The nine rules for making a great brand app

The rise of mobile devices in Australia – we have one of the highest smartphone penetrations in the world – means the market is now at a place where brands must have a market leading app as a key part of their digital strategy.

Businesses are starting to recognise that native apps (basically any app specifically designed for the platform it runs on, whether it’s a mobile, tablet or desktop) are becoming an effective way to engage with their customers.

But developing and maintaining an app can be expensive. So before you start, first ask yourself, do you actually need an app? If all you want to do is provide a list of store locations for your customers you might be better off developing a mobile website.

However if you decide an app is the way to go, following are nine rules for ensuring its success.

We’re constantly approached by brands convinced they have the next big idea for an app. Apps are for life and can’t be built and forgotten about. Poorly designed and developed apps don’t reach any level of success in the App Store – there’s a lot more involved with app development than a big idea.

1. What makes your app unique?

The next question is what makes your app unique? There’s currently about 1.5 million Android and iPhone apps on the market, making it an extremely crowded space. Ask yourself, does your app have unique content? Has a competitor built a similar app and if so, why is yours better and what can you do differently?

2. It’s not just about the iPhone 

With Android market share overtaking iPhone’s in Australia, you need to consider developing for both platforms. Android development now accounts for over 20% of our revenue, up from nothing 12 months ago. The benefit of developing native apps for each platform is they provide a better experience for your customers and can also be monetised more easily than mobile websites by either requiring users to buy the app up-front or via an in-app purchase.

3. Determine your list of ‘must-haves’

You won’t have the budget to include every single feature into the first version of your app. For example, live video streaming is great for engaging customers, but does your app need this feature first time round? Work out the content that’s most relevant and necessary to your brand for launch and everything else can wait for later down the track. This approached worked well for the official AFL app for Telstra which maintained a 4.5-star rating through the year thanks to constant feature enhancements and updates. 

4. Have a clear idea of what your app will look like 

It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many brands don’t actually visualise what their app will look like before they send it off for development. Designing an app is similar to building a house – you wouldn’t expect a builder to start building without the architectural plans or a full set of drawings. We like to spend a lot of time upfront in the inception and scoping phase to ensure brands know what their apps will look like once it’s developed. Making changes in this initial phase is also a lot less expensive and time consuming than when the app’s in its development phase.

5. Plan realistic timeframes

The most common mistake marketers make is not factoring in enough time for testing the app. From a customer perspective, it’s better for them to experience a quality app that has been well tested than something that has clearly been rushed to market. Also remember that when submitting to Apple you need to allow yourself at least an extra two weeks for submission – so factor all of these aspects into your timeframes.

6. It’s never too late to fix your app

The app landscape has changed significantly over the last two years. Photo quality on the mobile has evolved and features such as live radio and video streaming were not possible two years ago. Many brands have not adapted to the current climate and have poorly rated and performing apps that are damaging their reputation. I call it ‘negative’ ROI that results from negative customer comments and app ratings.

7. Schedule frequent app updates 

Users like to see apps get better over time. Make sure you schedule in regular small releases or updates rather than long big ones in your planning. This way users will see the improvements and keep coming back to try the new features you have added.

8. Market Your App

Finally, you can have the app idea of the century but it won’t mean a thing if you don’t have the funds to market it. Marketing an app can often be more capital intensive than actually building the app. But without proper marketing you can be sure your app will drop to the bottom of the store.


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Danny Gorog
BY Danny Gorog ON 21 February 2013
Danny Gorog is founder and director of Outware Mobile.