10 Best Practices for Business Mobile App Development
A lot can be said about the value of native mobile apps, especially in the business world. Many companies, from Walmart to Best Buy, are seeing immense success in this area, which is not limited to just retail.
The promise is certainly there, which means a lot of organizations are either considering or planning to develop a mobile app. However, there’s one issue that stands out for everyone who takes the opportunity: how to build a successful mobile app and avoid creating a bad one.
In fact, many mobile app ventures flop because the developers and planners failed to consider some of the best practices that should have been incorporated. The average mobile app is deleted just 5.8 days after its last usage session. Furthermore, 23 percent of users abandon an app after one use.
Best Practices for Mobile Development
What can you do to ensure your mobile app doesn’t become a part of those negative statistics? How can you achieve a solid ROI for mobile app investments?
1. Do Your Research
Apps are meant to serve a purpose, which means they must provide value to users. How will your app support your customers? What gap will you fill between your brand and audience?
Most retail apps, for example, allow customers to purchase products directly and then either schedule a pickup in-store or have the goods shipped to their home. Because a lot of those features are available on a company’s website too, the apps are augmented even more to provide exclusive experiences. Certain promotions or discounts might be offered, loyalty rewards might be gained and more robust community support might be available, such as unique reviews, forums and more.
The idea is that the app — like anything else your business offers — must provide a personalized and desirable experience to users, especially if you want them to continue logging on.
2. Choose the Right Technology
Not all code is created equal. It’s important to make sure you choose the right technologies and solutions for developing your app. Will it make cross-platform development easier? You’ll surely want to release your app on Android, iOS and maybe others. Are there limitations you should consider? Perhaps a certain language uses more resources or just doesn’t have the kind of modular support you’re looking for.
The last thing you want to do is start developing the app and realize later that you cannot port it to other platforms because of the language or solution you chose.
3. Always Test, Continuously Optimize
Mobile users are not forgiving of apps that are laden with bugs, problems and performance dips. You need to invest the time in creating something seamless and enjoyable, which means plenty of testing.
Up to 90 percent of mobile users will abandon an app due to poor performance, while 86 percent will uninstall frustrating apps altogether.
This can be avoided easily by honoring the appropriate development time and not hastily releasing an app before it’s ready for public use. You can offset the downtime by including select users in an early release phase, allowing your team to see it in action and fixing any bugs before an official launch.
After you’ve launched the app, continue to optimize its performance and consider how your users are experiencing various elements. There may be ways to improve the UI or different functions.
4. Data Security and Privacy Are Vital
There’s no need to discuss the concept of data security and privacy, especially not in today’s market. Data breaches and cyberattacks are rampant, as is the release of sensitive customer information.
By 2021, mobile app hacking and similar security breaches will cost businesses over $1.5 billion.
Therefore, data and information security, as well as customer privacy, should all be a priority during development and throughout the life of your app. The strongest forms of protection should be used, including encryption protocols, secure connections and two-factor authentication for user logins. Some of these things may seem to hinder your users, but the reality is they enhance the levels of security and it’s well worth the trade-off.
5. Personalize What You Can
Use any number of retail and customer support apps and you’ll see personalization in action, and it’s incredibly successful. Best Buy recommends new products based on recent purchase history. Starbucks delivers personalized discounts and promotions based on past orders. These are just a couple of examples of how your app might incorporate the concept.
One Deloitte study found that 36 percent of consumers expressed an interest in purchasing personalized products or services, while 48 percent said they’d be willing to wait longer to receive it.
Furthermore, a SalesForce study revealed that 57 percent of consumers — out of 7,000 — are willing to share personal data in exchange for more personalized offers and discounts. A further 52 percent would share for product recommendations, and 53 percent would share for customized shopping experiences.
Both of these studies highlight the importance of providing personalized experiences to customers. Mobile apps are the perfect medium for facilitating and delivering exactly these kinds of experiences. More importantly, most people carry their phones with them at all times, which provides even more robust streams of insights you can leverage.
6. Use the Exclusive Functions
Unlike websites, mobile apps can tap into a variety of mobile-specific functions — like real-time alerts and push notifications, location data, advanced user behavior and much more. For example, every time a user opens the app, completes an action and then minimizes it or closes it out, you can see exactly what they’re doing and in real-time. On websites, you have to use more advanced tools like heatmaps and third-party solutions.
Mobile naturally provides a more robust and detailed stream of insights and features you can use to your advantage. If you’re going to build and release a mobile app, then make sure you’re using these functions wisely.
If and when a customer passes by your store, why not send an exclusive deal through a push notification? Did they open the app and forget to check out? Send them an alert for that. Mobile apps are also great ways to host a loyalty program, which is an effective way to influence a consumer to continue business with your brand.
7. Plan Future Updates
Aside from bug fixes and quality-of-life improvements, you’ll want to continue updating your app. This might involve enhancing or improving existing functions, creating entirely new solutions or even redesigning certain visual elements. Whatever the case, you should create a map of all the future updates you want to work toward and release. It doesn’t have to be set in stone, but this will give you some idea of how the process will work over time.
This also allows you to deliver regular updates to your users, as well as keep them informed about what’s going on with app development.
8. Never Clone Your Site
Mobile apps and websites are two completely different mediums. There are a lot of tools that allow you to port your website into a mobile app form, creating a 1:1 clone. We’re not going to argue that this method is not successful or cost-effective, but it’s definitely not something your customers will want to see.
Native apps are designed specifically to serve a mobile experience, which means content created for smaller displays, touch-based interfaces and on-the-go experiences. Everything from the user interface (UI) to the features you offer should incorporate the mobile feel — not that of a conventional website.
9. Decide Monetization Upfront
Some mobile app developers release their apps for free and then incorporate in-app purchases or advertisements to raise money. This practice is generally not a good idea for a large business that intends to make money elsewhere. Target outfitting its Cartwheel app with Google Ads, for example, would just take away from the entire experience.
That’s not to say including in-app advertisements or promotions are off the table. However, you should decide how you’re going to monetize the experience beforehand, if at all. Your decision should help influence the development process. Designing the UI to fit around a small ad, for instance, is better than just plopping one over important buttons later.
10. Keep Developers On-Hand
You might outsource the development of your app to a third-party agency or provider, and that’s OK. However, you’ll want to ensure you always have some developers available to fix potential issues, push new updates or simply provide advice for certain operations. If you choose to hire temp developers for the scope of the project, then you should retain one or two afterward.
Developers can provide valuable insights into the inner workings of an app, which includes how it may be shaped or augmented in the future. It’s possible something you’re thinking of doing would detract from the UI, in which case a developer’s insight would prove valuable.
The good news is that many of the best practices discussed here are relatively easy to follow and honor. If you choose the right development team for your app and spend enough time doing research, testing and optimization, you should see great ROI for any mobile investments you make.