Building an Extraordinary Mobile App

I’ve weighed in before on when to use a mobile app rather than a mobile website. But once you choose the app route, how do you create something that consumers will actually use?

This was the question posed to a panel of application developers at the mHealth Summit. Their thoughts provide a great framework for anyone approaching the app market.

Start Out by Solving a Problem

Many apps fail right off the bat because they are based on a clever idea that just doesn’t appeal to the consumer. Don’t build first and then try to find a market for the app! A better approach is to find a distinct pain point for a group of people and then solve that problem with the app.

One way to find a need for a consumer-focused app is to mirror the patient’s journey with their health challenges. Condition-centric apps tend to deliver more value after diagnosis, educating consumers about their condition, connecting them with a support community, encouraging lifestyle change and helping with the long-term management of their disease.

Direct to Consumer is Really Tough

Consumers are fickle. They don’t download many apps. They don’t try many that they do download. Most of those are only used once or twice and then they’re abandoned or deleted.

As a developer, the panel encouraged building apps with the intent of selling to companies or provider organizations that will then take it to consumers rather than marketing to consumers directly.

Providers, on the other hand, have the opportunity to integrate apps into the work they already do with patients and physicians can prescribe it to patients.

Design the Experience Carefully

The panel encouraged the audience to focus their apps on the things they truly need to do and do those things well. In other words, be very focused when it comes to selecting features.

Design, too, is a major consideration. Be conscious of the way that you use space, time and effort. Follow a philosophy of “more signal, less noise.” Many apps use up their most valuable screen real estate with elaborate filter criteria rather than valuable content and information.

The most important information should also be the most obvious. Don’t give everything the same weight. To accomplish this, build the experience around the information that you’re presenting, not around navigation. The most important detail should be brought to the front and the context should be obvious from its presentation.

An EMR example was used to illustrate this idea. In a typical EMR, patient identifying information might be in small print in the application title bar, meaningful information is buried under levels of navigation, and organized by episodes of care.

Apps are a Commitment

This type of development can be expensive.  Many of theapps discussed by the panel cost upwards of $100k to build.  Why the big price tag? Well, the app market is complicated with lots of operating systems and devices to consider. Add in the ongoing commitment of supporting new devices and a stream of OS updates and it end ups being a significant investment.

The Future of Apps

Apps clearly have a role to play in the mobile landscape, but it’s important to understand where they fit.  To learn more about the future of mobile, download our free white paper.

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Ben Dillon

About Ben Dillon

Ben’s a big picture type of guy. He loves sharing new ideas in digital marketing, keeping a watchful eye on healthcare industry trends and seeing how it all intersects. A sought-after speaker, writer, blogger and current SHSMD board member, Ben’s an influential voice in healthcare marketing, helping organizations across the country embrace online strategies to engage health consumers. Combine his industry savvy with his background in software development and you can see why he’s also an important member of Geonetric’s software team, ensuring our content management system stays a step ahead of market needs. Ben holds a master’s degree in eBusiness and strategic management from the University of Iowa and a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan. When he’s not traveling and evangelizing, Ben enjoys cooking with his family and playing the Big House with the University of Michigan Alumni marching band.

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