Before you get going, you need to have a clear understanding of what it is you are trying to achieve and how you intend to do that. For most of you this means understanding your business model.
It is certainly something much more than “having a great app” or “lots of people installing our app”. A clear business objective is going to be a specific measurable outcome. Things that generally make good measurable outcomes include: a revenue target, a target number of engaged users who use the application for 6 months on a daily basis, or it may even be a metric measured outside the app. In each case it is essential to understand what your objective is and work towards it, rather than just waiting for things to happen.
Take the revenue target as an example. Revenue is the result of purchases, and in any digital environment purchases do not just “happen”. A great deal of thoughtful design, both of the application and of the business model, is required to make purchases happen.
We can only go through this process if we understand our business objectives clearly. If you are unsure about the right business model for you app (or you business for that matter), consider working through the results of Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers. If you spend the time to get the business model right, you’ll be more likely to create something of value rather than wondering why your wonderful app isn’t actually able to achieve your measurable outcomes.
Whatever you do, you must create an app that looks and feels perfectly natural. When your users pick it up, smiles should light up their faces as they involuntarily nod their heads in approval. When you do that, you will have succeeded.
People crave clarity and respond positively to its presentation. Most all of us live in a world of continuously increasing complexity where simplicity isn’t all that easy to find. It boils down to basic supply and demand: As simplicity of design in apps becomes more rare, it also becomes more valuable. So your ability to keep your application simple, and protect things from becoming more complicated, becomes more valuable as well.
To do this you need to understand the “Laws of Simplicity” which Ken Segall has so graciously spelled out for us in his book Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success. But creating the perfect app for your users and business model is more than that. It is also figuring out what you need for a very first version, no more and no less.
This requires focus. Consider what Apple’s Jonathan Ive says about focus:
If you sit down and really focus on building the best possible 1.0 version of your app, you should be able to do it quickly; in 10 to 12 weeks with the right small group of smart people. Concentrating on building the best possible 1.0 version of your app gives you a number of advantages beyond scheduling. It normally allows you to create a app that’s not only revolutionary, but also illuminates an even more exciting path ahead.
If you are lucky you might be looking at about 30%-50% of your installs still using your app after one week. And things tend to go downhill from there.
Of course, in any digital business some attrition is inevitable. But too much of the wrong kind of attrition will kill you. All your acquisition and development spend is for nothing: because you can’t keep people in your app. And a prime cause of bad attrition is a poor initial experience.
What do I mean by poor initial experience? Well, firstly it’s not necessarily a ‘tutorial’ in the conventional, rigid, sense of the word. But rather a method of answering the questions that – if you fail to answer them effectively – will end up causing your users to give up:
Far too many apps ignore this requirement. They launch the user straight into the core experience and leave them to their own devices. No wonder so many fail to engage beyond the first session.
So first of all, start thinking about initial user experience, and build out a smart initial experience process that stops your users getting confused or frustrated. Look to create (dismissible) screens that answer the questions above and ensure users understand what to do and how to do it.
Look to create some form of funnel analysis in order to understand exactly where you are losing users, and take steps to remedy those issues. Great initial experience is designed and simple. Apply the lessons from (#2) to your design efforts and take great pains to be empathetic to the brand new user of your app; after all, not everyone is able to read minds.
You must do everything in your power to create word-of-mouth and bring people to your app without paying for them. If you repeatedly have to pay for acquisition chances are you are ignoring the brutal honesty of the market place. Simply put, your app is considered by the users to be irrelevant. Either you have failed at design (#2), or your business model (#1) won’t fly.
Your app should consider the role of social sharing and ratings in organic acquisition from the very start.
When it comes to the social sharing, you should be doing everything in your power to make it as easy as possible to make social sharing happen. Encourage your users to share achievements (and if you don’t have natural ‘achievements’ in your app – create them).
In fact, if appropriate, pit users against each other. This is one area where apps can learn from the games industry, where ‘competitive’ social techniques drive user engagement.
App store ratings will also have a significant effect on organic acquisition. They help convert browsing users, and good ratings improve chart position. They matter enough that simply asking users to rate your app would be a mistake. Instead, develop a plan for driving higher ratings rather than any ratings.
Central to your efforts would be targeting and in-app messaging. The goal is to only have users who love your app to rate it. That’s relatively easily achieved by, for example, presenting an in-app message asking for feedback to you before then asking those who give positive feedback to rate. Simple – but are you doing it?
Last week, a friend of mine got his Facebook account hacked. His response: he deleted his account. When I mentioned he had gone from being hacked to no longer there his response was “No FB == No FB Hacking.”
It got me thinking. I had never been hacked, but would my life be better without the constant feeling that I need to check in on FB to find out what was going on? After all, while I do appreciate the opportunity to stay in touch with people from the different parts of my life and the different parts of the planet where they live, hadn’t it all become a bit much?
I mean seriously, try having a conversation with a group of adults at a restaurant and see how long the conversation lasts after the first person pulls out their smart phone. It will be mere seconds before the entire group is checking their Facebook feeds, or twitter, or email, or fact checking some aspect of the conversation. I admit complete guilt on all of those counts. I can often be heard saying “why guess when you can know” as I reach for my esay access to Google. You can “know” but the price you pay is that it prevents you from enjoying ( or immensely disliking ) the people you are there with in the moment.
So with stuff like that in mind, and being mindful of what I was going to do next, I ripped the bandaid right off. I made some cute graphics ( see: https://www.facebook.com/BigBangBurgerBar ) and I issued a post announcing my departure. It’s not that I don’t want to keep in touch, its just that the virtual world is too often at the forefront of mind at the expense of the real world and people who I can actually talk to ( over the phone and in person ).
In my quest to reclaim the portions of my life that were being frittered away on status updates, I deleted the Facebook app from my phone last Friday. I went to Toronto over the weekend and I was amazed at how well making a public declaration AND removing my ability to engage worked.
My smart phone stayed in my pocket much more than it used to. My level of curiosity about what was going on ( elsewhere ) wained significantly in less than 24 hours.
Some will disagree, but I find Facebook to be an interesting outlet to help us ignore where our feet are right now.
By keeping my attention on the place where my feet reside, by reducing the number of tools that allow me to look into the future or the past, I have a better chance of remaining in the here and now. And, if you believe the Buddhists, what’s here and now is all there is. The rest are fictions of your mind to drive you to distraction.
I tend to think most of us know this in our heads. Integrating it into our daily lives is another thing completely. It take an ongoing effort to attend. Mastery reduces anxiety and suffering.
Sometimes when I am out walking, my head replays the moments of my life. Only they’re the moments of my past or the moments I am creating in my mind about the future. If I am not mindful, “If only I had done things differently” can become the sound track to these moments in my head.
Or maybe I’m having a conversation with a client who isn’t even there, about how frustrated I am that they didn’t pay me on time or at all. These are judgmental, and by living in them over and over again, I continue to attract more of them which in turn takes away from being present in the here and now.
Anger, resentment, fear, jealously, envy, worry, doubt, and mistrusting are all things that can feel very real to us at the time we are experiencing them. However, they are of the mind, and just excuses to hang on to yesterday or to live in tomorrow. Now is were the action is. Self control of the mind is where your power is.
Perhaps you’ll find a reason to embrace the here and now today. Enjoy!
PS> I know some of you will note that my blog is broadcasting to Facebook and that without Facebook you wouldn’t be here reading this. True enough. That said, I won’t be spending time on Facebook to like or comment. I’m just going to keep writing about things I find interesting and encouraging people I know to reach out to me using the phone, email, and in person visits…