How to Make Your App Both Unique and Useful

If you’ve worked with your development team to create a new mobile app or SaaS application, you’ll realise that it is more challenging than it at first seems. To begin with, it’s easy to be driven by the novelty of the solution. You’ve decided what it will do, you’ve got great ideas about which features you’ll include, and you’re sure it will help productivity soar in your business. However, while your design team works extremely hard, the app doesn’t live up to expectations. Everyone is excited to use it to start with, driven by the novelty, but shortly after, users start leaving the service and going back to their old ways of working.

When it comes to building applications, you’re looking at a significant investment of both time and money, so you can’t afford to create a novelty. Fortunately, as a team of designers, developers and product managers, there is plenty you can do to avoid that from happening and to build something that is both unique and useful.

The Importance of Building Value 

There are two sides to building an app. The first, and arguably the most important, are the powerful features. These are the elements of your app that deliver consistent value to your users. Whether they are making communication easier or saving time, they give users a real reason to keep coming back for more. And, fortunately, you can measure how successful these features are by looking at metrics such as time in-app, customer retention and positive feedback. Ultimately, you need your application to deliver consistent value to its users if it is to be a success.

The other side to building an app is its look and feel, including clever functionality and attractive design. Now, these aspects can certainly draw users in and tempt them to use your solution. However, if your app focuses too much on them, it can end up being no more than a novelty. An app needs to do more than be attractive; it needs to offer long-term value. Novelty features, designs and functionality should be used carefully. It is easy to get caught in the trap of thinking you have something valuable when it isn’t really the case.

It’s vital to focus on utility and long-term purpose before getting caught up in the beauty of what you are creating. To do that, you need to create something that actually solves a problem. However, that’s not to say that you can’t have both. You just need to be careful that your app isn’t entirely impulse-driven; building value is key. Make sure your solution is consistent, value-driven and authentic before you look to making it creative, attractive and fun.

The Difference Between Simple and Simplistic 

Once you’ve got your head around the fact that you need to focus on value first and foremost, it can make your application development project appear far more simple. You are looking at one core issue and how your app will solve it. However, the trick at this point is to make sure that you don’t reduce your solution to something that is too simplistic. It is no good presenting data in a simplified way to users and then not considering what they are going to do next. And, this is the difference between simple and simplistic. A simple app will make every step and task easy for the user; it will deliver content in digestible chunks and carefully consider the user journey throughout. A simplistic app, on the other hand, doesn’t consider more than one element and that, in turn, makes the app less useful. You should aim for your app to be simple yet still satisfy product and user requirements.

Why Constant Feedback is Vital

When you are developing an app, every aspect is dependent on other people. After all, you are developing a product that aims to solve a user problem. You are dependent on the user from the very beginning to bring forward their problems. So, learning to listen to people is vital. It starts with user research and understanding the problem and then moves on to asking for their feedback, and most importantly, taking that feedback on board.

User testing is a fundamental part of app development that gives you the ability to see real people using your product. You can request open or tailored feedback that focuses on a specific experience. User testing gives you the opportunity to see how users move around your app, even allowing you to watch them interacting with it. If there are unwanted page skips, incorrect flows or low click-through rates at certain stages, you should be able to pick up on it.

By creating a constant iterative loop of feedback and development, you are able to verify that your app works as intended. This will give you more confidence that your app is actually solving the problem it set out to or will highlight if it has become confusing or overly simplified. By knowing what your users think, you can ensure your product won’t just be unique, it will be useful too. Iteration and attention to feedback give you the power to move closer to delivering consistent value.

Will Your Next App Be in It for the Long Run?

As app designers and developers, we all want to build applications that are beautiful. However, that should never take over from the core aim to create something that solves a user problem. By focusing on building value, creating something simple and constantly requesting feedback, you have much more of a chance of delivering long-term satisfaction to your users.

In summary, here are things you can do to make your next app both unique and useful:

  • Focus on building value – it’s vital to focus on your app’s long term purpose before getting caught up in the beauty of what you are creating. Make sure you are actually solving a core user problem and that your solution is consistent and authentic. After that, you can look at making it creative, attractive and fun.

  • Make it simple, not simplistic – while you are focusing on one core user problem, that doesn’t mean your app should be simplistic. Make sure your app delivers content clearly and concisely, but isn’t too simplistic by not considering the entire user journey.

  • Request constant feedback – user testing allows you to see how real people will use your product. This is vital to development and will help you pick up on any issues early in the process. You can then get a true feeling of whether you have the right balance between novelty unique and useful elements.

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About the author

Michael Ridland is the Co-CEO and Founder of Xam Consulting.

Design-led problem solving delivering digital solutions.

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