There’s an app for that

Photo credit: Jan Persiel via Photopin.com

Product apps — Useful or Useless?

It’s no secret that mobile applications (apps) are increasingly popular and are often the accepted and preferred way in which people use and interact with services and products.

Most of us use apps on our mobile devices daily. When apps were originally introduced, they were primarily focused on being a convenient and quick way to use our favourite web services such as Facebook, Twitter and Google. Over the last few years, apps are more frequently being developed to allow us to control and interact with the products within our homes.

Apps have been developed for toasters, washing machines and even rubbish bins. While many of these apps are useful, some apps are clearly developed just so that the claim of “app-controlled device” can be made by the manufacturer. There is no focus on adding value for the end user. This approach is short-sighted, it devalues products with an app integration in the mind of the consumer. It becomes a gimmick.

If a product does have an app then it should add value for the consumer. It should enable new useful functionality, provide an improved interaction with the product and make using the product easier or more convenient. That’s not to say that to be useful a product app must be used by the consumer daily or that it needs to complex and stuffed full of every feature under the sun.

In fact, the opposite is often true, the best apps are there when you need or want them, but don’t require your constant attention to be functional. They are simply designed, easy to use and only offer the features that the consumer needs.

Apps offer product manufacturers an opportunity to provide a way for consumers to interact with their products in a way in which they are familiar and comfortable. If designed correctly, they are intuitive and often require little, if any, user instruction. An app can turn a potentially complex process or interaction for the user into a smooth and pain-free experience.

A product app should be useful and add value every time it is used. It should not be something you play with for a few weeks and never look at again. If an app truly adds value by being the easiest and most convenient way for the user to interact with the product then it doesn’t matter how often it is used, as the overall user experience has improved when it is used.

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