American Marketer


Avoid falling into the app-fatigue trap

June 2, 2015

Mike Haney is chief creative officer of Mag+ Mike Haney is chief creative officer of Mag+


By Mike Haney

Are people using applications more, or less? Are consumers getting app fatigue or downloading more apps? Yes and yes.

According to comScore, time spent in mobile apps increased by more than 50 percent year over year. And the University of Alabama predicts app revenue will more than double to $25 billion by 2016.

At the same time, only 35 percent of smartphone users are downloading new apps and Forrester Research claims that 80 percent of consumers’ app time is spent on just five apps.

The takeaway? Apps are not going away, but users are demanding more value from them. You cannot afford to ignore apps, but you also cannot afford to make crappy ones.

What apps do consumers use on their personal devices? Facebook, weather, email, a news app and whatever messaging app their wives are on. Why? All those apps are vital to their lives. How can yours be just as vital?

Here are four ways to avoid falling into the app-fatigue trap:

1. Be vital
Can you answer the question, “Why do you want an app?” with a very specific and measurable response? If not, stop right now and send the developers home.

We are well past the “having an app because everyone else does” phase. Your app has to be indispensable to its intended users, whether that is because it provides the information they need to do their jobs or because all their friends or family are using it. 

Spend time understanding what your audience – internal or external – needs in a mobile experience.

Look at whether a native app’s inherent strengths – offline access, deeper functionality and beautiful presentation – can help solve their problems. Then give them something they simply have to use.

For example, if your salespeople want to make sales quotas, they should keep up with product updates using the new sales app.

2. Think small
Spend as little time and money as possible.

Yes, apps have to present a premium experience. However, that does not mean that every app needs to cost six figures and take six months.

Just as CMS systems such as WordPress and Drupal simplified the lives of Web site owners, app platforms are making apps cheaper and faster to create.

You can now build sophisticated apps using off-the-shelf components and white-labeled apps. Research several platforms to find one that meets your needs.

3. Test the one thing it must do first
Developers have a phrase: “minimum viable product.” Create the simplest version of something to test its purpose.

Pick the one thing you need your app to do – for example, show a customer the sales brochure – and make it do that really well to test the hypothesis that the sales team will use an app. Then add more features.

There are few proven models in the app world yet. Test, learn and iterate to create one your audience loves.

4. Let your users show you what works
Iterating means learning from each step and shifting course, if necessary.

Maybe you will decide PowerPoint is the best way to display product information, but an app is better for communicating with your sales team.

Use both quantitative analytics and qualitative data such as in-app surveys and feedback to constantly assess your app’s success against goals.

APPS ARE NOT going away, nor are they replacing other mediums.

But throwing up your hands and claiming app fatigue as a way to avoid going mobile is a sure way to become a fossil.

Just be smart and yours can be that crucial sixth app that users open every day.

Mike Haney is chief creative officer of Mag+, New York. Reach him at