Creating a good mobile app is no easy task. Creating a popular one is even harder. There are, however, some simple recipes for this complicated process.
Funnily enough, they are things that are both obvious and well-known.
How is that possible?
Easy. All you need to do is answer the question:
WHY CAN’T I PUT MY PHONE DOWN?
If you know the answer, you know how to make a successful app.
Everything that makes your smartphone indispensable can be applied to a mobile app. You just have to recall the main reasons for our phone addiction. There are seven key reasons, each of which serves as a user magnet and an important indicator of an effective app.
This is what a smartphone gives us. It helps us to get what we need easily and quickly. An effective app works similarly, except on a smaller scale.
An app solves the user’s problem and saves them efforts / time / money. This usefulness must be emphasized, made apparent. Everything must be infused with the idea of usefulness, from the USP wording to the text to the visuals. And don’t forget that what may seem useful to you might not seem as useful to your target audience. You have to find useful triggers and test different options for every audience group.
It’s essential not just to demonstrate usefulness but emphasize and reinforce it with all the means of persuasion afforded by content marketing and design.
Smartphones allow us to communicate with others and receive feedback. This principle underlies any popular app. Of course, not all apps are designed for socializing. But in most cases, the user needs communication and a feeling of being in touch, even if they’re only interacting with a program. The more emotions this interaction brings, the deeper and stronger the user’s bond and connection to the product.
This does not mean that you should force interaction upon the user or complicate simple things. All interactions must work toward the app’s and the user’s goals and be justified.
The habit loop is formed through three frequently repeated key steps: Trigger, Action, and Reward. This is what makes us addicted to our phones. A similar habit loop is utilized by popular apps.
With no motivating triggers, users will never perform the required actions, so it’s important to have carefully devised and nicely visualized triggers.
Habit forming depends on the frequency of the cycle. If the product is not used at least once a week, it’s unlikely to form a habit. In this case, other motivation and user retention tools should be used: you can implement push notifications, make the product appear more valuable to the user, introduce customization, gamification, user investments, etc. (see 4 to 7 below).
Read more: Designing for User Retention That Works
Using the phone makes us feel needed and important to ourselves and others. It makes us feel more active, productive, and capable of multitasking. It helps us stay informed about current events and follow the news. Being able to access and process any information makes us feel in control, which is very important.
The feeling of being in control improves user experience immensely. Make people feel in charge of the situation, where they can easily predict the next step. Display periodic status reports, show cause and effect (“if you do X, it will cause Y”), use tips and affirmative confirmation dialogs. Make it easy for users to change the settings and customize the layout.
Don’t miss a chance to make the user feel that their actions are important and useful. Even better if you enable them to share the results of their actions or any information with others. It can be anything: showing a purchase to a friend, sharing a photo, video, tip, news item, or even a joke. The idea is to avoid keeping the user locked up in the app like it’s a prison cell. Let them feel connected to other people and enable them to expand or restrict this connection at will.
While using the phone, we occasionally receive unexpected bits of information (such as messages, calls, photos, etc.). Unpredictability is one of the reasons why we don’t get tired of our smartphones.
This unexpectedness factor can be similarly used in the user experience with the app, but it requires a high degree of professionalism in marketing and design. Not every surprise will be met with enthusiasm. The user’s attention should be refreshed sparingly and justifiably. However, there’s not much risk in using a system of unexpected rewards or holiday surprises.
Another reason we love our smartphones is that we use them for storing valuable info, such as photos, videos, emails, apps, files, and links. We have invested a lot of time and effort to collect all this treasure and learn to use the phone’s many functions and programs. These investments make the phone all the more valuable and important to us.
The same principle is utilized in popular apps. They encourage the user to invest in the product. The time and effort spent on mastering the app, the selected photo and video content, the accumulated bonuses, rankings, and achievements — all these make the app more valuable and raise the cost of abandoning it.
We enjoy interacting with our phone (we’re so used to it that we don’t consciously notice it). It helps us relax, de-stress, and distract ourselves. We enjoy looking at images and interacting with them through touch, we find pleasure in responsive interfaces, their design and visual aesthetics.
All these are also hallmarks of a good app. Even the most utilitarian and specialized app should be visually appealing and enjoyable to use. Elements of animation and gamification, if applicable, will contribute to the user’s enjoyment and make them interact with the app more frequently.
The things that make the smartphone so essential, enjoyable, and indispensable can be found in any popular app. There are seven of them, and each of them serves as a magnet:
1. Usefulness (an easy solution to a problem);
2. Emotional interaction and feedback;
3. The Trigger/Action/Reward cycle;
4. User control;
Use these seven magnets while developing or optimizing an app to make it immensely more valuable and appealing to users. These criteria are an organic part of marketing strategy and UX/UI design, facilitating user retention and loyalty. Naturally, every item will need to be tested.
These criteria can always be used to quickly gauge an app’s quality and see what it lacks. Just recall what it is you like about your smartphone.