Mobile resolutions for 2016

Hamish Vallabh
By Hamish Vallabh under Insights 14 January 2016

It’s the start of a new year, and for most of us that means it’s time for some resolutions. Here at The App Business, we’re taking January to help our clients think about what their mobile strategy will look like for 2016, as we enter into an ever-increasingly “mobile-only” age.

With that in mind, we asked key TABbers from across the company to answer the following question:

“If you could tell your clients to do ONE thing this year, what would it be?”

Their responses below are designed to get you thinking about the most mobile-critical issues you’ll be facing over the next year, and of course, to offer advice on how to tackle them!

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Daniel Joseph, Co-Founder and Strategy Director

Make it emotive

I want 2016 to be the year in which we all invest as much in the qualitative, emotive qualities of what we build, as we invest in the functional qualities that we test for. I’m talking about the stuff in an app that really makes you feel great about using it. The form that bounces just right when you hit submit, or the audio feedback that lets you know your task is complete.

In the Product Management death triangle of scope / cost / time, it’s harder to measure qualitative investments and these so often get cut first - especially in a data-driven environment. I’d like to turn that around by working with clients to build quantitative business cases for why the smaller, emotive stuff delivers big ROI.

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Corinna Gage, Senior Product Designer

Start with your users, end with your users

Engage with your users before you settle on a brief. This will provide an invaluable insight into your users’ desires, expectations, and pain-points. The final result will be a more robust brief and a more efficient project lifecycle.

Allow time and budget for regular contact, throughout the project, with a good cross-section of your user base. They can help validate and feed into the proposed product. Then, you’ll be able to release the product with the utmost confidence that it’s doing the right thing.

Don’t make assumptions. Don’t take your users for granted - and vary the lines of communication to maximise any learnings.

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Jon Hocking, Senior Engineer

Be selective 

What use is a feature if no one wants to use it? Build the right things that will deliver the most value and focus on making them easy and enjoyable to use. Nothing encourages retention and loyalty in the same way as a delightful user experience.

Value for money doesn't come from the number of features that you can pack in, but from features that just work - so always spend your time on the latter.

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John Adams, Product Owner

Remember that Agile estimating is not accurate

A new project can mean a multitude of things. The technology might be new, the requirements will mostly be new - and the team will certainly be new. Estimating from this perspective right at the beginning is hard - it’s doable, but it won’t be precisely accurate.

When attempting to estimate from this position, remember to factor in contingencies and plan a re-estimation session a couple of sprints in. Once the team has gelled, the product has taken shape and the technology is better understood, estimation becomes easier and far more accurate.

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Brett Thornton, Senior Strategist

Start from the ‘jobs’ your customers want to achieve, not from feature ideas

By having a clear understanding of the jobs for which your customers find themselves “hiring” a product or service, you can more accurately develop products tailored to what they are already trying to do.

Also, make sure you deeply understand your users’ context. Service these jobs with the right depth of product experience based on your user’s context. For instance, a glance on a watch might be best while they’re on the move, but a dashboard view on desktop might be better when they’re at their work desk.

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Zac Borrelli, Test Engineer

Demand that testing be there from the start

Testing doesn’t begin and end with a piece of software; ideas, concepts and designs can also be put through the testing cycle.

Last year, we put a tester on a pitch team - one of the earliest times we had ever put a tester on a project. From this early interaction we gained valuable insight into how the project was going to work from the get go. This made estimating both the effort and the viability of certain aspects of the project much easier. Fundamentally, it made disseminating information to testers who may come onto the project later on a lot easier as we had ultimate context.

The insight we gained was to make sure testers are involved in new projects from the moment they appear in the pipeline. When it comes to onboarding different testers at different stages, bringing them up to speed becomes a lot easier, and value can be seen sooner.

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George Proudfoot, Strategist

Think about your app as more than an icons and screens

Once you understand the outcomes your customers are trying to achieve and in what context, you’re ready to build an ecosystem of interactions that helps them achieve these outcomes. This might mean a slick app, but it might also mean that your primary interaction is a notification or a widget. It might even mean not having to interact with the app at all. For instance, if an app can tell your central heating it’s time to switch on...well, it should just do it.

Think beyond the smartphone

Wearables, TV, tablets and other platforms offer new and powerful opportunities for you to engage with your users in meaningful ways throughout their day. These can often complement or go beyond the capabilities of the smartphone. For instance, the Apple Watch’s taptic engine (built-in technology that allows it to 'tap' users on the wrist), allows developers to stimulate the senses in new and intimate ways - providing a whole new way to interact with users.

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Khalil Dimachkie, Architecture Owner

Invest in research, now that you have the time

2016 seems to be the year where both VR and AR become real consumer propositions. That means now is the perfect time to start doing early research and development work to figure out how these technologies can fit into your physical space - if you are a retailer, your in-store experience, for example.

Consumers are very excited about this technology and there is a huge opportunity to give customers a unique view of your products - without requiring more physical space. While the hardware is still expensive, the consumerisation of this hardware will drive prices down rapidly. When that happens, those who are ready will reap the benefits.

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Hamish Vallabh, Strategist

Experiment with the idea of your business being ‘mobile-only’

The idea of being a ‘mobile-first’ business is widely understood but many organisations struggle to walk the walk. To help get there we like to explore what your business would be if it ONLY existed on mobile and work backwards. Afterall, for a lot of your customers you do only exist on mobile - deal with it.

Don’t treat privacy and security as an afterthought

Our devices collect an enormous amount of personal data - from the our email address to our location, contact list, calendar and even our health. As more of our lives manifest themselves online, privacy and trust becomes a key feature that we look for in the products that we interact with.

Privacy and security therefore shouldn’t be built into your product at the tail end of development. It needs to be incorporated and prioritised at the very beginning of the design process so that it essentially becomes a key feature of your product proposition.

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Christina Ohanian, Agile Coach

Build creative spaces to support your team’s creative thinking

Sometimes it’s hard to ‘think outside the box’ when we feel like we’re in a confined space, which doesn’t allow the mind to flow with ideas, thoughts or even emotions. One of the most important elements to building great teams and products is allowing the mind to wonder, and sometimes a change of scenery can be the key to cracking a particular problem. To get you started, here are 4 quick tips:

1. Working Walls - Include a space or area for displaying your work, actions or decisions. This keeps teams working towards the collective goals and encourages collective thinking.

2. Creative Corners - No spare room? Carve out a creative corner. Don’t let the lack of space stop you from building breakout areas and a change of scenery for the team.

3. Desk Diversity - We all know that conversation is key, so don’t talk about co-locating and pairing - just pair! Grab your laptop and sit next to the person you need to collaborate with and move that pending ticket into 'Done'!

4. Free Furniture - Whether you have a spacious office or are working in a startup studio, modular furniture is always a great option to get people building spaces for quick huddles or meeting spaces. So get everyone standing around a table or just remove the table itself and use seats. Don't get too caught up on aesthetics - break the rules!

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Tweet us your resolutions @theappbusiness, and if you could use some advice on your mobile strategy for 2016, drop us an email.