By Quinton Alsbury, Co-founder and President of Innovation at Roambi
We've all been there - squinting at a work application on a mobile device, zooming in and out in attempt to make sense of the information with an interface that feels like its leftover from another era. Each swipe or tap leads to a spinning icon while your device tries to download data from a non-existent mobile connection. Your frustration builds until eventually; you give up, put your phone or tablet away, and wait until the next time you’re at the office with your laptop.
Smartphones and tablets are quickly becoming the most dominant tool in the business world with 95% of Fortune 500 companies rolling out iPads for staff. So why is it that work-related applications and services feel so alien to your iPad? With the influx of mobile business devices comes the importance to not just make information available on a mobile device but to deliver an experience that mirrors and embodies the rich, immersive, intuitive and instantaneous feel of software specifically designed for mobile devices. Whether you're flinging virtual birds into a stack of pigs to gain points or downloading the most up-to-date business information for your company – an apps’ user is still a consumer.
So the logical question is: why do apps aimed at business users continue to cram features and functionality designed for the PC into a mobile phone, ignoring all the things that make consumer apps successful - namely, design, speed, and interactivity?
Many business app developers are fundamentally misunderstanding the mobile user experience by producing ‘shrink to fit’ versions of solutions designed for the PC. The mobile experience isn't about accessing several gigabytes of data; it's about quickly accessing the information you need, when you need it.
By ‘shrinking’ existing PC tools, they're essentially jamming a large, complicated, and bulky system onto a smaller screen. As a consequence, apps then contain too many features, respond too slowly and ultimately result in low user adoption and usage. All of the research, investment, and hard work of the development teams essentially go ignored, and productivity suffers as a result. Business app developers need to get their heads out of their dashboards and look to today's most popular consumer apps for inspiration.
Take a look at some of the most popular games currently found in the App Store. Games like Angry Birds, Draw Something or Cut the Rope are not games people would play on a PC. But on a mobile device they are an addicting source of instant gratification. These games are intuitive, respond quickly and are highly interactive. In creating the best business app for a mobile device, developers must understand the core elements of what makes these games popular with consumers, and apply those elements to the design of their business solution.
I believe these consumer-gaming principles are key to the development and improvement of business apps. Based on these concepts, you can transform data, metrics and spreadsheets into fast, interactive visualisations for the iPhone and iPad. You can create visual analytics that users can intuitively understand and navigate – and yes, even make mobile business data immersive, tactile and exciting.
There are many unique opportunities to ‘consumerise’ business solutions as IT managers are now seeking solutions that provide the best experience for the right device; realising that simply shrinking or extending poorly designed solutions for employee use will negatively impact user adoption in the company. So, I expect as the mobile wave continues to swell, we'll see an increase in imagination when it comes to developing business apps.