The seven critical factors that ensure a great mobile experience

Discover what it takes to create great apps and mobile services

As we explained in a previous article, offering your products and services through mobile is hugely important. With people expecting to interact with your organisation whenever and wherever they want to, mobile provides the front door. The experience therefore needs to exist, be available on a device of the customer's choice, be context-sensitive, and be of a high quality.

Get it wrong, and it's never been easier for customers to take their money elsewhere (or for them to tell the world about their poor experience). But getting it right isn't just a question of going down to your nearest app development company and getting them to build you something pretty in a couple of weeks. However good the user interface is, this is merely part of a larger jigsaw, all of which needs to be in place for the experience to be a good one.

Mobile relies on a complex blend of capabilities and technologies to succeed. We'll now look at the main areas you'll need to address if you want to create a market-leading customer experience.

Every organisation is different

The first thing to remember is that there's no one-size-fits-all business case for mobile, nor can the same technology approach be used in all situations. Every organisation is different, and will want its mobile offering to focus on specific areas.

By extension, the metrics used to measure success will need to be thought about carefully: simple statistics are unlikely to reveal the true value that mobile is bringing.

So what are the seven critical success factors when it comes to ensuring a quality mobile experience? They are as follows…

1. Customer experience

This is the most important area to get right. Shrinking down your website – however wonderful it may be – is unlikely to translate into a great mobile experience, because people have different goals when using a mobile device as opposed to a computer.

A mobile banking customer is likely to want to check their balance or make a fast transfer between their accounts while they're out and about. The same person on the full website may want to search their statements to find a specific transaction. Different device, different context, different location, different goals. The mobile experience needs to be built from the ground up with this in mind.

Another factor that influences customer experience is how your mobile offering performs with a slow or indeed dead sluggish network connection. A high quality experience requires your mobile offering to handle such situations elegantly.

To get this right, you need to do your user research, by way of focus groups and persona profiling, to define user goals and user journeys. From this knowledge, you can design an experience, which will need to be tested and refined with real users, using techniques such as user testing and A/B testing, as well as heuristic evaluation. You'll typically need several rounds of testing to get the experience right, and remember that as platforms and expectations evolve, you should review your experience to make sure it still addresses users' needs.

2. Proliferation of device types

Delivering a high quality experience is particularly difficult when you're not sure what kind of device it will be consumed on. There's an almost infinite number of combinations of screen size, orientation, hardware spec, operating system (OS) and carrier network.

It's a huge challenge to design an experience that will work well across the board, so you'll need to know the sorts of devices and platforms your target market, customers or employees are using, and build something that gives the majority a high quality experience.

When making the decision about which devices and operating systems to support, bear in mind that the more you try to do, the greater the cost of development, testing, support and maintenance will be. Mobile platforms are fast-evolving things, and you'll need to keep pace with new hardware and operating systems as they become available – it doesn't look good if your app stops working as soon as an update to iOS or Android is released.

Device-wise, you need to strike a balance between cost and putting mobile services in front of as many people as possible.

3. The context-rich experience

Mobile devices are packed full of sensors and connectivity tools that can enrich the customer experience: you've typically got a GPS, Wi-Fi triangulation, clock, accelerometer, camera and a gyroscope. Information from some or all of these needs to be brought together intelligently – and combined with information from other systems – to create a context-rich experience that enables the user to achieve what they need to do at a given moment in an intuitive way.

For example, a phone can use its location sensors to know when a customer is in a shop, and then look up relevant information from a variety of services, such as special offers and price comparisons with other stores.

The flipside of this is to think about the implications of using data or services from third-parties. What if your mobile service is reliant on data from a partner, and that partner is unable to provide it? What if the data supplied by your partner is of low quality, or wrong? Could you face legal issues for providing incorrect information?