Is Complexity Killing Your Mobile Efforts?

Author

Maribel Lopez, Contributor

March 24, 2015

We live in a land of choices, but this all too frequently leads to the tyranny of too much. Lately Lopez Research has received a large number of client inquiries for examples of best in class mobile apps and features. Everyone is searching for that magic formula of the perfect mobile app, product or service. For some, this formula means executing flawlessly on a smaller set of features (e.g. Apple). For other companies, it means creating multiple versions of a product to serve multiple markets (e.g. Samsung).

Almost every day of the week, I discover a new mobile product or service. Customers are inundated with options across vendors and within any given vendor’s portfolio. While I don’t believe there’s a single model that works in all cases, there are at least three pitfalls companies should try to avoid when creating mobile apps and services.

1. The product creates confusion through too many choices.

If your customers have to extensively research and evaluate the various offerings, the choices you’ve built are stalling sales, rather than increasing sales.  Ever try to buy a smartphone? For the most part, it’s a confusing set of devices and telecom plans. A company may believe its options are meaningful, but many of the choices aren’t easily discernable. Why do I need this feature? For example, there are 9 different versions of the HTC One and 7 versions of the HTC Desire listed on HTC’s website. It’s almost impossible for a prospect to understand how these products differ without researching the specifications for each device. If a prospect doesn’t have the time to complete their research, they’ll wait and return at another date. Or worse yet, they’ll buy another product because it’s easier to understand its value.

Also the concept of explaining a value proposition in plain English (or the native language of your choice) is typically non-existent. Technology companies are the worst offenders in this regard. Terms such as OMLED, 4G, and AES encryption are just a few examples of features that are difficult to understand. One reason SaaS companies are successful is that they’ve spent time to boil their offerings down into easy to understand categories (small, medium and large) where each successive layer incorporates functionality from the previous layers.

As we build employee or consumer products, we have to ask ourselves what is the minimum viable product (MVP). We have to execute flawlessly on the MVP and then develop advanced features.  If you’re in a more mature space, the MVP may require more features than a new category.

2. The product takes too long to develop.

Features also have an opportunity cost. Development consumes a company’s time and its technology resources. While your team is off perfecting a list of 100 features, the startup down the street may be landing key deals with your prospects (time). Additionally, your company may be funding development that only a few customers want or need (wasted money on IT resources).

Another common problem for product development is that engineers build things that are cool and complicated. Are these things that customers want or need? Successful software companies, such as Google, use real world beta testing to gauge what features are optional versus necessary in products.

3. Customers can’t readily identify your product or its key value.

Leading brands offer iconic products. How iconic is defined will differ by category. It can range from industrial design to superior service. To be successful, a product must elicit a reaction, such as easy to use, best industrial design, or best for some task. In the quest to be everything to everyone, a company’s product may become nothing special for anyone.

Meaningless product branding can also make matters worse. Branding is often a string of letters and numbers. This is another area where technology firms are key offenders. If you don’t give your product’s real names, no one will remember what model they’ve purchased. This means your customer can’t tell their friends about the great product they own. In the case of enterprise mobile software, I see a similar issue. Employees are often forced to know what version of the software they are running. Should your employee’s care if it’s version 3.8 or 5.2? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Apparently, this knowledge is essential for understanding what features will work.

There are many ways to define value, but you must be known for something. Decide what your brand value proposition is and build apps and services that support that. For example, if your company’s brand proposition is fast field service, your internal apps team should focus  on designing features that make it easier to get service reps to a client’s location with the right equipment. After the core requirements are nailed, the apps team can add other useful features, such as training videos and social collaboration.  If you’re designing a consumer gaming app, the MVP might be the best set of digital accessories for a game.

These are just a few of the issues a company will face when building products. The strive for perfection is an admirable goal. But as a wise person once said to me, “What is perfection? What does that even mean and how do you measure that?” It’s an abstract philosophical concept that means something different to every person. Perfection doesn’t mean every feature under the sun.

Yet, there are certain things that are always required across all products. First, your product should work. It should have minimal flaws and defects.  The easiest way to do this is to streamline the product’s features and make those features rock solid. Once a company has done this, it will achieve a certain level of adoption and can add features based on user feedback. This holds true for both enterprise and consumer mobile product development. For example,  a company’s internal app team should build a mobile app that performs one task or workflow superbly. The end user will then request additional features that make sense. The bottom line: don’t mistake features for value.

This article was written by Maribel Lopez from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


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