The App Gap

by | Mar 20, 2014 | User Experience

The app scene

Millions of people in South Africa access the internet using their smartphones (source), and this is just a fraction of the global smartphone-internet user base.

It seems only natural that companies would want to connect with their consumer base through that medium. From insurance to telecommunications and retail, more and more companies are looking for their slice of the app pie.

This app story sounds familiar

If this sounds familiar it’s because you’ve heard it before. Only the last time around it was the number of PC-internet users that was growing, and companies wanted to launch websites.

If we look at the early internet days though, we can see the same app fails emerging as we did website flops back then.

Most disturbing though is that there is a widening gap between what customers use and need apps for, and the apps that are being created for them.

The consideration gap

Unfortunately the biggest consideration companies usually have is time to market; this however is not the user’s biggest consideration.

So while the company may deliver an app in record time, albeit bug-riddled, they often leave out two very key considerations – the customer and the user experience.

So the user/customer isn’t really being considered at all. It’s more of an abyss than a gap really.

The platform gap

Not to be confused with the London underground transport system, this is not about minding the gap between the train and the platform.

It’s about understanding that there are different types of apps, and pros and cons of using each. It’s not enough to “leave it to the experts”.

Web people aren’t necessarily app people, and a lot of app development is about logic, not just functionality. This is to say that developers may not know the best platform for your app, or whether you should have one at all.

So it’s important to get clued up and hand over a clear brief based on what your users and your company need.

The purpose gap

Instead of enhancing the user’s experience, many apps in the market just regurgitate a website on the user’s smartphone.

Remember though, most successful apps have very few functions – but very useful ones.

An app could have just one function but the customer could use that function so regularly, and find it so useful that it becomes a permanent fixture to their home screen – something they can’t live without.

So it’s important to avoid bombarding users with 100’s of complicated features that confuse them rather than enhance their experience.

The budget gap

Are decisions made in the best interest of the user or are they made to suit the budget?

This is a bit of a vicious cycle. Something that we see a lot is companies jumping the gun and approving lavish budgets for apps that serve an imagined need.

By the time there is a very real need, a need that would warrant regular use from customers – there is simply no budget or interest in app development.

So it’s important to assess the customer need, and the budget you’re willing to allocate to it.

The bridge

You’ve heard all about the gaps but how do you bridge them? The answer is to leverage this knowledge with a dose of honest introspection.

If you’re not up to the introspection though, here’s a sure fire way not to flop:

Dedicate your initial app budget to three things (in this order):

Remember to factor these three things into your time to market expectation as well, and you should be well on your way to a successful app.

If you can think of any other app gaps we’ve left out, please add to the comments below.