Mobile AppsMobility

The Rise Of The ‘Throwaway’ App

Duncan MacRae is former editor and now a contributor to TechWeekEurope. He previously edited Computer Business Review's print/digital magazines and CBR Online, as well as Arabian Computer News in the UAE.

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Paul Swaddle, CEO, Pocket App, asks why we are so quick to delete apps – and explains how to create apps people won’t be so quick to delete

With more than two million mobile apps available on iOS and android, and with these numbers rising all the time, the stark reality is that only apps with quality content and an exceptional customer experience will have any chance of being installed.

While the proliferation of smartphones has certainly fueled rapid demand for more and more mobile apps, today too many consumers view apps as ‘throwaway’ accessories when it comes to the software on their handsets.

Quick to delete

In fact, according to recent research by helpshift blog, you only have a moment to make a good impression with your mobile apps, as 80 percent are deleted after just one use.

I’m not surprised by this statistic, in fact I was reading a piece of research recently conducted by web hosting company 34SP.com, which surveyed 1,000 UK mobile users and found that two in five said they deleted apps from their smartphone “often”. One in five even noted that they regularly delete apps within three months of downloading them. All of these statistics leave software on mobile devices looking pretty disposable.

A major factor behind these statistics is the storage constraints of mobiles, especially on cheaper devices with small amounts of on-board memory. However, as an app developer, what I do find surprising is that I see so many businesses investing a lot of time, resources and money into creating innovative apps for their customers, in the hope of hooking them for the long-term, and then the app fails almost immediately.

So why is this?

In my experience, it all comes down to the quality of the app, ease of use, the consumer experience and its usefulness. According to Helpshift, the number one reason users delete apps is if they display an error or crash when downloading. Other reasons apps are deleted is that they either don’t launch or are slow to launch, or quite simply because they don’t function as expected. Also as I said earlier, it’s not uncommon for users to hit storage capacity on their phones and apps are often the first thing to go before music, videos, or photos.

So if you are about to embark on the development of a new app, how do you ensure it is future-proof? Here are my top tips:

1. Make sure you’ve done complete testing

Clearly technical issues are the number one reason why apps get deleted. Users are unforgiving when it comes to apps that have bugs, crashes or a slow response time. Therefore, ensure that by the time you submit your app to the app store, you’ve done complete testing at your end as well as through a set of signed up Beta users who can give feedback across use cases.

2. Is your app valuable to the consumer?

How you communicate the value that your app offers the user makes a huge difference to whether consumers continue to use the app or delete it. When consumers are looking for a solution to a specific problem, ensure you have the right keywords for app discovery. Once you’ve got their attention, clearly state the app’s value proposition up front in the description or the sub-text in the app name. The more clearly you can state how a person can use your app to solve their problem, the longer your app is likely to stay in the user’s phone.

3. Is it easy to use?

Poor UX will confuse the consumer, therefore user experience and interface design is key to the value of the app. If a user finds the navigation confusing and cannot get to the gratification quickly, they’re likely to simply delete your app.

UI and UX are not just about how the app looks, but also about how easy it is for the users to quickly get their problems resolved through your app. A good UX is a factor of how well you understand the user’s problem that you intend to solve and also evidence of understanding who your customers are. Equally if with the first version of your app you’re trying to perform too many functions within the same app, you won’t build a strong value proposition for your customers. The best apps are those that do one thing really well. Of course, over a period of time and with regular customer feedback the scope of features may increase, but keep it simple at launch.

4. Don’t ask for too much information upfront

It’s often challenging to communicate the complete value of a mobile app until the user has experienced it themselves. For a user, the app’s proposition will only work once it’s demonstrated. In this case, helping them get to that point of experience is key. Asking for too much information upfront before you even communicate value can be detrimental to your app’s future engagement with the user. If you must collect a whole lot of information from the user, stagger it at various points in the app where it becomes necessary for a good user experience.

5. Have you incentivised consumers to carry on using your app?

And finally, offering regular perks to those that download your app is a good way of keeping a consumer that isn’t necessarily loyal to a brand engaged, and this will prevent them from deleting your app.

With so many apps hitting the market on a daily basis it is vital that you get your app value proposition and user experience right from the off. This way, you won’t produce a ‘throwaway’ app and you can make sure your app is not part of the 80% stat that I quoted in the first paragraph!

6. Wide Compatibility

The number of different devices capable of downloading apps is constantly growing, and so a successful app is one that is compatible with as many of the most widely used devices as possible. It will do you no good to develop an app that functions only on an Android device, as this halves your potential audience. The wider known your app is, the more successful it will be, and the best way to raise its profile is to make the app available to the widest audience possible.

This does make development slightly trickier. The Android market is very fragmented, posing a particular challenge, and orchestrating regular OS updates to be compatible with multiple devices will require additional effort, but when the pay-off is a larger following for your app, the extra work is easily worthwhile.

7. Re-engagement With Your Audience

The best way to see your app deleted is to assume that the job is done once the user has downloaded it. Brands like Facebook and Snapchat will regularly send users messages that their app has been upgraded, usually prompting the user to investigate, even if it isn’t an app that they regularly use. By sending regular messages to the user and therefore keeping the app fresh in their mind, you raise its importance above those that are forgotten within a few weeks and stand a better chance of saving it from deletion.

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