5 mistakes marketers make when launching a new mobile app

Tips for preventing disaster when launching new mobile apps (and, tangentially, rockets)

There’s an unprecedented race for great mobile ideas in today’s mobile marketing landscape, with brands launching new and exciting new products seemingly every day. But there are significantly more misses than hits in the mobile marketplace, and it’s very easy for brands’ mobile marketers to make early missteps that ultimately doom their projects to months of headaches and disappointment.

Mobile software development is not unlike rocket science — and that’s not to say it’s particularly hard. When launching a rocket, even one degree of variance in its trajectory makes the difference between aiming for the moon and not getting there at all. From the very first moment, it’s critically important that both rockets and mobile projects alike are headed in the right direction — and even the slightest mistake can mean disaster.

We’ve identified five common mistakes that brand marketers make during the planning phases of their new mobile projects which can spell the difference between a frustrating embarrassment and the next big thing.


1. ASSUMING THEY KNOW WHAT USERS WANT

One of the biggest, and most prevalent, mistakes that mobile marketers make is assuming that the feature set in their head is worth anything at all. Intelligent and capable marketing teams from a variety of industries have been known to brainstorm new ideas in a conference room, organize those features into a loose backlog, and set about finding a development vendor to build them. However, unless a feature has come from solid audience research — that is, straight from a user’s mouth — it’s no better than a guess at what will make the mobile app successful.

Even if you use your brand’s app, you’re not the user. Brand marketers have too many biases and insider knowledge to have valid opinions on feature ideas — only users can.

Ultimately, the only source of truth for what users like and dislike is the users themselves, and the most successful brand marketers are those who check their assumptions at the door and rely on audience data to guide their decision-making. Agencies can fall victim to this trend, too, but the best mobile development agencies know that no matter how inventive or pretty a mobile product feature is, it’s useless unless a real-world user wants it.


2. STEALING IDEAS FROM SUCCESSFUL — BUT UNRELATED — APPS

Your app isn’t Tinder. People like swiping profiles for potential dates, but that interface paradigm works because of the context of Tinder’s audience and their intentions — there’s no guarantee it will translate gracefully to a banking app, or to an ecommerce app, or to anything else. There are tons of novel UX approaches that some of the App Store’s most successful apps pioneer, but it’s important to remember that countless factors influence an app’s success beyond its nifty UX ideas.

Swiping works for finding dates on Tinder, but that doesn’t mean it’ll make sense for your banking app’s users.

Aping user experience trends from popular social networking or photography apps doesn’t in and of itself make branded apps trendy. Developers and brand marketers need to assess what user experience techniques make the most sense for their unique digital product — and, more importantly, for their audience — before prescribing that their app will be the next best thing. Who knows — maybe finding a unique interface paradigm for your app will become the exciting idea that other marketers decide to copy.


3. DETERMINING TECHNOLOGIES BEFORE UX

Almost nothing can derail a mobile project faster than the wrong technology for the job, and yet too many brand marketers are quick to prescribe one technology stack or another for their project before it’s even begun. The technologies each mobile product uses should be in service of the user experience — choosing a technology that could inhibit UX decisions is the easiest way to design a lackluster app.

Every technology makes sense in certain situations. But without first defining your app’s unique UX situation, how can you possibly know which technology is the right tool for the job?

Users don’t care how your app is built, they only care that it delivers on its promises and offers the kind of intuitive and considered user experience that they demand. Instead of thinking about technologies first, brands should evaluate and define the audience needs and user experience priorities that will ultimately make the app successful. Doing so will make technology choices obvious.


4. EMPHASIZING THE “MINIMUM” AT THE EXPENSE OF THE “VIABLE”

Many companies are willing to spend enormous sums of money on the app’s marketing campaign, promotional materials, and even important factors like its user experience design, but opt to skimp on quality development. Building mobile products the right way the first time is critical to ensuring long-term success — it’s nearly impossible to build something amazing on a crummy foundation.

If you want to evolve the product tomorrow, you need to plan for it today. The best mobile app developers build apps that are ready for iteration with minimal effort.

Building apps “the right way” includes all manner of things, but simply comes down to making strategic decisions that don’t only help inform future decision-making but also ensure that adding new ideas is seamless and natural. Even if you’re taking a Minimum Viable Product approach to the mobile product rollout, it’s important that the product is poised to scale when ready — and equally important to integrate analytics that will help determine when and how that scale should happen.


5. TREATING ALL MOBILE PLATFORMS AS THE SAME

Android and iOS, for all their similarities and functionality overlaps, are different. The mobile web is more different still. Approaching these platforms with the expectation that their features and user experience will all be identical is a recipe for multiple identically ineffective apps. Brands need to optimize the experience for the unique capabilities and user expectations of each platform, rather than settling on a one-size-fits-all mobile development strategy.

One-size-fits-all doesn’t translate to an increasingly personalized and optimized mobile landscape. Assuming that one size fits all mobile platforms yields one-size-fits-none apps.

Central to this approach are several write-once-deploy-anywhere platforms that, while they seem to accelerate development in the short term, ultimately sacrifice quality user experience at the altar of lowest-common-denomination. With write-once solutions, if a new and exciting feature doesn’t exist on one mobile platform, it can’t exist on any platform, meaning apps can’t iterate quickly with the marquee features that users have come to expect.


In the end, the best way to ensure a quality application that resonates with its intended audience is to do the tough work up front to determine how an app should come to life. That brands should begin with strategy and follow through with quality development best practices seems like an obvious assertion, but in a world of shortcut platforms and flashy App Store features it’s become uncommon sense. Even brands’ moonshot ideas need a lot of up-front work to even give them a chance of reaching the moon — but solid strategic planning can ensure they stick the landing.


This post was originally published by Punchkick Interactive — read more about mobile strategy, development, and user-centered design on punchkick.com.