So, You Want a Mobile App?

So, You Want a Mobile App?

Learn the pros and cons of Mobile Apps and find out if it is the right technology for your business.

Today’s world is mobile.  According to a 2018 Ofcom report, the past decade has seen smartphone ownership rates for British public members older than 16 years increase from 17% to 78%.This past year alone, there were 15.5 billion app downloads from app marketplaces in the United Kingdom.

However like all technologies, mobile applications are not automatically the best choice for all situations.

Applications Do One Thing Well

The typical usage of an application is short and direct. Most applications have a single well-defined service on offer. Think of food-delivery apps, ride-hailing apps or photo-editing apps – all have a single service and that service is clear to the user. There are some obvious exceptions to this, applications like Facebook or Google Maps are extremely popular and have highly complicated applications with a range of services on offer. (Google Maps has an entire ‘Local Guides’ social network buried within itself.) Nonetheless, it is important to remember that even these apps started as simple apps that evolved and accumulated new features as time goes on.

At this point, ask yourself how many things do I want my app to do? If you feel that your idea cannot be simplified down into one well-defined service, you may want to consider a technology that affords more complexity.

Getting Your Application to the User

Mobile applications have very clear, and occasionally strict, distribution methods. Application distribution can be limited by the device’s operating system, the age of the target device and may have incurred costs. The most common application distribution method is through an online application store, but this too comes with strict guidelines. For example, the only way to get a mobile application onto an iOS device is to ask the user to download it from the store, but to get your application onto the store requires having the app approved by Apple and purchasing an annual membership. It is especially limiting when compared against web pages which can be linked to directly using URLs.

Therefore, it is important to reflect on how you envision your users will access your product. How will you get your product to your users? How will new users discover your product? If your answer does not include using App Marketplaces, you may want to consider a technology with more open distribution methods.

Experience is Branding

In design and development, a technology’s interaction model refers to all the possible ways a user could interact with the system. Some technologies have very limited interaction models whilst others afford more variety. For example, a user could interact with a mobile application through gestures on a touchscreen, microphone, camera, luminance sensors or location sensors to name a few. Think of these elements as building blocks for your users’ experiences. The interaction model of a technology has an enormous impact on the design of the product; pinning down what interactions your user would need to use your product may ultimately determine what technology to use.

A reflection from this is, how should my target audience use my product? How should it make them feel? Make sure you are fitting the technology to your idea and not conforming to it.

Assisting Exploration and Research

To conclude, just like other technologies applications have limitations. Mobile applications are versatile, powerful and popular, however they usually have a single function, inflexible distribution paths and a specific interaction model.

Exploring possible technologies and evaluating their viability is a service we offer. The team can sit down with you to discuss your idea and suggest appropriate technologies to consider then research which one best matches your idea.

Written by Daniel Abreu, Digital Analyst, Lancaster University.