App as tool


In the past I’ve referred to a smartphone as being like a Swiss Army knife. A collection of individual tools that a person can use throughout the day. Some GPS based. Some based in augmented reality. Some focus on communication. If you subscribe to this and obviously I do, that places added importance on the quality of the app. Apps are not mobile sites and yet many treat them as such. An app is different because of the simple fact that they’ve chosen to download it. They’re committed to it on some level. Because of that, here are some recommended guidelines

Select one or two things – An app is a tool. Simplicity and depth make great tools. Think of a Phillips screwdriver. It’s an easy tool to use and most 3 year olds (and up) understand what it can do. Now think of one of those flexible screwdrivers that allow you to perform the same task but under diverse circumstances. Same function but more versatile or “deep”. That is what your app should do. Master one or two things to start and then take it further.

Niche focus – I talk about this quite a bit and it’s better to select a smaller target audience to start. “Everyone” is not a target audience. Think of one or two things that niche members need. What does a Foodie need? What do owners of a Moto Guzzi motorcycle need?

Information = search – If your developing a mobile app with a lot of information: good luck! Because of screen size and using the device outdoors, etc, it will be difficult at best. Since we’re all used to Googling things I would encourage you to put search at the forefront of what you do. Maybe voice to text? (An information based model is better for the iPad.)

Note: This post is focused on smartphone apps. iPad apps have similar rules but need to be tweaked. I’ll post on this soon.

By Michael Myers

I am an Associate Professor of Digital Marketing at the Daniels College of Business, University of Denver. I also consult with startups and established brands. I'm currently focused on artificial intelligence, cognitive neuroscience and culture. I am married to an amazing woman and have two incredible children. I was raised in Colorado and spend my free time with family, biking, snowboarding and going to the Pacific Ocean to SCUBA dive and/or surf. I'm passionate about architecture, design, street art, photography and the art that tattooing has evolved into.