Mobile apps are ideally suited to capture users’ mobile moments, and they can also provide convenience to users and help manage a company’s brand. As an app’s user base grows and the need to maintain relevancy increases, companies may clutter their apps with new features, which often unintentionally results in a compromised user experience. Enterprise mobile apps suffer from the same fate when features are packed willy-nilly into a multipurpose app.
Discrete versus multipurpose apps
Recently, I came across a customer who was trying to find the right mobile strategyfor his consumer apps — should he go with a monolithic, multipurpose super-app that has loads of functionality? Or break it into discrete single-purpose apps that do a few things well?
Good apps have consistent flow that accounts for the path and context of user activities, as well as a clean, uncluttered look that reflects the life cycle of user engagement. These factors and a few others related to user experience can help developers decide whether they should create multipurpose apps or discrete single-purpose apps:
1. User engagement cycle
Do the transactions or interactions captured from the app refer to a single engagement cycle continuum?
Capture the engagement points and use them to understand the range of activities that need to be, or can be, enabled by the app. You can group those activities as either part of a normal engagement cycle or as a special outlier activity. Consider a specialized single-purpose app for common outlier activities.
2. Duration engagement points
Is the duration of the engagement in those types of activities confined over a period of minutes, or days? Are the activities connected?
Start by breaking down the different engagement points and the range of activities related to that engagement point. For example, a hotel may have an app dedicated to user activities while staying at the property (room service, local menus, spa booking, late checkout) and another app for trip planning (searching, booking, rewards program activities and the like). Conversely, airline trips are in one continuum of the engagement cycle, and it makes sense to combine pre-trip, mid-trip and post-trip activities into a single multipurpose app.
3. Purchase category
Does a particular action in your app serve a special purpose? Or do all customers go through this engagement point?
For example, airlines may want to think of creating an app focused on package vacation planning, as the engagement cycle for this process is much different than booking a simple round trip. Similarly, baggage claim requests for lost luggage are an outlier activity that airlines may need to address with a separate single-purpose app.
4. Customer segments
Are there differences in consumer behavior depending on the category of products purchased?
For example, consider a retailer, such as Amazon, which creates an app to sell a large selection of general goods and other single-purpose apps that allow Amazon Prime customers to sample specialty items like videos and music before they purchase.
5. Role-based apps
For enterprise mobile apps, consider role-based apps. A store manager and commercial buyer have completely different engagement cycles and could likely use an app tailored to their own needs. It is often tempting for enterprises to have apps grouped according to systems of records, even if the users have different roles. When combined with the user context, however, mobile apps can be an invaluable tool in accelerating the cycle times of a business process. Plus, user experience is a key driver of business outcomes. Keep in mind that your systems of engagement, not your systems of record, should drive app design.
Take these considerations into account when you’re faced with a load of new feature requests. With a razor-sharp focus on the user engagement cycle, you can maximize the usability of your app by addressing user needs with the highest degree of empathy — this is the first step toward making mobile moments matter.