The Four Factors Every “Winning” App Must Have

There are more than 800,000 apps combined on the Apple App Store and Google Play. So if you’re looking to develop an app the biggest question is, “How will you make your app stand out?”

When developing a mobile app for your business, consider these five elements every app must have to survive:

1. Purpose

Apps should DO something. Your mobile app should fill a need, solve a pain point, and improve the lives of your customers. (Youtility, anyone?) Your app needs to solve a problem.

For example, the Waze app has become the largest community-based traffic and navigation app. It helped me make my flight on time by cutting through nasty LA traffic. It also enables you to save time, spend less on gas, and improve your daily commute. This is a universal pain point for many of us. It’s clear that Waze is meeting a demand — it is one of the top free apps in the Apple App Store with 4.5 stars and 196,408 user ratings. The Waze app identifies an everyday problem, and offers a simple and effective solution to that problem. No tricks or gimmicks needed.

Alerts and push notifications, used judiciously, can remind users of the help your app provides. For instance, Target’s Cartwheel app enables customers to store coupons and scan items in the store to see if a coupon is available. Even better, if you are in a Target store, the app knows, and it displays an icon of the app on your iPhone. This is a subtle, yet unobtrusive reminder to check the app while you’re shopping. Because Cartwheel has a clear purpose, it has become thefourth most-popular ecommerce app behind Walgreens, Amazon, and Groupon.

2. Accessibility

Users don’t have the time or patience to figure out how to use an app, so you have to reduce the barriers to engage. This is true of any product. Square has seen wild success because of a great value proposition, design and rabid fans — but the lack of friction for people to begin using Square was critical. If it’s not easy, people give up almost immediately.

Make the registration step of your mobile app a couple of steps at most: name, email, password — done. If you’re looking to acquire more information about your customers through the mobile app, it should be separate from registration and something they can fill out when it’s convenient for them (or better yet, something they want to fill out because the benefits it offers are readily apparent).

3. Privacy

When customers download your app, they should feel secure knowing that you’re protecting their information. This can all be disclosed in the privacy policy that is specific to your mobile app, but it’s a good idea to give users a quick snippet to allay their concerns. In a studyconducted by the Global Privacy Enforcement Network, a majority of apps are not clear in explaining how they collect user data. The privacy policy about your app should be:

  • Transparent (explain how information will be used and collected)
  • Easy to understand (avoid using overly technical wording)
  • Easy to read on any mobile device
  • Available to read on your company’s website
  • Updated once per year (or as needed) as the landscape of technology and privacy changes

Consider what may feel like a red flag to your customers (and if you’re not sure, ask them). Be clear that you’re not going to sell their email address, and that you’d never post to their social media accounts without their permission. Follow the basics, and you won’t lose a user.

4. Design

The aesthetics of your mobile app should entice your customers to download it. More importantly, the design should guide and encourage user engagement to keep them coming back for more. The design of your app should speak to your brand: If you’re a Dunkin Donuts fan like myself, you’ll notice DD’s mobile app is like a little sister to its website — the brand elements exist fluidly through both.

When design isn’t aligned with brand elements, your customers may feel disconnected or become confused. If you’re a bank, you want to gain the trust of your users. Your app design should then reflect a serious engagement, not one that’s casual, overbearing, or aloof. On the other hand, if your app is supposed to get your users motivated to work out, your design should energize them and get them excited to hit the gym.

Over to you: what other factors do you think make or break an app?


Author: Tim Graham
Tim Graham, Account Director at Tonic Design, has 10 years of experience applying his knowledge of the digital world and emerging technologies to execute public relations and digital marketing campaigns. He has worked with brands such as Farmers Insurance, Symbicort, and the first over-the-counter weight loss pill, Alli to deliver unique insights on the latest online marketing trends while providing personable and solution-oriented account management.

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