Great mobile apps are like great cocktails. They should be easy to make, delicious to consume, and have your customers coming back for more.
A good friend of mine is a bartender, and in my eyes he is an artist. He can deftly serve some of the most iconic cocktails, but also has the expertise to create new ones according to the customers' tastes and moods. It's the perfect blend -- speed and agility with creativity and innovation.
This got me thinking that today's mobile app development is a lot like cocktail making. We need to quickly and expertly mix great apps based on the needs of many consumers, yet also have the smarts to change our "recipes" to adapt to market or business conditions.
So, taking a page from the book of cocktail mixology, here are my five essential ingredients for creating a great mobile app experience:
Get the base ingredients right. Just as a skilled bartender knows that correct proportions of tequila, cointreau, and fresh lime or lemon equate to a great margarita, make sure you get the basics right in mobile app development. The best apps I've seen are "experience-centric," helping employees and customers make decisions based on their immediate needs -- in short, combining great design, ultra simplicity, and ease-of-use.
A good example is Hailo, which uses GPS smarts to match taxi drivers to passengers and deliver super usability (two taps to book a taxi). On the other hand, the worst apps are like a weak cocktail -- boring and tasteless imitations of current websites and applications.
Do the taste test, but do it quickly. Mobile app development is a lot like serving drinks in a crowded bar to a thirsty and demanding crowd. If you spend too much time assembling infrastructure and testing apps, your customers will probably go elsewhere. But at the same time, if we serve apps too quickly and compromise quality, our efforts will be lampooned by socially vocal consumers. Therefore, it's important to incorporate operational processes and policies (e.g., performance monitoring) and especially security controls within a testing environment that simulates real-world conditions, with the goal of continuously delivering quality apps.
Complexity can leave a bitter aftertaste. The best mobile apps in the world can fail miserably if encumbered by bad service, poor backend integration, and complex supporting processes. So, as you deliver that great mobile app experience, make sure it's "blended" with other essential ingredients -- especially those across your call-center or service desk. Remember too that, just like the word getting around quickly about a cool new cocktail lounge, the same applies to mobile apps.
It's essential therefore to plan for success, ensuring your staff, systems, and infrastructure are well prepared to handle an explosion in transaction volumes and business activity. A classic fail here was a leading UK bank, which after experiencing mobile app glitches and online failures during the busiest online shopping day of 2013, admitted the problem was failure to properly invest in systems and infrastructure.
Deliver the right app cocktails for every occasion. My bartender friend doesn't always assume his customers know what they want to drink, so he often asks them how they feel before he mixes. Similarly in IT, our mobile app cocktail guide shouldn't be religiously predisposed to one client-side development platform (Native apps vs. HTML5). Rather it should always be driven by the needs of the business. For example, if you need a rich user experience, an app store, and advanced security features, then native apps could have the edge. But if cross-platform support, agility, and available programming expertise are considerations, HTML5 will be preferred.
Always strive for quality before quantity. We shouldn't serve another drink to an overly indulged patron, so why should we assume our customers will want "just one more app for the road"? Sure, every business unit might think it has the next "killer mobile app" and even have the skills needed to build them, but always make sure mobility is driven from a unified business strategy and never from piecemeal projects. This is why so many successful enterprises start by building digital or mobility teams. These teams combine business stakeholders who control strategy and funding with architects and developers who can quickly build out new mobility services.
Like a skilled bartender, IT and business pros must blend the right mix of mobile ingredients. Customer experience and engagement are now king, so traditional management silos, inadequate infrastructure, and slow development cycles will not cut it.
So, the next time your business strategy team asks for a new mobile app, be ready to respond with, "No problem -- shaken or stirred?"
Peter Waterhouse is a senior technical marketing advisor for CA Technologies' strategic alliance, service providers, cloud, and industry solutions businesses.
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