How to create useful apps
RIGHT now, the Google Play store alone has more than 1.6 million mobile apps, with many more launching each day. And brands everywhere keep creating new apps—many of which use new, shiny technology like geolocation, virtual reality, near field communication, and augmented reality.
While we might be creating a “cool” app, we’re not necessarily offering a valuable solution for users. So even if the product is slick and well-designed and gets a lot of downloads at first, it could be old news two weeks later. Users will have abandoned it. Our business goals won’t be met nor have we helped our target audience in any significant way.
This siren song of technology is something our team struggled with when we first started working on our app Primer – an educational tool that helps startups, small business owners and advertisers learn marketing with five-minute interactive lessons.
During our early brainstorms, we struggled with our desire to be innovative ground breakers and thought leaders. We had to stop thinking about what we wanted to produce in the end, and start thinking about what our target audience needed right now.
The importance of user-centric design
To create something useful, we had to be user-first. So we started researching our target audience and their habits. We found out that 97% of US adults over age 25 don’t spend any time learning new skills during their day. People viewed education as something so far removed from their everyday lives that they found it difficult to get into a learning mindset.
That meant our platform couldn’t disrupt users’ lives. Rather, it needed to be useful to them in moments they were most open to learning something new; we had to reach them when they had tiny pockets of downtime – like when they were waiting for a meeting to start or standing in line for coffee. And what were people doing in those moments? Looking at their phones.
This helped us decide: If we wanted Primer to be useful for our particular audience, it had to be a mobile app.
However, if our user research had told us a website or a classroom seminar would be the most useful, we would have done that instead … because the user’s needs comes first and the medium second.
How to prioritise usability in design
Our user-centric thinking guided us even as we began developing our app, and taught us how true innovation happens when usability informs technology. We learned key lessons, including:
1. Think like the user, then design
2. Remember that users are people, not demographics
3. When promoting an app, consider all the situations in which it could be useful.
4. Keep working on the utility of the app even after launch.
In the end, our user-centric design helped our B2B app succeed beyond what we had originally hoped for.
After only six months, Primer had 650,000+ downloads, 80,000+ hours spent in-app, and an average 4.5-star user rating on both the App Store and Google Play.
As we continue to develop other products that will help our target audience, we often ask ourselves whether every new update or idea should be mobile-first.
The answer is always: Maybe. As long as it’s useful to our audience.
For the full report go to thinkwithgoogle.com