App Insights

Key app features you haven’t thought of yet

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It’s one thing to persuade your clients that they need an app to stay relevant in an increasingly mobile world; it’s another to make sure that the software they get is the crowd-pleaser they were expecting. What does a quality app need to survive in a crowded market? It is said that over a third of apps don’t survive the first minute of user interaction before being deleted. Here are 11 must-have features to make sure that your app has staying power:

A back button

One of the most important aspects of a successful app is user-friendly navigation. Web browsers have a simple safety net to bail you out if you get lost on your trip around the internet – the back button. If you find yourself down a rabbit hole, a few clicks of the back button will take you back to familiar territory. When designing an app, a back button should be the first piece of UI you implement, as it offers users the comfort and convenience of something familiar.

Push notifications

Your app is a communication channel with your users, so take advantage of the push notification functionality built into iOS and Android to get messages under their noses. Make sure the notifications you send are relevant and informative, however, or the user could disable them – or worse still, delete your app – if they become intrusive.

Update pop-ups

In the early days of iOS and Android, users sometimes required a nudge to update their apps. Now that almost 95% of users have auto-updates switched on, this is less of an issue. However, for the 5% that prefer to update manually, you should consider adding a pop-up that is displayed on launch to indicate that a new version is available, particularly if the update fixes a serious bug or performance issue. After the update, automatic or otherwise, a pop-up showing them what has changed will always be appreciated.

Versioned APIs

The good thing about a website is its immediacy of deployment. If you make a change, your users will see it straight away. For an app, this isn’t the case. You may sweat blood on an update, but as we’ve seen, a user may not pull down to the latest version. On a website, you can change the front-end site and back-end APIs at the same time, but for an app you need to ensure that legacy versions of your app will still call on legacy versions of your API – otherwise they may stop working.

Analytics

While we’re on the subject of back-end functionality, let’s talk analytics. Any website worth its salt will be plugged into an analytics platform, be it Google Analytics or a self-hosted tool such as Piwik. The user-centric insights offered by these tools are invaluable, so be sure to take advantage of them, in addition to the analytics functionality built-in to both iOS and Android.

Crash reporting

Despite the best efforts of the most experienced developers, no app will be bug-free in its first iteration. Turn crash reporting on, so bugs can be squashed in short order. We recommend the Twitter-owned Crashlytics.

Smart extensions

Back in user land, it’s not just about smartphones any more. With smartwatches gaining traction and more wearable tech on the horizon, ask yourself whether you can add value to your app by extending the experience onto other more personal devices. Don’t move in this direction for the sake of it, though. Users will soon see through, or get bored of, a gimmicky add-on of limited use.

Password-free?

Nothing puts a user off like downloading an app and finding they need to create an account before going further than the splash screen. Ask yourself whether you really need to harvest the users’ details before granting them access to the app. Consider offering at least a subset of functionality before requiring a username and password.

Fingerprint security

If your app does require a login or password, consider offering fingerprint security tech where the hardware is available. Not only does it make the user experience far slicker, it also offers a level of reassurance, particularly where personal data is being stored.

App tour

The democratisation of the smartphone means that your app could be in the hands of the most experienced and inexperienced users. Even the simplest, slickest, most intuitive UI in the world is going to baffle a subset of your users. Offer a guided tour of the app (‘offer’ is the key word here – don’t force experienced users to sit through it) – and incorporate a ‘skip’ button too.

Usability

Above all, the one feature that your app must have is user-friendliness. Consider the use cases for your app. Does it need to be opened in a hurry? Make it super-simple. Does it need to be used whilst multi-tasking? Make sure it can be operated with one hand. Is one hand too many? Consider voice recognition.

Ultimately, a successful app is down to planning. Knowing what users want (and don’t want) and balancing their needs with yours as a business will set you on the path to true mobile ‘appiness.

Calvium offers dynamic, water-tight app development for agencies working with all types of client. For more advice on building and marketing apps, check back to the Calvium blog regularly.