You can find around 2 million of apps currently in the app stores being Apple or Google Play; people spend daily from 43 to 185 minutes on mobile devices – you have seen the annual lists of ‘the top apps’ or the ‘best apps’ but what makes a great app GREAT?
There are many things we can list as important when building an app, but what are the reasons why some apps finish as the top ones as opposed to many others that fade away in oblivion?
Let’s give some crucial features to follow when creating an app.
The thing that is the most important for mobile apps is that they need to solve a problem for the user. In my last article, one of the questions you need to ask yourself prior to deciding to build an app is ‘Will it solve the users’ problems?’
Αsk yourself what are your users’ pain points and add functionalities which resolve them and facilitate the interaction.
Your app needs to meet the needs of your users – you should strive for a clear vision of what you intend to achieve with your app, conduct a research and once you identify users’ problems, it will help you to design your mobile app.
Simple and user-friendly
By simple, I mean UNCLUTTERED – only few basic features since the app needs to do one thing well being solve a problem for users. The best advice is to start with your core focus, do it well and only then shift your focus to additional features – especially if your users provided you with a valuable feedback.
The user experience (UX) plays a vital role when it comes to the success of your app hence follow a rule for mobile apps – the less is more.
Users like efficiency – providing them with a clear guide how to navigate your app will ensure more success for your app. If the users cannot understand your app process, they will surely abandon it.
Focusing on small details can help separate your app from other apps – you can include some interactions, animations, sound effects or other little quirks which can bring life back to your app and make it a bit more impressive than it already is.
Your app must be easy to navigate, user-friendly and visually appealing in order to retain the users for the future.
A poor app performance will surely lead to a negative user experience and losing the valuable number of downloads, revenue or brand recognition.
Think about some of the best apps you’ve tried – they don’t crash, they aren’t slow and they do exactly what you expect them to do. Great apps offer fast response time and their users can handle the app in just a couple of taps or seconds.
Your mobile app has to launch quickly the first time so not to keep the users for too long and you should improve and test your app regularly to fix bugs and/or slow performance – optimise your app for flawless performance and retest to make sure it runs well and without any delays.
Offline mode & Personalization
Most of the mobile apps need an Internet connection to work – offering your users the app which functions even offline can be a great asset. Although Internet is accessible almost everywhere nowadays, it is important to have this advantage – access to features and content offline allows users to continue promoting a positive user experience which makes a difference when ranking the top apps.
Moreover, it is highly important for your app to create a unique value – delivering real customer value to drive and enhance loyalty is the best choice. Since personalization can help to make mobile experience more human, provide the opportunity to create personal app experiences which will drive your brand recognition and conversion.
The app users want personalization in a way where interactions are tailored to their preferences, location and usage behaviour.
Very important: leverage profile information insights from the user history and deliver such personalized content to the user and in return, you will surely get a positive user experience and user engagement going along with the success of your app.
Currently, the two largest global platforms for app distribution are Apple’s App Store (iOS) and Google Play (Android) where as of 3rd quarter of 2018, Android users were able to choose from 2.1 million apps and iOS users from almost 2 million available apps. Such numbers tell a story – it is really important that your strategy encompasses these two platforms.
You can implement a cross-platform app development framework – cross platform tools can reduce the time and costs associated with developing apps separately on both platforms.
With all the apps today in the stores, offering your app for free will increase the possibility for your app’s success. Everyone likes to download apps for free and test them out prior to deciding if the app’s eligible to pay the price for it.
People like to see first hand what you offer without any risks so offering a free basic app is key to grab the users and increase traction. If they are satisfied with your app, they’ll be happy to pay for in-app purchases, try premium features etc.
This method cannot guarantee success but it will definitely increase the number of people who will give your app a chance and hence increase the chances for your app to become a success.
Test, Feedback, Update
You should always test and retest your app for bugs, crashes or slow performance so to improve your app performance. You should get an understanding of your customers’ needs, the context of using an app and the most important – pain points.
It is very important to create a channel for communication, ratings and reviews allowing users to connect, get help or simply provide feedback. Feedback is essential – gathering the insights from the users can help you to ensure having the most effective user interface for your app. Creating an easy-to-use feedback channel encourages communication with the users and helps preventing public negative reviews.
Besides testing and feedback, another important process is to create regular updates in order to provide a mobile app with lasting popularity. Maintain ongoing development and updates – release continuous app updates and keep users coming back for more.
Your app’s features and content needs to be always up-to-date and relevant.
Mobile app analytics serve to understand users’ behaviour – tracking the data can be used to measure the success of your app, provide further insights and identify the points where you can make improvements.
Inbuilt app analytics allow you to track downloads, user engagement and retention and these numbers can be a life-saviour for your app. You can get full insights into how to boost user experience and optimise marketing strategy which can make or break your app’s success.
Marketing Strategy in Details
No matter how good, flawless or streamlined your app is – if no person uses it, it will not be successful.
Make no such mistake to start the marketing strategy when your app is already developed – you need a solid marketing plan that will help you drive app installs and re-engage target users. You need to start with your marketing strategy much before the launch of your app since it gives a push to your users to try out your app the moment it hits the stores.
Great apps are promoted long before they were released for the public purchase in the stores.
Marketing and app launch strategy should contain 3 phases: pre-launch, launch and post launch – this way you provide the best strategy possible for an app to become visible and ensure that your plan promotes your app through various channels and techniques.
Nothing can guarantee the popularity of your app, but sticking by these simple features can greatly contribute your app’s visibility and provide a more solid chance for success.
We can say that we live in a Mobile Era – for a business owner, it’s not enough anymore to be present through the website since online activities are moving to the mobile.
People have already shifted to mobile devices over desktop and according to eMarketer, the time users spend on mobile increased in 2018 and the same mobile will surpass TV as a medium – no matter if you listen to the audio music, use social network apps, gaming or messaging – you went mobile.
So how do you decide if a mobile app is right for your business?
Before making a decision it’s a good thing to think about several points:
How about similar apps?
Check the ratings and reviews on the similar apps. It can give you a valuable insight and possibly some ideas for your own feature list.
Will the app solve users’ problems?
You should think about users’ pain points and add functionalities which resolve them and facilitate the interaction- e.g. scan&pay, mobile payments, social media networks etc. Target the WOW feature when building your app.
Will the app’s target demographic actually use the app?
Think about your end users: How old are they? Will they actually use the app and discover the benefits? Track some metrics and find out how many users access your site via mobile.
Will collected users’ data simplify the process?
Simplifying the process of data input such as billing or shipping addresses will offer a great benefit for the users and they will be more prone to return and buy again. If you depend on the return customers (food delivery service etc.), getting rid of the burdensome entry when using your app may end up increasing sales.
Do you have a customer loyalty program and/or other motivation?
An app can be a very effective tool for your loyalty program like rewarding customers with coupons, discounts and other incentives. Moreover, you can pick the feature that allows customers to share various content and thus promote your product or service on different social media like Instagram, Twitter etc. You can also use phone functionalities such as camera or accelerometer sensor, as these offer experience that a website cannot compete.
And what about branding?
When having an app, the users that download your app make your brand logo visible and considering “effective frequency” in advertising, it is said that the more people are exposed to your brand, the more they will recognize it.
So after you’ve analyzed all for-and-against reasons and realized your business needs to ‘app up’, let’s see some key benefits:
Mobile payment is said to be the most valuable feature on the apps. According to Clutch 2018 Small Business survey, the largest percentage of small businesses (26%) listed this feature as the top one.
Mobile payments offer greater convenience to the customers as they are faster and more secured way of payment. Plus, the payment process is less complicated which allows customer to pay without having to physically hand over cash or a credit card.
No matter if the app gives a chance to purchase online or in the store, these types of payments are getting increasingly common and can offer streamlined purchasing – especially as the consumers today are more prone for a quick and expeditive shopping experiences.
Value and Loyalty
Perhaps you will need to invest in mobile app for your business, but the value you will provide to your customers is irreplaceable. You should increase customers’ interaction with your business not only to promote sales but also to provide a certain value for them that they cannot get anywhere else.
One way to do that is through creating the loyalty program or digitizing it if you already have one. Instead of the old-fashioned point-collection card, maybe you can facilitate the program by collecting the same points via your mobile app.
Another idea is to offer additional coupon rewards exclusively to your mobile app subscribers which can encourage them to go mobile like AliExpress does. When your customers see how easy it is for them to enter your loyalty program and how effective it is, they’ll be dazzled and it is more likely that they will follow up on their purchases in the future.
The result is more return customers and more purchases.
Since apps provide a lot of information to their users like news feed, general info, prices, discounts etc., this can be an immense benefit for your business.
You can provide information to your customers directly, including sales, new products, discounts and promotions, and they can access it with just a tap.
You can communicate directly with them through push notifications and remind them about your product or service whenever you feel appropriate.
Just be careful with the push notifications – if you overuse them, it can evoke a counter-effect and you may lose valuable consumers.
In today’s world which is overloaded with mobile apps, you need to build your brand consistently and a mobile app can assist you with this.
It can greatly contribute to your brand awareness and what you really need is an app that provides functionalities your customers love, that is nicely branded and enticing in design.
More often your customers get involved with your business through your app, the sooner they will be interested to buy your product or service. Plus, you will foster trust in your mutual relationship – the more they trust you, the more likely they’ll engage with your business.
It’s all about creating trust, so your mobile app can strengthen your brand and also help you to educate your customers WHY they should trust you.
Communication and engagement
Your customers need an effective way to reach you – having a mobile app with the feature of messaging can make a difference in the way you interact with your customers. Nowadays, many people would prefer communicating with the business via message rather than via phone.
Most of the marketers actually see their apps as a means to improve communication with their customers.
If you’re a business owner and thinking to build a mobile app just to increase your number of new customers, you should think twice.
Mobile app is a powerful tool and although many business owners still think that getting an app is rather expensive and complex, they should keep in mind that mobile apps boost repeat visits, give a wide variety of online transactions, deliver coupons, send notifications to build sales with the customers, stimulate contact with your business, enhances relationships with your customers and more.
Mobile apps aren’t just for big brands anymore as more and more small and midsize businesses understand that they need to follow this mobile trend.
Whichever way you take, a mobile app is going to be a standard element of any business in the future.
You should decide today whether you’d like to be one of the first to set the foundation for your lucrative source of revenue in the future.
We’ve all heard about Artificial Intelligence (AI) but only few of us know exactly what it means and how does it impact our everyday life.
When thinking about AI, many Baby Boomers and X Gens think of the old sci-fi films and scenes where machines come alive and take over the world. But that’s just a funny representation how humans used to perceive the unknown.
If you remember the old TV show ‘Beyond 2000’, you may recall that their ideas and inventions were outstanding at the time, which only shows the potential of the technology.
What is in fact AI and what are the examples we can see on mobile?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is present in mobile phones for some time now, but in the prior generation of phones, it was cloud-based and required Internet to be accessed. The new generation of smartphones integrate the cloud-based AI with built-in AI on hardware – this innovation was announced by tech giants such as Google, Apple and Huawei.
Built-in AI hardware
AI’s been dominant in app development for several years already and has a potential to grow much more in the coming years.
Devices are now offering a number of features to build up AI performance – combining AI with these built-in elements makes apps more relevant and personalized.
Some of the examples are Apple’s iPhone XS (pronounced Ten-s), XR and iPhone XS Max (S-Max) which power various advanced features including Face ID, Animoji and augmented reality apps.
Immediate follower is Google’s Pixel 3 XL which is said to have the best camera phone according to TechRadar. You can blur the background with a single camera called dense dual-pixel autofocus – using the depth map, the Portrait Mode software replaces each pixel in the image with enticing blurry background known as bokeh. The result is a high quality image that matches the professional quality with just a quick tap.
The third big player Huawei released Huawei Mate 20, Huawei Mate 20 Pro and Mate 20 X. Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro are both powered by Huawei’s newest in-house processor the Kirin 980 chipset and have triple rear cameras – the phones’ AI chip offers a number of features, including ‘4D predictive focus’ (tracking the main object in the photo so to keep in focus) and more.
Apart from those two, Huawei Mate 20 X is intended mostly for gaming audience. Its large screen can display more information thus reducing amount of scrolling.
All three brands also paid attention to a better battery performance on the new generation phones which is partly due to the in-device AI.
Use of AI in Mobile Software
Tensor Flow Services
TensorFlow was created to be a reliable deep learning (DL) solution for mobile platforms.There are two solutions for deploying machine learning (ML) applications on mobile and embedded devices: TensorFlow for Mobile and TensorFlow Lite.
TensorFlow for Mobile has a fuller set of supported functionalities and you should use it to cover production cases while TensorFlow Lite allows targeting accelerators through the Neural Networks API.
Some common use cases for on-device deep learning:
Image Recognition (helps the camera to apply appropriate filters, label photos to be easily findable, uses image sensors to detect all sorts of interesting conditions);
Object Localization (augmented reality use cases, TensorFlow offers pre-trained model along with tracking code – the tracking is important for apps where you’re trying to count how many objects are present over time – it gives you a good idea when a new object enters or leaves the scene);
Gesture Recognition (effective way of deploying apps with hand or other gestures, either recognized from images or through analyzing accelerometer sensor data);
Optical Character Recognition OCR (Google Translate’s live camera view is a great example – the simplest way is to segment the line of text into individual letters, and then apply a simple neural network to the bounding box of each);
Translation (these are often sequence-to-sequence recurrent models where you’re able to run a single graph to do the whole translation, without needing to run separate parsing stages);
Text classification (if you want to suggest relevant prompts to users based on their previous readings, you need to understand the meaning of the text and this is where text classification comes in. Text classification is an umbrella term that covers everything from sentiment analysis to topic discovery, example likeSkip-Thoughts)
Voice Synthesis (a synthesized voice can be a great way of giving users feedback or helping accessibility, and recent advances such asWaveNetshow that deep learning can offer very natural-sounding speech).
Image Recognition Features
The technology of facial recognition is nothing new but it’s expected to witness new growth opportunities in coming years.
Mobile app creators try out new ways to apply the technology in an unconventional way since camera phones became a focal point for communication. Set of techniques that serves as a groundwork for such applications are ego-motion estimation, enhancement, feature extraction, perspective correction, object detection and document retrieval.
Since retail giants such as Amazon, Target and Macy offer image recognition with their mobile apps, the technology will likely become a must-have. Scan-to-buy options enable customers to shop directly from a retailer’s catalogue and in-store signage increased in demand and became a standard offer today.
Some retailers are employing image recognition that allows consumers to point their phone at any object and receive suggestions for the similar products. Direct example of this is IKEA Place app which they developed for iOS – the users can place the IKEA furniture into their homes with the help of AR and rotate around as if in realistic world.
Visual Search on Mobile
Mobile visual search is a great potential to create the new profit opportunities – brands are trying to utilize the smartphone camera’s increasing sophistication so to activate consumers and drive sales. In some cases, visual search is faster and more accurate than text or voice and smartphone is the perfect device for the visual search technology.
Leading Internet search companies such as Google and Baidu are racing to capture mobile visual search market as it begins to replace traditional forms of search.
Let’s say you saw something you really liked but you don’t know how to find it or how it’s called – visual search lets you find all those things you don’t have the words to describe. Google Lens is a perfect example – in 2017 Google Lens was introduced in Google Photos and the Assistant. As of 2018, Google announced three major updates: first, smart text selection that connects the words you see with the answers and actions you need.
Second update is a style match, e.g. if you like a specific outfit you can open Lens and see things in a similar style that fit the look you like.
Third update is that Lens now works in real time – it allows you to browse the world around you just by pointing your camera.
With a snap of camera, companies can use technology as a tool to determine the elements of their inventory, publishers can use it to source quality visual content from their photo libraries and Digital Asset Management (DAM) software can include visual search to organize and curate their customers’ content – visually.
Visual Search can help businesses in E-commerce to increase catalogue discovery, customer engagement and conversion rates.
Image Recognition API
Image recognition APIs train computers to analyze, classify and alter different types of pictures.
Let’s list some of them:
Clarifai independent team built system that accurately recognize most entities. Unlike any other APIs on the list, it’s offered scene recognition with a bonus of video analysis. For images, Clarifai can perform sentiment analysis, text recognition, logo and face detection, as well as more robust version of Resemble’s image attribute detection: brightness, colour and a dominant colour.
Cloud Vision by Google enables developers to understand the content of an image by covering ML models – it includes many of Clarifai’s key features and some add ons like: landmark detection and a simple REST API. You can’t make your own models to test against but you have the access to an API backed by Google which is constantly improved. Furthermore, you can build metadata on your image catalog, easily detect broad sets of objects in your images and moderate offensive content from your crowd-sourced images which is powered by Google SafeSearch. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) allows you to detect text within your images as well as automatic language identification.
On the other hand, Amazon Rekognitionprides itself with a more robust suite of facial analysis tools, including facial recognition (not offered by Google or Clarifai) across images, and detailed information like beard recognition (yes/no), and facial comparison (how likely is it that two faces are the same person?). It also pledges integration with AWS services (S3 and Lamba).
We still have The IBM Watson™ Visual Recognition service which uses DL algorithms to analyze images for scenes, objects, faces and other content. You can make and train your custom image classifiers using your own image collections – use cases include manufacturing, visual auditing, insurance, social listening, social commerce, retail and e-commerce. As visual recognition understands visual data, it can turn piles of images into organized information. With the IBM Watson Visual Recognition service, building mobile apps that can accurately detect and analyze objects in images is easier than ever.
Natural Language Processing
Your first contact withNatural Language Processing (NLP) might involved a GPS navigation app which allows you to verbally request directions to a destination – they are far more sophisticated than they used to be.
The best-known mobile app with NLP is SIRI, a virtual assistant (VA) technology followed by other VAs including Alexa, Cortana and Google Assistant.
NLP became more common in the medical and healthcare sector as the use here is wide. This is especially true when it comes to the apps for wearable health apps that allow you to use verbal input as this field has an increased need for hands-free communication.
Another usage is within detecting spam messages where NLP can be extremely useful. Spam filtering algorithms ‘read’ the content of blog comments, social media or email messages etc. Then, they compare it to the known spam messages and text patterns to identify the spam.
Also, there’s a huge potential in creating and pulling the data from the information stores – a user can give verbal input to search plethora of ebooks, websites, videos, footages etc.
There will be improvements within language translation apps and mobile apps that include talk-to-type functionalities.
It converts text pieces into more formal illustrations such as first-order logic structures that are easier for a computer program to manipulate.
NLU identifies the intended semantic from the multiple possible semantics which can be extracted from a NL expression and which usually takes the form of organized notations of NL concepts.
Regardless of the approach used, most NLU systems share certain common elements – the system needs lexicon of the language, a parser and the grammar rules to break sentences into an internal representation. The umbrella term ‘NLU’ can be applied to a different set of computer applications – from simple tasks like short commands issued to robots to highly complex ones such as full comprehension of the newspaper articles.
Text-To-Speech (TTS) Systems
TTS is a high fidelity speech synthesis which gives better user experience for some specific groups like people with learning disabilities, literacy difficulties, people who speak language but cannot read it, people with visual impairment and different learning styles, people who multitask or that access content from mobile phones.
Making your digital content audible helps online population to understand the text better and as people are increasingly going mobile, TTS can turn any digital content into a multimedia experience that people can listen to the content.
Some of the best text-to-speech software are:
Amazon Polly – Besides Alexa, Amazon created an intelligent TTS system called Polly. Polly turns text into lifelike speech. It supports an API that lets you easily incorporate speech synthesis capabilities into ebooks, articles and other media. It is easy to use – you just need to send the text through the API and it’ll send an audio stream straight back to your app.
Voice Reader Home 15 – Linguatec created Voice Reader that can quickly convert text (Word docs, emails, EPUBs and PDFs) into audio files. You can listen to those files on a PC or a mobile device.
Capti Voice – Speech synthesis apps are popular in education world as they improve comprehension among other things. Capti Voice lets you to listen to anything you want to read. You can customize learning or teaching as well as overcome language barriers.
The new cutting-edge TTS service launched by Google is Cloud Text-to-Speech powered by WaveNet, a software created by DeepMind AI. It analyzes the waveforms from a vast database of human speech and re-creates them at a rate of 24,000 samples per second. The final result includes voice with subtleties like a lip smack or accents. Google advises the new service provides 32 different voices capable of speaking 12 languages and users are able to customize factors like pitch and speed.
Speech-To-Text (STT) Systems
If you’re at the conference or a lecture, it can be quite hard to write down every word the speaker says and this is where speech recognition comes in to solve the problem.
As it is dependant on computational linguistics, it identifies spoken language and turns it into text.
These systems can differ in capabilities where simple ones can recognize only a selection of words while the most advanced ones can understand the natural speech.
Some of the best STT apps are:
Evernote for Android – Evernote allows you to record audio notes and turn those into the text. Unlike Dragon Dictation (see below), Evernote saves both the audio and the text file together so you can record what’s on your mind and sort the data later. The app is free, but since it uses Google Android text transcription service, it requires Internet connection.
Dragon Dictation – this app has only one button – just tap it and start talking and Dragon Dictation will take care of the rest. The text shows after you’re done with dictating and once the app finished transcribing your speech, you can send it out via email, or copy and paste to another app. You can also post directly to Facebook or Twitter or just save your text and use it later on. The app is for free for iPhone and iPad but it requires Internet connection.
Voice Assistant – this redesigned app has a fast access feature that makes it easy to post on Twitter, Facebook or email. With Voice Assistant, you can utilize auto copy feature to send your recordings to other apps such as Google Search, YouTube etc or straight to a wireless printer. It also has grammar correction and on-screen editing with suggestion for corrections.
Transcribe – this is a popular dictation app that’s powered by AI where you can import files from Dropbox. Transcribe any video or voice memo automatically, supporting 80 languages from across the world. Once the file is transcribed, you can export raw text to a word processor to edit. The app is free to download yet you’ll have to make an in-app purchase if you want most of these features.
Speechnotes – Speechnotes doesn’t require to create an account – just open the app and press on the microphone icon and you’re ready to go. When recording a note, you can easily dictate punctuation marks through voice commands. You can quickly add names, signatures, greetings, etc. by using custom keys on the built-in keyboard. Speechnotes app allows you to access plenty of fonts and text sizes – the app is free to download from Google Play Store but you have to make in-app purchase to access all features.
Chat Bots for mobile apps are classified as ‘recent’ sensation. But their beginning and development started in 1966 with Eliza – a medical chatbot which can be considered as the mother of all chatbots.
Chatbots are great for specific tasks – from simple ones, like answering basic customer questions to complex ones like helping with customer service questions. Chatbots won’t replace websites or apps but they work great when integrated with the same apps and websites to boost interaction with customers.
For companies, it’s essential to engage with their customers on a regular basis – mobile apps are the best platform for this engagement. Today, almost everybody would rather communicate with a company through their app than through email.
Chatbots can assist with privacy issues – that is the reason why many banks are building their own Chatbot platform like Erica from Bank of America. Using native chatbot helps to avoid privacy issues.
Some great examples of chatbots are: Duolingo, Erika by Bank of America (still in beta stage), Lemonade Maya (replacing brokers and bureaucracy), Operator by Intercom (customer service chatbot that handles simple tasks). I would also like to mention Messenger platform for chatbots (Facebook) which currently dominates the Web.
Benefits of bots in mobile are massive – customer interaction will be more lively and engaging, you won’t need to download an app for a task, chatbots will be your calculator, booking agent etc., they will recommend new things to you, help you with repetitive tasks and will save you a lot of space on your phone as they will be a number of apps in one.
Developers will see the benefits through seamless deployment of the chatbots for messaging or other instances, integration of chatbot with other apps – with an intelligent chatbot you can have easy-to-see features and additional functionality added to your mobile app.
Chatbots are adding quality to your mobile app esp with the intelligence support it gets from AI since it will help you increase conversions.
How Will Mobile AI Impact Businesses?
The major tech companies are incorporating AI algorithms into various devices to strategically retain users – it helps business to deeply engage users and provide more incentives to use their services.
Many devices and apps will be written with algorithms that adapt based on the learned behavior – the algorithms will be able to filter the data, find trends and adjust the apps themselves to create more meaningful opportunities for engaging the users. Forward-thinking enterprises will prosper on the advantages AI provides, as it continues to connect users to brands.
What Will Happen
The most obvious changes AI will bring are processing speed and efficiency — doing things faster and without multiple charges of your phone. The whole point of AI is to create more personalized and user-friendly relationship with our smartphone.
Google’s $400 million acquisition of DeepMind is a prime example of mainstream AI application. A study conducted by the Mckinsey Global Institute revealed that tech giants such as Baidu and Google spent between $20 billion to $30 billion on AI in 2017, with 90% of this spent on R&D and deployment, and only 10% on AI acquisitions.
Based on the progress in technology and the growing demand for smart applications, AI and mobile are the PERFECT match.