The one thing you can do to ensure your mobile app fails

by David Needle

May 2 2013

An example of what Brian Katz calls a "crapplication" - an app that's so ill-designed, users will ignore it
An example of what Brian Katz calls a "crapplication" - an app that's so ill-designed, users will ignore it

Brian Katz has some pointed advice for corporate developers - don’t let business objectives dominate your thinking when creating new mobile apps.

With the popularity of mobile devices, IT is scrambling to make them more useful by developing job-related apps specific to company needs. That’s all well and good, but Katz, who heads the mobility engineering group at Sanofi-Aventis, said too often he sees development that leaves user needs out of the equation.

“App development is like trying to get a horse out of the mud. A lot of times developers take the same approach they do for the desktop and you end up with what I call a crapplication,” Katz said at the Tablet Strategy conference earlier this week.

“If you build a crapplication they will run,” joked Katz, noting users will either simply not use the app or find another one from an app store that’s not necessarily sanctioned by IT and could add complications from a support perspective.

Apply the FUN principle

Katz said his approach with developers is to encourage them to apply the FUN principle (Focus on Users Needs). “If the app takes too long to load, users won’t use it. If there are too many screens or its hard to use, users will move on to something else.” 

“There are hundreds of functions in Microsoft Word that most people never use. You don’t want to add a lot of complexity and unused functions in a mobile app, so build in just the features they’re going to use it for,” he added.

Another key element of development is security.

“Please get security involved at the beginning,” said Katz. “I’ve seen so many cases where an app is finished and then it’s not approved because some security feature was missing.” 

David Needle is Editor of TabTimes and based in Silicon Valley.
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  • Glasskeys
    1 year 5 months ago

    I agree with many sentiments in this article.

    All is well assuming developers have complete control developing an app in a corporate ecosystem, but many do not. Bad or incomplete BA work, odd or obsolete corporate policies regarding data interfaces, and "design-by-committee" are most responsible for bad corporate in-house software in my experience.

  • theambitiousgy
    1 year 5 months ago

    “There are hundreds of functions in Microsoft Word that most people never use."
    I agree...there are many features in the Word about which people don't even know or simply don't even care...but Word is a software that is used by average users and professionals both. Those features which do not matter to an average person may be valuable to those features must exist. And actually, they don't spoil the user experience at all so there's nothing bad in including them.

    On the other hand, I'm fully agree with his points regarding app development. Screens of smart devices are smaller than a lappy or desktop, so user experience may be spoiled easily if you develop an app with too much option menus or advertising. So developers must keep user experience over business objectives if they want their app to be successful!

    (One popular app that performs this thing perfectly is WhatsApp. No advertising, no offending screens. That's why it is more popular as compared to other chat apps)

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