GT Savannah's Russ Clark: How to Avoid Mistakes with Mobile Apps

Russ Clark

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

While you may think of mobile apps as those things your kids download so they can play Minecraft, they actually have a very important role to play in business. Usage of mobile apps -- defined as a computer program designed to run on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers -- grew by 76 percent in 2014 and are on path to reach $70 billion in annual revenue by 2017. 

If you’re not reaching, engaging and monetizing customers on mobile, you’re likely losing them to another business. Most business owners don’t realize how much untapped potential lies in this marketing medium, especially small, local businesses.

Most anyone can create an app; however, entrepreneurs and developers often overlook aspects of the process that affect its success. It is important to fully think through the business model, target audience and user experience; test the concept before before spending a considerable amount of time and money to develop and launch it; and know the key negotiation points that business people and programmers should agree on in advance.

With so many apps on the market (1.5 million Android apps and 1.4 million apps in the Apple Store), keep these common mistakes in mind so yours has a better chance at succeeding:

Mistake #1 – Failure to test on multiple devices. Every device has its nuances and testing your app on each one is critical. You only get one chance at creating a positive experience so make sure your end users aren’t the ones to discover that your app doesn’t work on their devices.

Mistake #2 – Not paying attention to the demand you put on users’ phones. Your app may be the most useful tool around, but if it’s draining your customers’ batteries or memory, that’s a matter of importance. The architecture behind your app is the key. Don’t build an app that generates comments such as, “My phone used to last all day, but ever since I added this app, I’ve had to start charging it much more often.”

Mistake #3 – Doing a poor job of handling network disruptions. Mobile apps that constantly have network coverage issues aren’t useful at all. Customers will think your app is broken, even if the problem resides with the wireless provider. Have a plan to gracefully deal with loss of network activity.

Mistake #4 – Testing only on the simulator; not a real device. Simulators are great for rapid prototyping, but they cannot test the true user experience, such as the timing of display events and gesture input like swiping and touch-screen sensitivity. To create a great app, make sure you do both. Not only are you more likely to avoid public embarrassment and recalls, the insights you gain will be invaluable.

Mistake #5 – Using voice interaction technology when it doesn’t make sense to do so. Many people are enamored with voice command; however, the technology is tricky. Oftentimes when people use it in a public space or where many people are using the same app, the app doesn’t work well. Background noise often is a cause. Keep these limitations in mind and make sure the technology will work well if you offer it to your users.

The mobile revolution is enabling innovative people to turn their ideas into tools that solve problems, reach millions of users and create significant revenue. For more tips on creating a great mobile app and how to navigate the details from concept to launch, attend one of Georgia Tech’s mobile apps courses

Russell Clark, a senior research scientist in Georgia Tech’s School of Computer Science, engages hundreds of students each semester in mobile development and emphasizes innovation, entrepreneurship and industry involvement. He earned a Bachelor of Science in mathematics and computer science from Vanderbilt University, and master’s and doctorate degrees in information and computer science from the Georgia Institute of Technology.