This Insights article was contributed by William Mansfield and Nikki Kroushl.
We live in a world where 72 percent of smart phone users check their phones at least once per hour, and the average user spends almost 70 hours per month using mobile apps. For businesses and communities, app development is increasingly becoming a more attractive way to engage people.
Interactive media is important for every business. Today, interactive websites, active social media presences and other technology and media accommodations are basic expectations of every company. People expect to have a high-quality experience wherever they go, and they don’t want it to be newspaper-like, they want it to be media-rich.
“I don’t think a mobile app is a destination or a target to be hitting just to hit it; you have to have a particular need,” longtime developer William Mansfield says, warning against creating an app that is basically a mobile version of a company’s website. “People feel like they’re inviting you into their home by inviting you into their phone.”
If there’s no content exclusive to an app, there’s no reason to have one. Having a functional app, however, can be great for client engagement.
The three most important elements of any mobile app are:
A small business can develop an impressive mobile app without impressive funds.
- Engagement measures how the app engages a user and the success of that engagement. Without engaging material, an app has no function. “The first thing you figure out [when developing a mobile app] is what kind of engagement the app is going to have for the user,” Mansfield says.
- People must trust an app. They need to know it will do what it is supposed to do. “If an app says it needs location permissions to give directions but actually uses that permission to send targeted ads, the user will lose trust in the app,” Mansfield says. “Users are smart, and as soon as the integrity is broken, the app itself will fail.”
- App developers should design an app according to user expectations and make it as simple for people to use as possible. This is important not only for the success of the product, but for its development. “The more complexities that exist in the UI [user interface], the harder it is to execute,” Mansfield says.
“Each app has a different thing it wants to accomplish, and every type has a different strategy,” Mansfield says. If you’re making a game, for example, development requires a totally different strategy than it does if you’re making an interactive app, a calendar app or a data-driven app.
“In The LEGO Movie
, there’s this notion of the ‘master builder,’” Mansfield says. “That’s sort of the energy I get from writing software. That’s what I like the most - being able to push out a product that people can use.”
William Mansfield is a remote Senior Technical Architect at New York-based marketing firm MRY with 15 years of programming experience and five years of mobile app development experience.
Nikki Kroushl is the Social Media and Content Manager at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Diane Durance, MPA, is director of UNC Wilmington's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). The CIE is a resource for the start-up and early-stage business community to help diversify the local economy with innovative solutions. For more information, visit www.uncw.edu/cie.