Unless your team has been operating under a rock for the past decade, it’s common knowledge that mobile experiences dominate virtually all other digital touchpoints today. Recent Google research found that two times more brand experiences occur on mobile than anywhere else, and nearly two-thirds of the world’s population is connected with a mobile device.
Despite mobile dominance in the world of digital, many major players have yet to find their mobile “sweet spot” — due in part to many leaders’ hesitance to evolve their strategies beyond merely mobile-first toward true mobile maturity.
Since users today are savvier than ever when it comes to the quality of the mobile experiences they interact with, that shift in mindset is crucial to business survival. Mobile experiences that are anything less than extraordinary will fail to resonate with users who have a world of alternatives literally at their fingertips.
How does your mobile strategy stack up? Are you on the road toward true mobile maturity, or are you spinning your wheels with a mobile strategy that misses the mark? As you envision your company’s mobile future in 2019, consider how the five core principles of mobile maturity play into your strategy.
Principle #1: User Experience Starts and Ends with Mobile Best Practices.
Gone are the days when “mobile-friendly” was synonymous with “responsive” when it came to a design strategy. It’s not enough to have a digital experience that merely looks good on mobile devices. Everything from interaction design, sound, and haptic experience play a crucial part in how and why users prefer (and default to) mobile experiences over everything else.
This is where Apple and Android brand guidelines are key. Users have come to expect a certain level of performance when it comes to the apps they use regularly, and those expectations are strongly informed by the standards set by the mobile OS they’re using. An app that departs from these core standards will ultimately feel out of sync with the rest of a user’s mobile experiences, causing friction that’s likely to disincentivize users interacting with any experience at all.
This isn’t to say that apps should never employ novel approaches to user problems — only that design choices that fall too far outside of the mobile status quo should be carefully considered and validated.
Principle #2: For Apps, Native Development Languages Rule the Roost.
In the early days of mobile-first strategy, brands could often get away with hybrid experiences that bridged the user experience gap between mobile and desktop. That often meant development languages not specifically designed for a particular mobile platform — languages that, for the most part, got the job done. Since users themselves were still making the transition from desktop to mobile, this approach made sense.
As mobile has quickly surpassed desktop in popularity, so have user expectations. Hybrid experiences today feel clunky and outdated in comparison to native apps, and users are quick to take notice. Brands that don’t invest the time and energy in creating native mobile experiences using Objective-C or Swift for iOS and Java or Kotlin for Android will automatically feel hopelessly irrelevant in comparison to their natively-developed competition.
Principle #3: Apps Are Only as Good as the Problems They Solve.
Virtually all branded mobile apps exist for the same reason: to help users complete tasks faster and more easily. The apps that enjoy significant user adoption and engagement are those that take the frustration out of an otherwise time-consuming or confusing process, like scheduling a doctor’s appointment without picking up the phone or moving money from one bank account to another.
But in the mobile maturity goldrush, plenty of brands put the cart well before the horse, creating apps that failed to solve an actual user problem — or tried to solve all of them in one fell swoop. But modern customers don’t need just another app, and they don’t need entire websites shoved into overly-complex and confusing mobile products. They need digital experiences that help them solve problems with laser precision.
Mobile maturity means designing apps that put function before form and user needs before business objectives.
Principle #4: One Size Does Not Fit All.
The bigger the brand, the broader the audience — and the more complex and diverse the needs of that audience becomes. Marketers have long understood this and regularly create segmentation and targeting strategies for different subsets of a single audience.
Yet even as marketing efforts move toward greater personalization, apps are often created using a “one size fits all” approach in a misguided attempt to increase ROI. Of course, users that become increasingly accustomed to carefully-targeted marketing expect the same level of personalization from their mobile experiences. In an attempt to appeal to everyone, plenty of overly complex apps end up appealing to no one at all.
When creating mobile apps, development teams should closely follow the lead of their marketing teams that have put considerable effort into understanding the unique needs and wants of customer segments. By targeting specific user problems — even if those problems only impact a portion of your audience — apps are more likely to resonate with users and achieve significant ROI. Over time, this often leads to a suite of mobile apps that serve not just one but many audience needs with equal success.
Principle #5: Only Apps with a Strong Development Life Cycle Survive.
Quality takes time, especially when it comes to apps. With nearly 1.5 million apps each in Google Play and Apple’s app store, there’s simply no room to launch a subpar app without it quickly becoming irrelevant.
A strong development life cycle that puts prototyping, automated testing, and continuous deployment at a premium is the only strategy that’s likely to result in a high-quality app that users will adopt in droves. A strong development life cycle also accounts for changes, updates, and adjustments made after the app’s first version is launched — and leverages built-in analytics for usage and crash monitoring to guide further development. Without it, even a great app out of the gate is doomed to eventually fall out of favor over time.
That said, it’s not just apps that demand a strong development life cycle. Virtually all mobile experiences benefit from this kind of clarity. At the end of the day, a development life cycle is less about launching a great app and more about ensuring user feedback is listened to and users are getting exactly what they want and need.
Developing Apps that Stand the Test of Time
Long gone are the days that merely having any mobile strategy was enough to stay competitive. Consumers today are on the hunt for brands that value their experience throughout every stage of their journey.
Mobile maturity looks different for every business, but certain principles should be at the core of any successful strategy. Only then can you create truly meaningful mobile experiences that don’t just keep up with the competition, but put you far ahead of them.