Mobile apps are not going anywhere. In fact, studies show that more and more people worldwide use phones and tablets to go online, rather than desktop computers and laptops. Couple this with the fact that children are discarding not just computers, but TV’s and consoles in favor of their small portable devices.

But while it’s easy to recognize that mobile apps are still a market growing rapidly, it might be less obvious that more than 90% of all apps rarely see downloads, and that more than 95% of all apps earn less than $100 a day.

Whether you’re considering developing a mobile application for your business to use as a marketing tool, an E-Commerce platform, online resource, workflow optimizer or something else, there are a number of universal questions you should answer first…

Mobile First, Computers Second

In 2015 for the first time, mobiles and tablets took over laptops and desktops in terms of online traffic. This year is no different. This has meant a shift in how we consider building digital services such as websites and applications.

Instead of first making sure that the design looks great on large monitors, it’s more important to focus on an awesome mobile experience, and then consider how to tie that into a great looking design on computer monitors.

In fact, Benedict Evans, a well-known technology influencer, has written a number of articles and blog posts stating that even the term mobile-first should be discontinued. Instead, he proposes that we develop for mobiles only. He backs this up with various figures showing that children, in particular, are completely ignoring computers.

While computers still have a use, especially in B2B areas, the mobile trend is still on an upwards path, whereas laptop usage has seen a decrease over the past 3-4 years.

Try answering these questions:

– Are your current website users browsing primarily from mobiles or computers?
– Do your visitors need different designs depending on the device they browse from?

Make Use of Established Conventions

Making use of already accepted methods and ways of doing things can go a long way when providing users with a better experience. Looking at how Facebook, Instagram and the other huge players are configuring and designing their app will help you with your own project.

Why re-invent the wheel, when someone else has already spent the time, effort and money doing so? This means using Google’s material design when following Android developer guidelines. The same goes for Apple’s Human Interface guidelines when developing for iOS.

By designing icons that look similar to what users are already accustomed to, it’s easier to onboard users, and it will scare away few users since they don’t have to learn every aspect of the app from scratch. For instance, they already know what the menu icon looks like, and can therefore easily navigate the various tabs.

So ask yourself these questions:

– Are you using a design that both a 12-year-old and a 55-year-old would find friendly?
– What are your reasons for not using Material Design or Human Interface?

Onboard Users Effectively

Once the basic design and functions have been laid out, but before you go to the development stage of your app, consider how you’re going to onboard your users.

Onboarding is a term that means “how to get users actively engaged in something, and how to retain them later on.” This is an important factor since most apps are only used immediately after being downloaded, then closed down and forgotten until they get uninstalled months later.

By having a set of ideas and tactics in place on how to keep users actively using your app, you will set your business up for success in the long term. After all, it looks great to have an app that’s been downloaded 50,000 times, but if there are only 500 active users, then what’s the point?

The keyword here could be “intuitive,” meaning that the user of the app should feel a natural inclination as to what every button will do.

Using conventional methods tested and proven by larger businesses, business owners can ask their developers to use wireframes and base their layout on UI and UX concepts that have a proven track record.

You need to ask yourself these questions:

– How are you going to ensure that users will find your app interesting enough to use more than once?
– Are you using push notifications or gamification methods to keep users interested in the days after installation?
– Are you providing a tutorial when users open the app for the first time, are you letting them know how to use the features of your app?

Target Audience

Lastly, it’s important to consider exactly what demographic is the most likely to use your application. While you shouldn’t narrow down the appeal of the app too much, there’s no reason to consider what colors men like, if you’re developing an application specifically designed for women.

This might be obvious, but a surprising number of people completely forget to tailor their app to suit the individual needs of their user group. This might have to do with the fact that some actual thinking is required here, and that creativity often is necessary in order to successfully reach your audience.

However, if you’re in a certain niche, there is no excuse for not knowing your customer base, and being able to cater to their specific needs.

Answer these questions:

– How old are your average users?
– What are they hoping to find answers to, or which products are they looking for?
– Do they have issues they need help with, or are they looking for entertainment?

Competition

The last point on our list could also be one of the most important ones. While some executives keep this in mind, most do not. Spending time on analyzing the competition will provide some valuable insight in terms of what works, and what doesn’t.

But it can go much further than that. By looking at the features the app has, and how those features are being marketed, this can help you decide which features to put in your own app, and which to leave out.

Building on that, it can often be quite fruitful to look at the press mention and buzz surrounding the competing apps.

– Why are websites and reviewers talking about their app?
– Will they also be interested in yours?
– How can you develop an app that appeals to journalists, techies and other people likely to promote and mention your app?

Conclusion

These are just some of the different questions that are relevant when considering developing a mobile application. There are of course many other relevant questions, but hopefully, this list has enough to get your thoughts started, and perhaps, even enough to prompt further research.

 

Mark Pedersen is a BusinessTown.com contributor.