by Luke Wallace
Director of Android Engineering at Bottle Rocket, overseeing the development of mission-critical apps, including Starwood and Southwest.
When it comes to designing a mobile experience, it’s easy to think users will be satisfied with something that mirrors your website. That may be true, but it’s important to consider the unique benefits of the mobile platform. Here are a few common mistakes we see all the time in the mobile industry.
Not Building ‘The One Thing’
The most important mobile feature for any given app isn't usually surprising. Just ask a few users “What do you wish we could let you do from anywhere?” The challenge is that this “one thing” can require changes throughout the whole organization -- new APIs, new interface designs and maybe even operational changes. Having a restaurant mobile app without mobile ordering would mean that very few people would use it, and it could never have much impact on your business. It may be the hardest feature to build, but if it’s the right one, the return on investment will be more than worthwhile.
Never Updating Your UI
Humans are fickle. We get bored easily, and we want newer and better, faster and more features. If your app still looks the same two years after it launches, users could be enticed to try a new app. The design guidelines from Apple and Google are constantly being tweaked and updated, and it’s smart to keep comparing your app to them. Be sure to look for areas that could be improved. As new features come online, you may want to rework your experience to highlight them -- or guide users to the most popular areas. And with dark mode being supported by both platforms, users will expect this battery-saving change from all apps soon, and blindingly white apps will start being left behind.
Ignoring Your Users
Everyone has an opinion, and sometimes the only thing worse than users sharing them is users not sharing them. If the perception is that you don’t care about your users, they will leave and never come back. Responding to reviews is possible on both the App Store and Google Play, and this can be a great way to engage with your users. It not only shows the individual that you care, but it signals your empathy to other users as well. Sometimes users are just confused, or they can’t find something in an app, but a negative review can make it look like it’s not possible. A response from your team can help users find what they’re looking for. You’ll never please everyone, but if you’re not receiving any negative feedback, you probably don’t have any passionate users.
Mobile experiences are often the most-used experiences, and some new services may be only available through mobile. This can lead to frustrated customers who want to do the same activity through a web browser on a computer when they have access to one. Instagram famously launched as only an iPhone app and did not have a web experience for almost three years. Even today, you can’t visit the website and upload a photo to your Instagram feed. Instead, you have to use another service that accesses the API. Few brands can afford to be this cumbersome for users, so think about what other ways users will want to interact with your service -- and make sure your app runs on those devices.
Mobile Is More Than Apps
Beyond just the mobile app, you must think about how users can interact with your brand. Going back to my first recommendation of building the right "thing" for mobile, you also need to think about the right thing for other devices. What do your users want to do from their watch? What about their voice assistant? If they have an iPhone and an Echo, how do Siri and Alexa help build out their experience? With Car Play and Android Auto, users can even interact with your brand from their car, but their expectations will probably be different. Brands need to meet users where they are going to spend the most time since users often already think of them as always available anywhere, not just always available from their mobile device.
Tie It All Together
Mobile experiences are here to stay, and they will be a baseline expectation for most businesses. Unfortunately, companies can’t always pivot their business to be mobile-first overnight, so transformation takes time. Hopefully you can avoid these pitfalls in the long term -- and keep them in mind as you continue to center your experience around your users.