What makers of business apps can learn from Angry Birds
Mobile apps aimed at business users too often look like they're made for a PC and shoved onto a phone or tablet.
Editor's note: This is a guest post by Quinton Alsbury, president of MeLLmo, which makes of mobile applications for businesses.
We've all been there--squinting at a spreadsheet on a mobile device, zooming in and out in attempt to make sense of the information. Each swipe of the finger triggers a blank screen as the data renders and slowly reappears and our frustration builds.
It shouldn't be that way.
Think about it. We've all also been on the opposite end of the spectrum, launching a game or social networking app so beautiful, fast, and interactive it's still mind boggling even as we near the five year anniversary of the iPhone.
So the logical question is, why do apps aimed at business users continue to cram features and functionalities designed for the PC into a mobile phone, ignoring all the things that make consumer apps successful--namely, design, speed, and interactivity?
Many business app developers are fundamentally misunderstanding the mobile user experience by producing "shrink to fit" versions of solutions designed for the PC. The mobile experience isn't about accessing several gigabytes of data; it's about quickly accessing the information you need, when you need it.
By "shrinking" existing PC tools, they're essentially jamming a large, complicated, and bulky system onto a smaller screen. What results are apps that contain too many features, respond too slowly and ultimately result in low user adoption and usage. All of the research, investment, and hard work of the development teams essentially go ignored, and productivity suffers as a result. Business app developers need to get their heads out of their dashboards and look to today's most popular consumer apps for inspiration.
Take a look at some of the most popular games currently found in the App Store. Games like Angry Birds, Tiny Wings, or Cut the Rope are not games people would play on a PC. But on a mobile device they are an addicting source of instant gratification. These games are intuitive, respond quickly and are highly interactive. In creating the best business app for a mobile device, developers must understand the core elements of what makes these games popular with consumers, and apply those elements to the design of their business solution.
At the risk of being self-promotional, it is these consumer-gaming principles on which we developed Roambi Analytics, which transforms data, dashboards, and spreadsheets into fast, interactive visualizations for the iPhone and iPad. Instead of focusing on total functionality, we developed for the user; creating visual analytics that users can intuitively understand and navigate--and yes, even make mobile business data immersive.
There are many unique opportunities to "consumerize" business solutions as IT managers are more and more seeking solutions that provide the best experience for the right device; realizing that simply shrinking or extending poorly designed solutions to the workforce will impact user adoption in the company. So, I expect as the mobile wave continues to swell, we'll see an increase in imagination when it comes to developing business apps.
If smart phones and tablets are not already the most dominant tool in the business world, they will be soon. And along with the influx of mobile business devices comes the importance to not just make information available on a mobile device, but make it available in a format that's built specifically for a mobile device. Whether you're flinging virtual birds into a stack of pigs to gain points, or downloading the most up to date business information for your company, an app's user is still a consumer.