How to Build an Outstanding Mobile App

December 6, 2012 Megan Wheeler

There’s nothing quite like an outstanding mobile app. Outstanding mobile apps are rare. In the unlikely scenario that one enters the market with 4, 4.5, or 5 stars, it builds a following of fanatics and users that love it. It’s capable of building traction and gaining users exponentially on its own. Sounds dreamy, right?

We’ve been fortunate enough to have built several outstanding mobile apps, and we’re happy to break down how we did it. In case you’re confused, let’s first address a more pressing matter:

Why Would You Want an Outstanding Mobile Application?

The distribution of apps can be extremely difficult. Getting customers to download an app is no easy feat. Because of the overwhelming amount of apps available, customers are constantly asking themselves, “Should I download it or not?”
Ratings play a huge factor into what a customer thinks about A product. It can be the deal breaker between the customer’s decision to download your app or skip it.

For iOS apps, Apple tracks momentum on the iTunes App Store. As an app begins to tally up outstanding ratings, Apple will start showing it off more around the store, which helps it acquire more users, and hopefully more ratings. It is a natural method of exponentially acquiring more users.

While there aren’t any hard facts or public algorithms about exposure for these stores, we’ve noticed that outstanding apps get ranked higher on Google Play and Microsoft Windows’ App Store.

If it’s that difficult to get someone to download an app, it’s marginally even more effort from them to rate it at five stars. There’s only one thing you can do to elicit that kind of conviction from your users: impress them immensely.

How can my Mobile App Wow the Customer?

Xtreme Labs’ Sr. Product Manager Eli Aleyner is no stranger to building outstanding apps. He previously presented at a General Assembly event about exceeding customers’ expectations. In this post, he helps explain actionable ways to wow the customer:

1. Polish

For consumer-facing apps, the expectation is beyond just solving a use-case. One oft-overlooked method to delight your user is to make your app extremely polished. “If you look into a lot of the applications we build over here, polish accounts for 10-20% of our time,” explains Aleyner.

Every single detail must be well thought through. Aleyner raises the example of having the iOS menu continue sliding a little bit towards the end of a finger swipe as a good example of polish.

As he brings up consumer behaviour and interaction with mobile devices, Aleyner points out that the app must be functional, yet make the customer feel that premium experience (i.e. similar to the feeling a luxury automobile can provide).
With the exception of media apps and social apps, most of the interactions that happen with mobile devices take place within a span of minutes. You can stand out by getting rid of any hoops for users to jump through. Allow them to enter and exit the app very quickly, and make achieving their objective easy for them.

2. Unfathomable Functionality

Users should be saying, “Oh wow, I never knew my phone could do that!” Aleyner raises the example of apps that track your sleep patterns, like Sleep Time+ and Instant Heart Rate, as solving a problem that users didn’t even know they had.

“I never knew my phone could tell me how well I sleep at night,” says Aleyner. “That’s interesting; it’s different.”

3. Engage customers through deeper experiences

It is also often possible to exceeded user’s expectations by providing a much deeper application experience than what the user expects. An important distinction is depth vs breadth of functionality offered by the apps. Mobile applications aren’t websites and customers don’t expect the application to offer the breadth of functionality of a website. Yet, one can still delight the customer a way to get more of their core tasks done, by offering a deeper and more engaging experience.

A great example of an application that over-delivers by offering deep experiences is the Globe and Mail Investor application Xtreme Labs helped build last year. When the application was released, customers were delighted by the ability to go deeper into researching and examine patterns with individual stocks. What originally was just an app used to check-in on things can now be seen as a more comprehensive, and useful, tool.

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