Why You Need A Mobile Strategy!

Don Bora
Eight Bit Studios
Published in
5 min readApr 14, 2019
Photo by Sean Patrick Murphy on Unsplash

What is a mobile strategy?

User-centric mobile computing truly hit its stride when the iPhone was released in 2007. Prior mobile technology had been limited to rudimentary communication and stripped-down, crippled web content. A mobile presence was cumbersome — as it required drastically different content considerations — and often not worthwhile.

Yet the breakthrough of the iPhone created a whole new opportunity, and expectation, for smartphone platforms to have robust user-centric experiences backed by the processing power rivaling desktop and laptop computers. Those of us in the mobile app development field are still trying to wrap our heads around the data in regards to user behavior on these more sophisticated devices. And we’ve got plenty of data: We have several generations of users across multiple countries, cultures, and groups actively accessing information through mobile platforms; it’s exciting!

With this excitement comes a bevy of use-case aligned possibilities: How long can we expect a user to interact with our app? Are they using the app while in line at the grocery store? Waiting for the movie to start? Vegging on the couch? In transit? These questions demand wildly different strategic implementations. The difference in user-interaction between the grocery store and the couch could be minutes or larger fractions of an hour. We are just now coming to grips with the data which reveals an intricate product roadmap.

A mobile strategy is so fundamentally and vastly different from that of a desktop or website that warrants stepping back to get a bigger product picture before breaking digital ground. A mobile strategy allows a business to consider who they want to engage with (customers, employees), how they want to engage, and most importantly, to what end for both the business and the user.

What have you seen are some characteristics of a good mobile strategy?

Mobile solutions are relatively new to our technological lives. Often we hear: “We’ve got to have an app.” or “Just get us in the app store!” without much consideration for what the end product will actually do for their intended users. Having been in the current, post iPhone mobile space since the beginning, here are the key ingredients for what we at Eight Bit consider a good mobile strategy.

Ask the hard questions. Begin by challenging the basic premise for the product. Don’t be afraid to ask if a fundamental feature-set is absolutely necessary. Asking the question is relatively inexpensive, re-writing a chunk of your app because your users are not using a particular feature could cost you tens of thousands of dollars.

Conduct user based research and stakeholder interviews.Once you have run your original product vision through its paces, it’s time to see where your users stand. Nothing can replace the opinions of those who will actually use your app. Get into their heads, ask them open ended questions, run workshops. Get those answers before you spend money executing.

Develop prototypes and test them with potential users. It’s time to have some fun! Take all of that beautifully validated research and begin executing a high-fidelity, designed clickable visual prototype to test your user experience. Technologies such as LookBack and user interviews can lead to interesting and early product pivots. Remember, not one line of code has been written yet, we’re testing the visual and behaviors before we start building the software.

Validate and cast aside assumptions. All of this up-front investment will better position your product for user-alignment. Additionally, you will not have spent money writing and rewriting and rewriting features because you never developed them in the first place.

Why is it important to have a mobile strategy in place before you start talking features?

It meets the needs of both the business and the user.

Knowing why the app needs to exist and balancing that between both business goals and user needs is important. A mobile strategy provides clarity of a true north: what is the business going to get out of it and what value are the users getting? With these two questions answered, an app can be built to track against those metrics, and the app can do more than just provide a mobile presence: it can help support business initiatives.

It makes financial sense: Getting a product built is no small investment.

The time, money, energy, heart and soul you will channel to realize your vision can be substantial. You want to make sure you’re setup for success at various stages of product development. Having a well thought out mobile strategy can mitigate your risks when you need to pivot.

The more up-front time you spend validating your direction and testing your assumptions, the better position you will be in to maintain and pivot your product. You might think there are table-stake features such as login or social-media integrations but it’s worth asking if these are strictly necessary. For our product Sushi Status <https://www.sushistatus.com/>, a status reporting tool, we identified that the platform didn’t necessarily need a login for those who received the status reports. This allowed us to differentiate ourselves in the space, save money by not developing that feature, and decrease the adoption barrier by requiring one less password for our customers.

The fact of the matter is, adding or changing app features incurs an amount of technical debt that will accumulate over time. A simple feature request like more robust password requirements might be a simple coding change but it will require a new app store submission and server updates that will have to be versioned to accommodate those users who do not update their app. A change to the navigation structure could be akin to increasing the height of your basement by a few feet. You had better secure the foundation of that house before you start digging or the entire thing will rumble noisily down around you.

Spend the time and money before you begin executing on your vision, you will not regret it.

Your Market Expects It

According to the 2019 GMSA report, at the end of 2018 67% of the global population subscribed to mobile services (pg 4), and Pew Research says that 77% of Americans have a smartphone (https://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/mobile). That means the majority have access to sophisticated devices that require thoughtful approaches to digital engagement. If you don’t have a mobile strategy, your users will feel it and will shy away from using your app.

Next Steps

Crafting a strong Mobile App Strategy is tough. But we’re here to help. Reach out for a quick chat about how we can help: www.eightbitstudios.com

Don Bora has been a professional software developer in Chicago since 1990. He has worked in: bio-informatics, medical devices, artificial intelligence, and global investment banking to name a few. Don also teaches, mentors, and is a guest lecturer at the Medill School fo Journalism at Northwestern University. As a co-founder of Eight Bit Studios, Don has been an outspoken advocate for women and girls in technology and is a champion for Diversity and Inclusion.

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Don Bora
Eight Bit Studios

Don is the co-founder of Eight Bit Studios. A rowdy bunch of pixel slingers located in River North, Chicago.