Love at first download: What makes an app stand out?

Posted December 22, 2015 in by

We all have certain products or companies we’re loyal to. Whether it’s a local grocery store or a particular brand of shoes, there’s a certain je ne sais quoi that keeps us coming back – and I’ve found the same is true for the apps we use on a daily basis. But what is it that makes us prefer one app above the others? According to Ervin & Smith front-end developer Charlie Stanard, his experience is that the apps we love share four key traits.

They do one thing and do it well. A good app doesn’t try to be everything to everyone; instead, Charlie says, good apps focus on a single key feature that offers specific value to the user. In other words, a calendar app that makes it easier to schedule meetings is probably more useful than one that does an OK job of scheduling but also tracks coupons, counts calories and orders you a pizza.

They understand their audience. In Charlie’s opinion, a good app is the result of lots of careful observation of users’ needs, behaviors and usage patterns. When an app is rooted in user experience, it’s more likely to solve real problems faced by its users, continually improve their experience and possibly even provide features users didn’t realize they needed. A recent example is Spotify’s new functionality that curates a nonstop playlist based on your running speed, which means no more skipping past slow songs or accidental dead air.

They have a clean, easy-to-use interface. Users shouldn’t have to hunt-and-peck their way through the app to find the action they want to take. Rather than cluttering the interface with unnecessary embellishments, good apps make it easy to find information, share content or complete a transaction – without jumping through a bunch of elaborate hoops. Charlie’s point is a good one: You don’t want to enter three passwords, tap five different buttons and select from a drop-down menu just to securely access your bank account.

They allow users to tell their own story. According to Charlie, in many ways, a good app offers users a blank slate of sorts. While the app’s function is universal, it may also provide ways for users to create their own characters, curate a feed or subscribe to specific content. The result is an app that molds to fit a user’s specific wants and needs. Of course, a top example of this is Pinterest, which offers customizability as well as suggested content that matches the interests you’ve expressed.

No matter the type of app or the person who’s using it, I think the most important takeaway from Charlie’s insights is that it’s all about the user experience. After all, there’s always a person at the other end of the phone.

Now it’s your turn: Think of your favorite app. Why do you love it? Tell us in the comments!

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