First and foremost, what is the purpose of the app?

The key to a successful app understanding its ultimate purpose from the very beginning of the project. It may sound obvious but out experience is that without this core understanding the project suffers from a lack of focus. As such it is essential there’s a clearly defined, shared and agreed goal that the project is trying to achieve.

Occasionally prospective customers suspect that their business needs a mobile/app element, but don’t have a clear idea what that app should be. In these circumstances it’s best not to start work on an app but instead try to narrow down one or two important organisational or end-user challenges that the app needs to solve.

The most effective apps tend to perform a small number of focussed tasks quickly and efficiently while exploiting the inherent benefits of a mobile platform. This might be showing the weather or other local conditions, or allowing you to manage a taxi journey. Simplicity is the best thing an app can offer so don’t be tempted to try and solve every conceivable problem in a single app.

Who is going to use the app?

Alongside the purpose of the app it’s important to have a clear idea of who your target users are. This will influence what the app includes, how it is designed and some of the other key design decisions.

If a group of users can be recruited early in the process it is helpful to share key concepts with them before the project starts. This provides validation to your ideas and ideally seeds an evangelising user base. Similarly, this group can be very helpful towards the end of the project, assisting in testing the app before it is released.

Could the information be better supplied in a different way?

We often get asked for an app version of an existing website, however the way information is presented and organised on the web is usually very different to how it could and should be in an app. That said sometimes it's appropriate to simply provide information as a responsive web site optimised for mobile devices. The important consideration here is what delivers the most appropriate user experience.

In my next blog post I will discuss matters to consider when delivering content via a mobile app.

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