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What Features are Worth it? Refining Your App Ideation and Scope

When solving a problem, it’s tempting to want to solve every problem. Replacing your car battery? Might as well change the washer fluid. Have a routine check-up with your doctor? Might as well get that flu shot.

While it’s pragmatic to perform routine maintenance on your car, addressing tangential pain points when designing your app can bloat your budget, muddle development, and reduce your app’s user experience. Before deciding what features your app should use, figure out the main pain point you want your app to address.

“I always ask my clients to describe what their app does in two sentences,” said Nick Jones, CEO of NS804. “If they can’t do that, I know we need to work together to create a concrete, straightforward idea.”

The key to successful development, and in turn, a successful app, is to identify your primary pain point, and then focus on solving that, and only that. All other solutions will stem from your original pain point. It’s like writing a thesis statement – your overall idea needs to be summed up in a few sentences – later, you can get into the details.

“Do your one thing right,” said Jones. “and do it well.”

So, you’ve done your market research, and have identified your main pain point. How do you implement your findings into a successful set of features? Are there certain app features that will provide the functionality your users need at less cost than when compared to another? What even is a feature?

First, let’s go over just what an app’s features entail. Widely used features are as follows:

  • Mapping/GPS/Navigation
  • Social Sharing
  • Back End Management / Reporting
  • Game Center
  • Push Notification
  • Augmented Reality
  • Virtual Reality
  • Real Time Updating
  • Third Party Tool Integration (API)
  • Graphics

The more features your app includes, the more time your app spends in development, and the more money you will inevitably spend. Out of this list of features, graphics (including AR and VR) and back end integration are the most time-consuming and expensive features to include in your app.

Keep in mind that certain features can be used, but in a sparing manner. Your app might need a back end to manage data, but it might be manageable without website integration. Your app may need to use graphics to convey ideas to users, but icons might suffice instead of 3D graphics. Find ways to trim the fat from your app’s features, and in turn reduce your budget.

Features are the core of your app, and they include everything from simple fields for users to select, to massive back end infrastructure to manage cloud data storage for millions of users. There’s a wide range to choose from, so make sure you choose wisely.

How do I implement my findings from my market research into a successful set of features?

Building Apps with Strategy

Let’s say you run a farmer’s co-op, and based on market research, you want to offer your customers an easy way to select their choice of produce to be delivered each week.

That’s all you should focus on for now; providing your users with a simple interface for selecting your currently offered produce, and fields for inputing their delivery address and contact data. To achieve this, the only features your app would need to function are:

  • Simple graphical fields for selecting produce
  • Simple fields to input user address and contact data
  • Back end management for storing and accessing a user’s address and contact data

Believe it or not, that’s really all your app needs to complete your goal. Adding quality of life features – such as a produce rating system used to give customers product suggestions based on food they like – can be added in the future.

Your delivery drivers can input delivery addresses directly into their own phone’s navigation system, so there’s no need to implement navigation in your app. Need to contact a customer? You can use the contact data provided to call or text. In the future, internal app messaging might be something to consider, but you’re not making a messaging service. Don’t be afraid to rely on other apps’ functionality – your users aren’t downloading your co-op delivery app to check the weather.

The more features your app has, the more time is needed to test and debug. When you focus on solving one problem, you reduce your development and testing time, which saves you a lot of money. The less features your app implements, especially at launch, the more robust its user experience will be, as new users will not only be introduced to a simple, easy to understand UI, they also won’t be confronted with as many bugs (or optimally, none at all).

First impressions are important, and it’s no different for your app. If a user downloads your app, and finds they are inundated with various options, numerous fields, and a lengthy learning process, they’re much less likely to continue using your app. Keep in mind that your app most likely isn’t the only one on their phone, so don’t try to do everything.

Another benefit to focusing on solving one pain point is smaller file size. Apps take up space just like any program, and 1 in 6 users delete one app per week to free up storage space. If your app isn’t taking up too much space, it’s less likely to be deleted to make room for another app.

Your app only has to do one thing, but it has to do that thing better than anyone else.

How do I know I’m providing my users with enough features to satisfy them?

Satisfied Users

After solving your initial pain point, this question is solved by listening to user feedback.

User reviews and feedback are fantastic channels to understand your user’s mindsets. This direct-from-customer research is a goldmine for you; use the reviews and feedback to develop features that improve your app’s user experience and functionality.

When you listen to your users’ requests, you not only develop your app based upon free market research, you strengthen your relationship with your user base. Your users requested push notifications to alert them when your co-op has delivered produce to their door? Do that. It’s a tangental solution, but it still circles back to the app’s main pain point – hassle-free produce delivery. If a user requests a game to keep them occupied while they wait for their delivery, don’t do that. It’s a simple example, but some user requests can be off-track from the main pain point your app solves. Learn to distinguish the bad from the good.

Here’s a litmus test for determining a good feature from a bad one; if the extra feature provides a more complete solution to, or enhances the user experience when solving your main pain point, it’s good. If it doesn’t directly relate to your main pain point, you can decide whether or not it’s truly needed. There’s no definite answer when determining if a feature is bad, but it is easy to figure out if it’s the right fit for your app.

It’s almost like writing a novel. Does your newest chapter fit within the story’s theme? Does the dialogue progress the plot? It works very similarly with app creation – if a feature expounds upon the central solution your app provides, it’s most likely a useful feature. If you’re finding it hard to justify why a character in your story wears flip-flops in the winter, it might not be integral to your plot. In the same vein, if a feature isn’t easily justifiable when held up to your app’s main pain point, it might be better to forgo it.

It’s always better to pick a manageable number of features to focus on – and to execute those features as best as possible – than it is to cast a wide net in an attempt to catch users with multiple functionalities. Venmo, for example, does one thing – money transfers – and it does them well. The average smartphone has 35 apps installed on it – you’re not competing to provide the answers to every problem your user has – you’re focused on providing the optimal solution to one problem out of those 35.

When you provide your users with an easy-to-use app that solves a specific pain point in their lives, they won’t mind if your co-op produce delivery app doesn’t provide real-time map updates, as long as they receive their delivery at the scheduled time and date. Build your foundation first – then add the decorations.

Measure twice, cut once

Plan Ahead

It’s an old adage, but it rings true. Before taking any steps in developing your app, identify the pain point you want to solve in your target audiences’ lives. Then research that pain point; How many people does this effect? How do they handle this problem currently? What are they asking for? How can you capitalize on this need? What are the most efficient ways to accomplish this?

The first webcam was used by programmers to livestream a coffee pot, so they wouldn’t waste a trip to fill up their mug; it solved their individual pain point, but it didn’t solve the true need millions of other users had. Before executing an idea, ask yourself; is this the root, or a branch?

When you have a solid foundation, and a main focus, build your app around that and only that. If there’s another pain point you discover that isn’t in line with the solution your app is designed to provide, make another. That’s another revenue stream for you.

Do your one thing, and do it well.

Interested in learning more about efficient development techniques? Check out our Minimum Viable Product page.

Not All Apps Are Games & Marketing

 

Mobile Application Uses

When you consider the use of smartphones in your company, it’s easy to see how you’d view them as a business tool first, but also as a potential instrument of distraction that can be a drag on productivity in your organization.

At the same time, you and your fellow stakeholders have heard that there are some benefits when it comes to the internal use of business apps in the enterprise environment.

Business Apps For Efficiency, Communication & Collaboration

Rather than merely being used for games and marketing tools, apps have a place in the business environment to improve efficiency and foster more communication and collaboration among your employees.

Before you start brainstorming about what needs to be included in your own app, here are some options to consider:

App Integration with Business Software You Already Use

Your first consideration should be how the new app will work with the business software already in place. Standard office suites including a word processor, spreadsheet, email and presentation software should connect seamlessly with the app.

But it should also integrate with your CRM application as well as software being used in the human resources department.

For best results, ask IT and other department managers to report on what software they consider essential to daily operations. Then, you’ll have the details to make a case for inclusion or not when you determine what internal software should integrate with the app you wind up developing.

Company Issued Smartphones and “BYOD” Policies

The use of smartphone apps in the enterprise environment has increased in recent years, noted in a recent report from CIO, which described an emerging trend of Bring Your Own Device or BYOD activity.

The smartphones may be company-issued equipment or personal devices owned completely by the workers.

In either case, if workers are using these devices to access proprietary data, you’ll want to issue guidelines to protect your confidential information as well as intellectual property. Best practices will call for your company to build an app that includes the latest in encryption and other security measures.

You can include a customized dashboard in your app that will be cross-platform. That way, it won’t matter if some workers carry iPhones while others rely on Android models. The app will appear and function the same on either type of device.

Supporting Employees While They’re on the Road

Think of all the workers who leave your premises to go out on sales calls, attend trade shows or make presentations to investors. You may want to give them access to the same tools as those used by employees who remain at headquarters. You may also want to support local employees who work from home or even members of the team who participate from disparate locations.

A customized app that you create for your employees can help them do their jobs more easily. For example, “If one of your salespeople is at a conference, and he or she starts networking and picking up new potential leads, how do the details of these leads make it back to your internal database?”

That’s a question posed by a report from TechCo, which described the traditional way of taking care of this problem would be to take local notes out in the field, only to type them into the system once they get back to the office.

That’s a tremendous waste of time. No workers should ever have to enter the same information twice. Instead, a company app will let them enter this information directly into the CRM remotely.

It will be much more efficient for salespeople to update leads in real time, while the details of the encounters are still fresh in their minds.

Cloud Computing Integration

Keep in mind that your employees’ smartphones will have limited storage capacity. What’s more, it would be foolish to rely solely on their internal memory to keep crucial files that your company uses day-in and day-out. With that in mind, you will want to make sure that the new app you develop will have the ability to integrate with cloud computing.

For example, let’s say an employee has notes about a new customer to enter into the CRM. Being able to do this while in a remote location instead of waiting to get back to the office will do wonders for your efficiency.

Another common situation involves digital contracts that headquarters want to see ASAP. When everyone in the enterprise can save files to the cloud, you have an easy path to maintain backups of crucial data.

Do you frequently send workers out into the world to put on demonstrations for interested buyers or members of the media? An app’s access to the cloud can provide access to files that might normally be too large to store on employee devices.

You also don’t need to make low-resolution versions of photos and videos for use on a smartphone. Accessing these demo files wirelessly will be a snap when you serve them from your cloud computing services provider.

What’s more, with a cloud computing feature, you can resume operations quickly even if data is inaccessible locally because of server issues in your own data center.

Collaboration and Communication

It’s common for people to think of mobile apps only as customer-facing, often with some aspect of marketing and lead generation built into the software. Or, the apps are designed for entertainment and distraction. But your new app can be a tool that promotes communication and enables members of the team to work more effectively together.

You’ll want to ensure that the app lets employees access all the same files from the central server. The files will be updated, so workers won’t be concerned that they are looking at obsolete information.

Include communication channels in your new app, such as text messaging and audio or video conferencing. Employees can even meet virtually without the need to book time in a conference room. Social media and email integration can further strengthen employee communication via the app.

No Need to Rely on Off-the-shelf Apps

The demand for enterprise smartphone apps will increase to five times the demand for development resources, according to CIO. This highlights the need to begin development with a solid strategy. “Part of that strategy should include getting stakeholders on board, defining the ROI and clearly illustrating who the app will help, and why.”

Furthermore, you’ll need a “go-to-market” strategy to promote the enterprise app internally, seeking feedback and otherwise encouraging engagement with employees.

It’s easy to see how relying on off-the-shelf apps may not be the best approach for your company. However, if you lack the internal resources to develop an app on your own and see no clear path to hiring experienced developers to join your effort, you can always partner with experts. It is probably more cost-effective than you’d think…

Interested in a mobile app for your organization? Read our resource about “The Hidden Costs Of Building Mobile Apps” to continue learning. Or, give us a call at 804-451-6016 with questions.