Building Better Apps: On-Site at Open Mobile Summit
SAN FRANCISCO — Mobile traffic is exploding exponentially – in many cases it already has outstripped traffic on desktop and laptop computers – but speaker after speaker at Thursday’s Appcelerate conference, day three of the Open Mobile Summit, stressed that capturing this prize involves thinking very differently.
The biggest mistake: attempting to port over to mobile the fullness and depth of the desktop experience. That’s because the form factors are radically different – smartphone screens are small – and generally mobile users are on the move; they want a quick answer, now, to a particular issue.
But mobile can no longer be ignored. “There hardly is a vertical that already hasn’t been disrupted by mobile,” said the Appcelerate chairman, Prashant Fuloria, chief product officer at Flurry, a company focused on providing mobile and app analytics.
Another idea: what works in one vertical may well work in another because the devices and users remain constant – meaning lessons can be learned by credit union executives from radically different businesses.
Advice on building apps that gain users was offered by Sam Shank, CEO of HotelTonight, a popular last-minute booking tool. He said that just a few core ideas will guide any app developer to success and it all starts with simplicity. “That’s why it has proven very hard for Web companies to transition into mobile,” Shank said; that is, their legacy baggage burdens their app development efforts.
Number two, per Shank: For an app to succeed, the user has to be able to execute tasks efficiently. On HotelTonight that means finding and booking a room “with three taps and a swipe,” said Shank.
Number three: “limit the selection,” said Shank, that is, curate the content to avoid overburdening the mobile user.
Number four: personalize. “Show me what I like,” said Shank.
Number five: “Anticipate my needs,” said Shank, who elaborated that because data entry remains an effort on mobile devices, the more the app can anticipate what a user wants, the higher the probability of success.
Similar thoughts were put forth by John Levy, CEO of theScore, a successful app for sports fans. He distilled his app’s success to a handful of guiding concepts which, for him, start with “be emotionally invested. You have to love your product.”
Number two: “Keep disrupting yourself – never think you’ve got it right,” said Levy, his point being that the instant you believe you have it nailed, a fleet-footed competitor will emerge to steal the lead.
An add-on to the Open Mobile Summit, Appcelerate was created to provide a venue where leaders of hot mobile companies can meet with peers and share secrets of success.