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Are mobile applications the reason for disloyal users?

Mobility, with its terminals, uses and codes, raises many questions, and the answers are not always straightforward: How did users get so demanding? Why have they become disloyal? Is a mobile application different from a desktop application? What if we approach our users not as staff or business users, but as consumers? What impact would it have? What would be the consequences for Information Systems Departments? And finally, what approach can be taken?

The origins of mobility: a quick recap

With the exception of geeks and other early adopters, our users discovered computers and workstations at work, through production tools and office automation. Those same office automation tools were then transposed to the personal and home environment. So the standards were set by companies.

Mobility can be said to have taken the opposite route: in 2005, when Apple entered the mobile telephony fray by launching a smartphone, Steve Jobs targeted the general public. Apple is known for its “integrated” strategy (integration of equipment, OS and apps) and well-designed, ergonomic products, and that is how the iPhone was marketed to the general public. The promise (which had failed in the past) of accessible IT was delivered to consumers.

Apple went on to launch its apps through its own exclusive store, and required publishers to comply with the same stringent standards to publish their apps, thereby setting new quality standards for mobile applications.

Later, thanks to decision-makers, early adopters and more generally to BYOD, when the smartphone found its way into the workplace, staff were already familiar with it as consumers. These user-clients then used their companies’ applications on their smartphones. On a single smartphone, personal and work applications would exist alongside one another.

This approach can be summarised in an “equation”: well-designed applications for the general public + a terminal that combines personal and professional use + professional applications = a user-client.

What’s the diagnosis, doctor?

The birth of these user-clients brought a series of by no means insignificant impacts, including:

  • demanding new “consumer” standards, leading to high expectations of a well-designed user experience with a satisfying and intuitive graphic interface and smooth, easy browsing.
  • disloyalty. Consumers are as fickle as the weather! They don’t think twice about replacing an app they have been using for three months with a new one that has just come out in the app store, or which they have heard about from a friend or colleague. Stores offer rich pickings; just look how many weather apps there are!
  • speed of obsolescence. Due to the abundance of apps on the market, if you want users to be loyal to yours, you must continually offer new features and cultivate their curiosity. This means mobile apps will have a very limited life span.

Does that matter? Five tips for dealing with the disloyalty of demanding, well-informed users:

  1. Focus on your users (this can never be emphasised enough!): integrate them as early and as “deeply” as possible in the development of your mobile apps.
  2. Go for a “graphic” rather than a descriptive approach: use wireframes, a genuine functional model based on screen diagrams. Where possible, break some screens down into nicely laid-out graphic models (colour, icons, etc.). Encourage your users to imagine themselves using these new interfaces.
  3. Pay particular attention to the ergonomics of your app: manipulation of features and navigation around the screen must be intuitive and consistent (both with mobile standards and with your app’s other features).
  4. Take an iterative approach to producing your app; avoid “Build vs Run” approaches. Give preference to an incomplete app (functionally speaking) which can be added to bit by bit. Support this agile approach by collecting user feedback to help guide future developments. A “lean start-up” approach, for instance, offers this kind of continuity and user feedback, by means of an iterative loop (Build / Measure / Learn).
  5. To secure user-client loyalty, I would also advise you to come up with a series of services to be marketed in connection with your apps. Communicate with your users and create expectation by offering a glimpse of current developments and new features that are on the way.

And finally...

We are at the beginning of an emphatically mobile, technological era, in which smartphone use is set to go on growing for many years to come. It is difficult to predict how usage will evolve, but one thing is certain: the smartphone is a fixture in users’ everyday lives. Increasingly, consumers will access personal and professional services using their smartphones. Companies offering mobile apps to the general public will vie with each other in ingenuity to conquer this market. To that end, they will try anything to achieve customer loyalty. By approaching your users as well-informed, demanding individuals, you will be in a better position to offer them relevant and competitive applications.

User-clients: to find out more, read the article by Joanna Pomian.