Truths about mobile applications

If the primary function’s equivalent is on the web or software application: cutting back on the features to make it “mobile-friendly” is probably a bad solution.

Repurposing a computer screen application for a mobile screen is a bad mental place to start. But if you are in that situation, never assume that just because users use a feature online, they will want it to on their mobile. Assuming the won’t want it is almost as dangerous.

People’s expectations of mobile applications are still very new. Thus mismatched expectations are likely, which is perhaps the most common source of user frustration and abandonment.

If you can do the same thing on a laptop or even desktop, you probably will.

Time and location sensitivity are critical questions in measuring usefulness of a function for a mobile application.

The logic structure you can hold to is: In less than one hour, I will be in front of my computer, with an Internet connection. Is there a typical reason why I need to use a function, now, where I am?

Someone that would want or use a mobile application very likely has a laptop and is very likely adept at finding Internet connections.

If you can do something on your laptop or desktop an hour later, you probably will, instead of trying to use a mobile application.

Most people are procrastinators. It doesn’t take much for them to convince themselves to put off a task. If they aren’t this type, they are probably the “efficiency expert” type. This means they are very good at prioritizing and optimizing their schedule. Either type will conclude that they will wait to complete the task.

Mobile banking example: it is not very valuable to me to be able to do online banking on my mobile because

1. It is much better done in a standard screen browser
2. Most online banking tasks are not time sensitive enough for me to bother with mobile handset access. (I can do it later on my laptop.)

A valuable, easier to deliver service is a great “nearest ATM” finder. Psychology: an email marketing message promoting mobile banking will elicit from most people the “eyes-glazed-over” response. An email marketing message promoting a nearest ATM widget for your phone will elicit a decision…either “Cool” or “Lame.” Marketing 101: Eyes-glazed-over causes indifference, which causes apathy, thus indecision. No matter what, you want a decision.

Simple is better on the mobile. But the caveat is if you are providing an application on the mobile that has a commonly used web- or software-based equivalent, you have to provide all the functions of said application on the mobile or you risk a mismatch in expectation — or even an outright disappointment. The simplicity imperative and the above caveat are opposing forces.

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