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When we change the way we communicate
we change the society.
- Clay Shirky -

5 things you need to know before starting your mobile business

Do you know “Hotel Tonight”, “Uber” and “Snapchat” ?

If you are reading this I bet you do and can add a lot of names to this list of mobile applications that buzzed lately. Nowadays, lots of entrepreneurs think the future is in mobile technologies and if you look at the figures it’s quite obvious :global_mobile_desktop

In less than ten years, Mobile has exceeded computers in number of users & internet requests. Not mentioning the fact that mobile app on a business perspective are infinitely more powerful than websites : you live with your users, you have push notifications to bring them back in your app and you can take advantage of the concentrate of technology that the current smartphones are.

Nevertheless, by discussing with my customers and releasing my own apps. I realized that lots of people (including me…) want to develop mobile applications without realizing it’s a totally new paradigm of creation. 

Here are 5 facts that I’ve learnt which might help you succeed in mobile development :

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 A good mobile application is not cheap !

A mobile applications often cost way more than a responsive website. What non-tech people usually don’t see is that behind most of the mobile apps relies servers with complex architecture to ensure a good User Experience (UX) and it has a cost. Here developpers will tell me that it’s not more than a complex web application and that’s right but you’ll also have to handle different front-end technologies if you want to develop for both iOS & Android which double the development effort on this part.

Today, tools exists to make your Minimum Viable Product cheaper (BaaS, Cross-platform technologies, …) but you’ll have to consider the pros and cons of those solutions before using them.

You surf on a website but download an app

I’ll just put one number here: 89. It is the average number of website one person visit per month whereas the majority of people in US (65%) don’t even download one new application per month.This highlight one crucial thing:

It’s way more difficult to make someone download your app. than it is to make him visit your website.

us-smartphone-users-number-of-app-downloads-per-month-of-smartphone-users-new_chartbuilder

Of course there is advertising to help but it can quickly become expensive. On the other hand the ways to get free downloads : referral, organic search and being featured in stores are not easy to reach.

User Experience is the key !

Thus your user has downloaded your app, basically we could think that you won ! 

But this would be forgetting about the Mobile Uninstallation Rate. Exactly like internet Bounce Rate, user can download your app and uninstall it right away. As mobile main constraints are known : small size of screens (even if they increased during the last years) and it’s internet dependent (as all data comes from the server). Your User Experience has to be perfect to avoid the fatal removal, meaning that users should be able to use the main feature of your app in a few seconds after they launched it. And don’t forget that:

UXUI

It’s not only a matter of interfaces but really about the experience your users have with your app.

Iteration is slower and you’re caught in versioning

On a website, you can correct a bug in a second and the user get the correction instantly. When you have a mobile app, you’re caught in versioning : You’ll have to make a new build and people will have to accept updates to get the correction. If you app request new permission because of new features then users’ll have to accept it manually meaning in most cases a really long time to get updated.

For a successful app this may not be a problem, let’s take Snapchat as example. They made the old version deprecated and users had to download the new version, but this kind of story remain exceptional and the majority of the app. will end up uninstalled if they try to do the same.

This also force you to think carefully about the analytics you use because two users can use different versions of the app at the same time. Your analytics should track the behavior of each user because analysing the average user behavior in a session is unrelevant when different versions of your app are installed.

Retention rate

Now let’s make a quick experiment :

1. Take your smartphone and choose one app randomly

2. Why do you keep this particular app. on your phone ?

gif_hyptnotic

If the second question is not easy to answer, may be you’ll uninstall it now or in the coming weeks. The thing is that exactly like you keep a software on your computer for a purpose, you keep app on your phone according to a usage (meaning a value in defined situation).

This usage can happen daily like for social networks or once a month like the “Flashlight” application but still, users won’t keep your app if they don’t identify a clear usage for it and your interest as an entrepreneur is to identify quickly this value and maximize it to improve your retention.

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All that being said, mobile remains a very powerful technology, smartphones and tablets offers (nearly) endless possibilities. But what I learnt from those experiences is that, mobile must bring a lot more value to users compared to a responsive website. Because this second solution is cheaper and more effective in some cases depending on your business needs.
If your idea has passed this first test and you want to create a mobile app, you have to think your mobile development upside down, the most important question being:
“Which usage/value should my user identified in my app. and why would they download it and keep it on their phones ?”

Then, you should build your user experience according to your answers and see as fast as possible if people are interested in your value proposition.

– By Alexandre Boulmé, Engager – Mobile Development @Officience

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