Do You Really Need a Mobile App?

We’ve already talked about what makes a good app, but my question for you is, do you need a mobile app at all? Mobile is the buzzword of the moment. And it seems as if everyone is interested in making an app. But just because everyone seems to be doing it, is creating a mobile app the right thing for you and your product?

Author and designer Josh Clark* has identified that people use their mobile phones primarily for three critical behaviors: immediate entertainment, looking up nearby information, or doing something small right now.

If you think about it, these behaviors fit with many of the most popular apps on the market. Angry Birds, Candy Crush and Temple Run are all about providing immediate entertainment. The whole purpose of Google Now is to provide immediate, up-to-date information based on your current location and needs. And Facebook, Twitter, and Vine are all a combination of immediate entertainment and doing something small right now.

So before you sink effort into designing a mobile app, ask yourself: Does my product fit one of these essential uses for mobile phones? Is it entertaining? Is what I have to say really that interesting that people are going to read it instead of playing a game when they’re bored? Is this something that people are going to want to do on-the-go or will they more likely wait until they get home? Does this provide them with succinct and valuable information that’s location-based or urgent? If you really can’t answer yes to any of those questions, then you may want to consider putting your money elsewhere.

*Clark, J. (2010). Tapworthy: designing great iPhone apps. Beijing Cambridge Mass: O'Reilly.

David Cooper, Psy.D. is a psychologist and Mobile Applications Lead at the National Center for Telehealth & Technology (T2).

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Center for Telehealth & Technology, the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


Read other posts by Dr. David Cooper