“Hey, that’s a good idea for an app.”
We’ve heard that before. We’ve also said it. Maybe you have, too. Your team has a unique idea, one that seems to solve a problem for people or serve them in some way. You hire developers, talk to them about what you want, and build (what you think is) an incredible tool.
No one uses it. What went wrong?
Of course, there are a variety of reasons an app doesn’t earn thousands or hundreds of thousands of downloads as predicted. Price, platform, and marketing all contribute to how much an app is used. Most apps are abandoned after one month or less. But one of the main reasons people aren’t downloading or keeping your app: it doesn’t suit their needs or wants. Avoid a product bomb by ensuring your development process takes into account user needs. Here are some ways to do that, even if you don’t have a million-dollar budget:
- Seek user feedback early. Steve Jobs famously said that consumers don’t know what they want. They built the Mac for themselves and skipped market research. “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them,” he told Business Week. But Jobs spent a lot of money on the creative process and hired the best designers he could find. Henry Ford is also known for this, saying, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have asked for faster horses.” But both Ford and Jobs were redefining (or creating) an industry. Not relying on market research worked for them. But for most of us, user feedback is a crucial part of the process — one you want to include at the beginning. Whether you do surveys, focus groups, or something else, be sure to get input about your app idea and whether people find it useful. You’ll also want to ask how people would use it. Kleenex launched as a disposable cleaning cloth, but pivoted when executives found out people used it instead as a handkerchief. Asking questions early might improve your idea.
- Learn to say no during development. While user input may provide insights about features to include, you will also hear a lot of ideas that could hold back your product launch for no good reason. In this post about the book, “Getting Real,” the writer points out the need to “Force the feature to prove its value.” Adding every single bell and whistle from the start will not only slow down production but will blur the purpose of your app or program. Launch with core features; save the rest for future updates.
- Create personas. Personas are a way of profiling groups of your potential users. Create them by interviewing or observing people. What patterns do you see in their behavior or responses? Create a profile of a few of your users. By that, we mean literally type up a dossier with a name, the stereotypical version of that user type. You may have more than one. Asher might be a 22-year-old just out of college who earns $50,000 at his first job and spends his free time playing video games. Stephanie is a 37-year-old working mom who volunteers at the local homeless shelter in her free time. You can add even more detail about their everyday actions and pain points, and, most importantly, their reasons for wanting your app.
- Put the X in UX. User experience. As you design the way the app works and the buttons one would click/press, think not just about the fastest path, but how the entire experience feels. Is it easy and pleasant to navigate the app? Does someone feel satisfied that they achieved their purpose when finished? Does it feel like something you want to come back to?
- Ask questions of users. Once your app or program has launched, be sure to ask people about their experience. This might be a pop-up or a question at the bottom. Maybe it’s an email with a survey that offers a prize for taking it. No matter what approach you choose, you want to find out early what could make the product so amazing that everyone wants to share it with a friend.
- Study the data. Your app should have a way for you to see what features people use and when. Take a look at who is using each aspect of the app. How long did it take them to figure it out? Also, make sure your marketing includes information about features and how to use the app. You can do this with video or with pop-ups or emails that explain features someone hasn’t tried yet.)
- Fail quickly. We’re not saying pack up your app and go home the moment it doesn’t work. However, if particular features aren’t striking a chord with users, even after they’ve seen the emails and pop-ups, maybe it’s time to pivot. Ditch those features and focus on the ones that resonate. How can you improve them? What can you add that users will want?
Talk to us about keeping the user in mind when developing your next app or program.