5 Steps to Fixing a Failed App

By Tobias Dengel, CEO, WillowTree Apps — May 18, 2014

Pressure from management and employees to accommodate a variety of mobile work styles is growing with BYOD, and, as part of their strategy to increase engagement, organizations are responding with strategic enterprise apps.

Research shows, however, that a significant number of apps are never used again following their initial download. Mobile app failure can have adverse repercussions for your business, including lost productivity, disengaged employees, and additional rework costs—all of which have a direct impact on the bottom line. 

5 Steps to Success
Despite all this, many businesses continually fail to take essential software engineering standards and established UX design principles under consideration when it comes to building an effective and engaging mobile solution.

The good news is with the right approach, a mobile investment can be salvaged before it’s too late.
 
Below are five critical phases of building a mobile app solution to ensure the probability of its success, and some integral steps for getting a failed project back on track:

1. Strategy: Although this principle seems like common sense, many organizations fail to think through a mobile strategy upfront to ensure the resulting app meets their specific business needs and use cases.

Before jumping into mobile development, businesses should carefully consider their overall vision for the app and target audience, and apply mobile strategy solutions that drive outstanding user experiences for employees. Enterprises also need to aim to align their business goals with existing IT infrastructures to incorporate the right mobile platforms and better ensure a successful outcome.     

Solution: Go back to square one, and map out your mobile strategy. Create goals for the greatest ROI and ensure they are measured and reported (see step #5); define your target audience and create a marketing distribution plan and budget that tracks back to measurable goals and aligns with IT capabilities, to translate your ideas into reality.
 
2. Design: Chances are most mobile app projects that missed the mark first ran aground in the design phase. Design teams at creative agencies often sketch out great-looking app concepts, but fail to address the complete scope of user behaviors and preferences specific to designing for mobile. In other cases, designers create truly innovative app features and components that are difficult or impossible to implement from a development perspective.

Solution: Do your homework upfront and use research and analytics to assess user behavior and preferences before creating designs. Be innovative, but also realistic and let form follow function by ensuring the user’s needs to dictate the design of the application. All mobile designs must be vetted with development teams before being “finalized.”
 
3. Development: Mobile app development demands a new skill set that typical software and web developers lack specifically in extensive knowledge of Android and iOS operating systems.

Additionally, delivering engaging apps that sufficiently meet business needs increasingly requires development teams that can successfully create or integrate an organization’s API. Developers should also have enough context to make decisions on the fly, which makes off shore development difficult. As a matter of fact, many mobile projects die when an inexperienced in-house development team attempts to build a mobile app on their own.
 
Solution: Before wasting further investment in your mobile project, make sure you have a development team in place with the requisite skills. Having mobile developers onboard with specific domain expertise can mitigate risk and help protect and secure critical information.
 
4. Testing and Quality Assurance (QA): Most organizations today don't adequately test their mobile apps. Yet this is an essential step in the development cycle, with the potential to impact final results of an apps efficiency, performance, security and overall functionality. Given the many devices and operating systems in the market, mobile testing is much more difficult, expensive and time consuming than typical software testing.

Solution: Make sure routine testing is factored into your mobile solutions project and ongoing user and IT maintenance. Start simple by getting people using the apps as early as possible on as many devices as possible. If you’re using an app, you’re testing it. Provide a way for users to give meaningful feedback, and get that feedback into your schedule. Effective testing does not require a team of ten people with a hundred devices right out of the gate. Scale up as you develop and build in alpha and beta releases to limited audiences to widen your reach across devices with minimal cost.

5. Mobile Analytics & Tracking: Monitoring the success of the mobile app at the individual user level is necessary to more accurately deliver ongoing updates and improvements. Useful analytics must be set up with great care. Using “out of the box” configurations often results in massive amounts of data that are impossible to gain real insight.     

Solution: Add usage tracking and other metrics into your application. Take advantage of tools like Google Analytics to collect user data on engagement and usage of specific features, crashes and exceptions to determine the results of the application.

Mobile enterprise development is not something to be taken lightly. Businesses are wise to approach each mobile project as they would any major engineering project to steer clear of failure and ensure the greatest end result impact.

Carefully devise a plan that includes organized thought and attention to design, development, QA testing and ongoing iteration. By taking these important steps, your organization will be on track to optimize the business value of your mobile initiatives.

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