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So You Want to Launch an App?

Core considerations matter: clarity, findability, trust

 

Is your company planning to launch an app, or upgrade an existing one?

Are you finding challenges in the process of defining requirements and developing features?

The key voices in an app launch project can reflect a range of interests. The technology group will look to leverage innovative DevOps strengths, while a marketing team may focus on customer engagement and lead generation. The C-suite can rise above the detail, bringing multi-sector insights and a unique user angle; they know what works well on their own devices, and they tie this firmly to market competiveness and innovation.

How to manage these intersecting (or combusting) perspectives?

At Spark, a recent example from our work in digital product development provides some common-sense insight into app launch priorities.

In short, and unsurprisingly, customers value clarity and simplicity in three key areas.

Go with the logo they know

For an expanding range of digital or other customer-facing products, the urge to create sub-brands and new visual elements can be irresistible.

In our recent digital research initiative, our client prepared a range of new app logo treatments. Some app icons aligned closely with the core corporate identity; others explored new directions.

While the customer viewpoint was clear (stay true to the core logo!) in the context of an app launch this meant more than just maintaining consistent brand standards. Highly aligned with mobile behaviour, their rationale was specific and practical.

First, a recognizable icon aids in findability. Customers already have dozens of icons on their phones, and they face an ongoing challenge of scrolling and foldering to manage them. When they decide to load something new, they do not appreciate complexity. They just want to be able to find your app. Immediately, and through the logo they know.

A recognized logo is also critical to trust. In an age of ever-increasing cyber scams, spoofs and threats, customers’ tolerance for anything that “looks off” falls toward zero. They want the confidence that comes with an official or authorized version, and even a mildly different sub-brand style can seed doubt.

They want assurance that it’s the real deal. So give them the real logo.

Don’t fear the giants

For many sectors and services, there are huge players in the app space with dominant audience share. If not actually Google or Apple, then at minimum the largest developers that partner with them.

Our client’s app faced this situation, in which their digital product overlapped areas already served by global giants. With this in mind, we paid close attention to potential adoption, replacement or conflict concerns among their customers.

The good news? Customers value the ways an app can complement those from globally-recognized providers. This is especially relevant if you are adding perspective on usage, expenditure or other elements that are unique to your organization and a customer’s interaction with you. They will be open to your offer and are very likely to download your app, even if they already have something that serves a similar purpose.

There is, however, an important caveat. In the areas where you intersect with a global app or data service, one of their first actions will be to test your version against the established standard to see if the results match.

Be ready for this before you go to market, but view it positively. See it is a potential source of endorsement rather than a threat.

Fun may not fly

In all cases, content and features are where the rubber hits the road for a new app.

An app concept may be appealing and engaging, but if customers do not also find it useful then it will be swiftly uninstalled.

For our client’s app launch project, we tested different presentations of functionality and approaches to customer data. One version used intriguing design, stylized icons and factoid-style content to add interest to the core information. Another used a more straightforward approach that put key customer data front and centre – quite literally, right on the app home screen.

Guess which one customers preferred? While they could appreciate the appeal of fun, style and humour, the no-nonsense version was a clear preference that framed a key insight.

There can a be a tendency to think that customers need a preparatory experience or a “landing stage” before they are ready for the hard data, particularly in situations involving financial information,

They do not need this, and in an app context they do not want it. If they want diversion, their phones are full of games. If the app involves an important aspect of their day-to-day life and spending, they want the straight story.

They want to see the numbers, so lift them out of the design layers. Be bold, be direct and let the customer engage with their data in the way that works best for them.

The takeaway

In designing an app, use the visual cues that your customers already know. The easier you are to find, the better the experience.

Leverage the power of market-leading apps to complement and add credibility to your work. The existence of giants can help validate projects, not help scrap them.

Follow the “Thomas the Tank Engine” principle: always be useful!

Can Spark contribute insight to your digital product development process? While we don’t have an app for that, drop us a note at info@sparkideas.ca and we’ll be in touch.

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