Earlier this year, Apple announced its App Store had reached 40 billion downloads, and more than $10 billion was spent on iOS apps in 2013. Three billion apps were downloaded in December alone.
As I trawl through hundreds of apps and pick interesting ones to view, I see comments like “hopeless”, “waste of money”, “clunky and crashes when you do...” and “I want my money back.”
You don't have to search far to find these kinds of comments. So much so you have to wonder whether mainstream app development is going the way of the Nigerian email scam - promising anything for the chance to make a buck.
App development is driven by a low cost per unit market and we need to understand this often means a lower quality product upon release.
Then there is the question of whether mobile will become a true corporate computing solution and replace the PC. If that is going to happen, app development needs to have a completely different lifecycle than the one that currently exists.
I have done some research on well-positioned apps versus newer apps (my research was by no means empirical). What I noticed is that there seems to be a reduction in feedback and comments from people.
It is almost like people are getting so bored with buggy apps that they can’t even be bothered to comment anymore. Early versions of older apps seem to have a lot more feedback than those released recently.
Those people who did leave comments seemed to be significantly more aggressive or passive aggressive saying things like “Don’t bother buying this” or “This version is just as hopeless as the last.”
In my opinion, a large percentage of developers have been fishing for some time. They know that with so many fish in the water, they are bound to catch a percentage regardless of how good the app is.
They can then use this fishing money to turn out other apps or create a better version, re-capitalising from their existing financial momentum with little benefit to the customer.
Either way, they are using the customer as the test bed so you pay the price twice; once for the app and once for the frustration.
If this continues, you don’t have to be a genius to realise that app fatigue will set in, after which those developers that survive will be the ones who know what the customer wants and involve the customer in the process.
Over the last two years, we have seen a mobile warrior, Blackberry sell its intellectual property – even though one of its loyal customers was US president Barack Obama.
The issue for Blackberry, as reported last September by CNN was terrible apps, many were either generic clones of other apps or apps that just weren't particularly useful.
The future for app development needs to include a method that allows the customer to contribute. The value of this is harnessed by using customer input during the process of development. This type of service already exists in the Android and Apple development portals – but it is not being very widely used.
The outcome would be a more refined and focused product that would increase the margin of customer satisfaction and experience no matter the platform.
There is a real need to harness customer input while leveraging the selection process in app development, leading to the thought that greater customer input will lead to creating a good product.
Some apps and their developers will survive if they meet a need, but many others will find the consumer market is getting smarter - future potential customers will want to see some proof in the pudding before they purchase.
Creating apps for your business
Mobile technology is making inroads as the corporate workbench for the knowledge worker but many apps are just not up to the task. Developers need to understand that the corporate world is an entirely different beast; you can’t wait around when you have business critical requirements coupled with an expectation that your solution should be mobile.
This is a real issue for technology leaders; we need well-developed solutions that are fit for business.
So what can you do to meet the business needs and still deliver value? Short term, your IT strategy needs to include a framework on how you deal with apps internally, and the business drivers for creating your own apps or purchasing them from a third-party developer.
If you are building apps internally, it will pay to do the following:
- Ensure they actually meet a business need
- Gain input from end users during the development phase (co-creation)
- Complete functional and intuitive tests (you would not believe the amount of apps that just don’t work)
- Introduce several levels of acceptance testing
- Add user access restrictions, profiling and multi-factor authentication
The last thing you want to do to your business is put out apps that frustrate instead of enable. After all, you need to deliver business value because this is what your customers really want.
Rodney Byfield is the CIO at Metro Tasmania, a large passenger transport organisation in Tasmania. His blog, “Singular CIO”, is at www.aussieicon.com.