed (and that their boss owns an iPhone). You now have an opportunity to bring to bear the full might and awesomeness of the mobile ecosystem. But hold on a sec, let’s see what they’re up to already…
How do their customers interact with the brand?
Annoying people call this situational analysis, so we shan’t. Assuming that the brand and the consumer are eager to talk to each other, in what ways can that conversation take place? There’s doubtless a website, some sort of CRM email stuff, maybe a phone number or perhaps one of those God awful ‘Hoe can i Hlep?’ online chat avatar thingies. We need to think about how Mobile sits with these other channels. More importantly we have to answer the question.
How can I help them move from a Multiple Channel Experience to a Multi-Channel one?
Huh? Ok the difference is simple: A Multiple Channel Experience is where a conversation started on a given channel can only be continued on that channel, where as in a Multi-Channel world you can start a conversation on one channel and continue it on another. We need to find ways in which this App, and the wider mobile strategy around it, moves us closer to this ideal of ‘always on’ brand conversations. The number of App strategies that fail to address this is almost as staggering as the irony… you’re putting an App on a phone, but you won’t let me use it to communicate with you? What kind of monster are you???
If the client is using some form of CRM comms (typically email) this should move into a mobile context. SMS is still an effective channel. For the right demographic it can even be the beginning of a two way conversation. Device specific messages (e.g. push notification or BB messaging) can be even better, can you use it in your App? Can you generate Emails that look good on smart phones? How can you encourage the adoption of these comms channels? The mobile device offers so many rich interactions between user and brand: Send us a picture, tweet us, call us, txt us, ping us, email us, scan our barcodes, find our shops etc etc. A well-designed App strategy can pull this together and create a playground of interaction between your client and their customers.
What if someone without an iPhone wants to visit the brand (apparently it does happen)? Mobile Web is still the most effective way of delivering an engaging, inclusive and relevant mobile experience to the widest possible demographic, use it to drive lower-end devices into conversations they can support e.g. SMS.
More than enough has been written about social media and Apps, but one point worth adding is: if you expect someone to tweet each time they use your app the least you can do is follow them. What are they saying about you? What will you say back? Remember: Social Media is a multi-dimensional, organo-tech, interaction vortex, not just a way of annoying your friends.
We’ve got good at making Apps. Every week I see something that genuinely inspires me. But we are still treating it as a special case, as something outside the normal rules of engagement. Consequently where we should be creating channels of sparkling, real time communication between our clients and their customers we are all too often building nothing more than glittering cul-de-sacs.
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