What Makes a Great Mobile App?

This week I heard Alan Wells, director of product development at Globant’s Mobile Studio, speak on what makes a great mobile app. Alan was speaking as part of the Globant Mobile Roadshow. Here are my high-level notes:

  • A great mobile app or site needs a delightful user experience. When people only have a few minutes to get to know your app, the experience better be rewarding and fun or they may never use it again.
  • You have to think about the different use cases and contexts that apply to mobile usage. Sessions will be shorter but possibly more frequent than with your website. Think about morning and evening commuters popping in and out of your app. Design experiences that deliver value that can be had in just a few minutes.
  • Use cases for tablets are different than for handheld devices. Sessions may be longer. People may be using your app in unusual places, like while reclining on their sofa. Don’t just think of a tablet as a smaller laptop.
  • Embrace the constraints and capabilities of mobile devices. Screens are limited in size, so use that constraint to simplify your app and strip away functions that don’t apply to the mobile context. Capabilities like goelocation and an accelerometer open your app up to functions you couldn’t have considered in the desktop version. Explore those to create those delightful experiences.
  • Higher resolution screens on newer high-end devices don’t change the basic needs of the touch target. Always design with the fingertip in mind.
  • Don’t just port a web app to mobile devices. Build for the mobile context from the start.
  • When creating a mobile companion to a full web app reuse or re-purpose the artistic elements when possible to create a consistent and cohesive experience.
  • Think carefully about whether your app is a companion app or needs full feature parity with the desktop version. Companion apps have an advantage in extending the desktop experience and increasing overall engagement with your brand, without you having to replicate every feature (many of which will never be used in the mobile context).
  • Weigh carefully whether you want your app connected to your website. A connected app will require more communication between development teams and more coordination of releases, but also can promote greater engagement and a seamless, cross-platform user experience.