What makes an app successful? One rule you shouldn’t ignore

by Hans Lambert Pedersen| Knowledge


With mobile app usage on the up, what one rule defines an app as a roaring success? Let’s explore.

Apps are a perfect way to present useful content and add functionality to the user experience. However, with over 2.2 million iOS and 2.6 million Android apps on the market, competition is tough.

If you want to create a successful app that stands the test of time and continually delivers a fantastic user experience, you need to follow one simple rule – the rule of utility.

But before exploring this rule to app success in more detail, let's first define what a digital solution or product is and why it plays a role in developing your app.

What is a digital product?

When you hear the word "product", there’s a good chance you’ll think of something that can be sold – probably something edible if you’re like me. However, for digital products, this only tells half the story.

At Stoked, we see digital products as something that creates value for a group of people – users, customers, or organisations. 

One good example of a digital product is MobilePay, as it provides value to its users. It gives them a simple way of transferring money or paying someone. At the same time, the product provides value to businesses because it enables them to easily receive payments.

Another example of a digital product is Facebook. It provides value to users because it enables them to remain in contact with friends and family. It also provides value to advertisers who want to connect with potential customers.

Digital products often take the form of a mobile app or a web application, which is the part of a website that brings value to the user. For example, this could be your online banking or self-service solutions for your retirement fund. 

In short, what defines a digital product is its utility.

What is the utility of a digital product?

When you develop a digital product, like an app, it’s important to make sure that the product brings maximum value to its users.

If we disregard the marketing element, you'll find that the company that provides the greatest value for its users in any given market will have the greatest success. Even if their competitors create an app or web application that offers more features.

A lot of companies often overlook this fact. But it's actually quite commonplace; you can see this truth in different aspects of life. Let us give you an example.

A job seeker can possess many skills, a good CV, and look like Ryan Gosling or Margot Robbie. But if his or her competencies are not relevant to the job they’re applying for, then the job will go to someone else who has more experience and the skills that the company is looking for.

To get the job, the applicant must create value for the company. In the same way, a digital product must create value for its users. It's that simple!

How does that affect our choices?

One objective is to create a digital product with the right features. Another objective is to meet the users' needs in the best possible way.

The solution needs to be easy and convenient to use. 

Here’s an example of how the function should best meet the need:

Let's say you needed to calculate a percentage, specifically what number is 13.32% of 4,159. There are different tools you can use, such as:

A. A pencil and paper

B. Your smartphone

C. A scientific calculator

All these tools can meet your need – i.e. calculate what 13.32% of 4,159 is. But most of you will choose option B because it's the easiest and most convenient. It’ll also give you what you need faster and give you a couple of extra minutes to squeeze in a cheeky coffee break!

If you want to challenge yourself, then maybe you’ll go for option A. On the other hand, some individuals such as an engineer or an accountant may think that option C is the best choice. 

In the same way, consumers will choose the digital product that best meets their needs. 

They don’t care if you have a multitude of extra features on offer. We all know the scientific calculator can do so much more than just calculate percentages, but it’s rarely used in everyday life. The other functionalities are superfluous. They’re not relevant to the user and the situation.

This is why it’s far more important that you focus on improving your app’s core features – the ones that meet the needs of your users and benefit them the most.

3 ways to create an app which adds value for your users

If you want to create value, you need to find out what your users find valuable. Their core needs. You can do this by understanding the people who use (or should use) your app. There are several ways you can gain this understanding. Below are three popular methods:

1. To understand people, talk to them

User insights, like qualitative interviews, are a great way to get to know your users and find out what creates value for them, not just what you think brings value. When conducting user insights, it’s important to ask the right questions and do it in a way that gives you honest, useful answers.

It sounds easy enough, right? Just be aware that you won't get much out of your interviews if you do not deploy a well thought out interview technique. 

A common error committed when conducting user interviews is to ask closed questions. This limits the answers and tells users what answers you prefer to get in advance. For example, when you ask the user "Would you rather have function X or Y?", this forces your own thinking onto the user who will simply repeat what you think.

But if you ask open questions, you allow the user to express exactly what he or she thinks. You may even get a completely different and ground-breaking answer that you have never thought of before.

If you’re going to conduct user interviews for the first time, we recommend that you read up on the topic first or get in touch with a UX consultant who can help you along the way. 

2. Understand what is being used

Another great way to gather user insights is to look at what features are being used the most. Now, there are plenty of tools you can use to gather information. One of the most popular is Google Analytics. Originally developed to track marketing activity and website visitors, this tool can be configured to give an insight into your digital product.

The main disadvantage of gathering this data is that there is no explanation as to why some features of your app are more popular than others. It may be that your features are not adding value or are difficult to use. Or it could be that the user is unable to find them because the features are hidden away. If you want to know more, then you need to combine this tactic with user interviews.

3. Talk to those who talk to customers

Try talking to your customer service team. A lot of frustrated users will express their grievances with your customer service team via the phone, social media and email. Take advantage of this feedback and use it to identify industry pain points.

Encourage your users to share their thoughts with you and make sure that your customer service representatives can easily pass this feedback on to you. 

Your digital product developers can then find solutions to these problems. 

Need a hand creating high value in your app?

Finding out how to best provide value to your users can be difficult. Value is a very abstract word. As humans, we naturally make decisions based on biases. However, to improve your app and create something that adds true value, sometimes getting a bit of objective input from outside people can be beneficial.

At Stoked, we help companies make smarter decisions based on value, rather than just creating empty and pointless features. Together, we can develop solutions that make sense for your users and your business.

If you think that your current app or other digital product is not meeting user expectations, feel free to give us a call. (We don’t bite.)

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