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7 lessons from building SA’s top apps

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Building an app that is a appealing, appropriate and offers a good user experience is sometimes quite a challenge. LYNETTE HUNDERMARK, co-founder of Hundermark mobile solutions, shares some tips for building a popular app.

We love mobile and have been fortunate enough to work on the initial versions of many of South Africa’s leading apps over the last 7 years. In some cases, we have continued working with these brands throughout the course of their app journeys and these are some of the fundamental (as well as subtler) learnings anyone looking to make a dent in the space can take from this experience

Lesson 1: Your app target audience is never EVERYONE

It may seem like common sense, but even today we still get approached by potential clients wanting to create an app for ‘everyone’ with no real understanding of who their app target audience is. The only time we have ever been approached to create an app for ‘everyone’ was when we worked on the initial SterKinekor apps and we still use the term “everyone” somewhat loosely.  Even if you have a defined audience in mind for your app, you need to understand their personas and what the core goals of these users are likely to be.

Lesson 2: Establish what value your app is going to offer to its target audience

Why will your target audience need an app? With over 2 million apps available in both the Google Play and App store (Statistica 2017, March), there is literally an app available for almost anything and everything. This makes for a tough competitive landscape, so when launching your app, be aware of how you’re going position your app in order to set it apart and what value your app will bring to the table.  The only core differentiator is going to be the unique value you are offering.

Lesson 3: User Experience is key in app success

Developing an app is easy and there are many development companies out there, who could easily put together an app in a short amount of time, however apps are consumer facing (be it a B2B or B2C customer) and since customers are spoilt for choice, there are high expectations in place for an outstanding user experience.  What does this mean in simple terms? Plainly put, it means having an app that makes efficient use of small screen real estate, one that considers phone functionality and most importantly from a South African context, considers data costs (which is very important for lower LSM clients).

Lesson 4: Your app is not a once off cost

Having an app presence alone is simply not good enough; phones changes, operating systems change and it’s up to you as a brand to stay abreast of this change and also stay on top of the current trends in order to predict possible future changes. Performance is everything, so you need to be in a process of constant iteration. A number of the brands we have worked with since 2011 have already released over 1300 app iterations.

Lesson 5: Understand how personal the mobile device actually is

Effective mobile design and experience begins with understanding how fiercely personal the mobile device is. It has become more of an appendage rather than a device. With that as starting point, we can then easily understand that mobile is connecting us to our digital worlds but increasingly it is also about our activity in the real world and real connections.   It acts as a bridge between the physical and digital worlds and that is exciting for us as marketers because it provides us with an opportunity for brand the messaging to start on mobile and then extend to the real world, with real results to match.

Lesson 6: Continue surprising and delighting your customer

So, you’ve released an app, now what? Chances are good that in this cut-throat, competitive and break-neck speed world we live in, your competitor will soon release an app with the bare minimum functionality that yours has. Chances are also good that people will become bored since attention is a hard-won commodity these days and customers want to be intrigued, engaged and entertained with the latest and greatest EVERYTHING.  With this in mind, in order to retain your app customers, you do need to continuously release features that will add value to them.

Lesson 7: Push notifications are not a silver bullet

They can, however, be used effectively if not treated as SPAM. Effective ways of using push messages includes:

  • Personalisation – since you are already collecting data from your users, you should have access to insights about their online behaviour, location, preferred usage time etc. This gives you a unique opportunity to be able to fine tune and target your messaging. Make it personal. Ask your users what they’d like to receive or see more of and in return you can give them the valuable information they’d like, based on their needs. That’s a value-add.
  • Carefully consider in-app messages: Keep in mind that every push does not deserve a shove. Some messaging may be better served inside the app itself rather than running the risk of annoying your users by sending an unwarranted home screen notification. Never lose sight of the fact that it is all about your customer and push messaging can come across as invasive, as it takes someone out of what they are doing and distracts them.
  • Make it worth their while: This is the day and age of instant gratification. When users click on a notification, make sure that the messages linked to it provide them with real value and relevance. Strive to deliver value through the message itself, versus always teasing users for app opens which can be counterproductive.
  • Adopt rich, interactive formats: Whether these be from new notification priorities in Android Oreo and iOS11, to including media and buttons within messages themselves, app marketing teams have more tools at their disposal than ever before to spark user intrigue and gain a better understanding of what users care about directly from the message itself. Make use of these. A little creativity can go a long way.

Some of these lessons may come across as ‘obvious’ at first glance, but you might be surprised how more often than not, the fundamentals get overlooked. It’s only the school of hard learning (experience) that teaches us what works versus what doesn’t and that takes us back to the basics that are part of the setup for success. Here’s to yours, maximizing the African App-ortunity.

 

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Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets

Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.

Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps. 

Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.

Vodafone Smart Kicka 4

At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.

The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018. 

Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games. 

Nokia 1

Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.

Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer. 

The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past. 

Huawei Y3 (2018)

The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are. 

Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.

Comparing the 3

All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker. 

Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.

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SA gets digital archive

As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive. 

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The southafrica.co.za  site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.

Designed as a nation building,  educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.

The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.

At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.

Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.

“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.

Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.  The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.

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