What Good Looks Like In Mobile Apps for Manufacturers?
“How do we make sure that the mobile apps are any good?” – This is a question that many of my clients ask. To be honest, I have struggled to answer this question. I suppose some of this is due to – what I discussed in my last blog – mobile apps are part creativity and part technology development. And when creativity is involved – be it a film, a piece of music, a painting or a mobile app, using a checklist or stuff like that to define ‘quality’ becomes a risky and uneasy undertaking.
However, there is a need to establish some sort of criteria so that Business gets a something useful every time they spend money. Towards this, we recently looked at some of the most talked about mobile apps in the manufacturing industry; spoke to individuals who use mobile apps frequently in their day-to-day life and also designers and developers in companies that are into mobile software products. Based on this, we are in the process of developing a reasonably robust set of factors that we believe can be help manufacturers separate the good from the bad. In this blog, let me describe a few of these.
User centric design: Today’s applications have a process-centric design. Mobile apps are different. They need to be designed with the user at the centre. What does the user want to do when he or she opens the apps? What information he or she wants at this point? Have we designed the apps keeping the users’ needs in mind?
Simplicity: As Steve Jobs, so eloquently commented – ‘simple can be harder than complex’. Have we really thought through the screen design and designed the app around 10% of the most important controls or are they mini web forms cluttered fields and text boxes?
Touch based controls & other such UI innovations: Another factor to consider are interesting stuff one can do with touch based controls and UI innovations such as pinch to zoom in/out or stretch, swipe up/down sideways can all be used to make the interaction special. Does the app use these features to create a ‘wow’ factor?
Location, location, location: Is there an opportunity to make the app more interesting and useful to the user by using the location of the user, customer contact person, machines etc.?
De-complex: Great mobile apps take some seemingly complex stuff and simplify it. Is there such an opportunity in the business? A seemingly complex activity, done by many people, many times and you can build a mobile app that can take the complexity out if not in all the scenarios at least in 70-80% of the cases? Think configure-price-quote; bill of material set up, quality inspection and other such scenarios.
Of course, there are 2 more important things to look at: time-to-market and return on investment – former needs to be as short as possible and later needs to be as high as possible. But sometimes a good mobile app requires a bit longer to design and how mobile apps will impact the business are difficult to anticipate. This is why enterprise mobile apps need a different thinking and delivery model and I hope to discuss some of that in my next blog.
About the Author: Satya Samal is a Senior Vice President with Hexaware and runs Hexaware’s Manufacturing vertical. He can be followed on Twitter @Satya_Samal