Welcome back to our Industry Exposed series. In this edition, we are joined by Appinstitute's Ian Naylor, who talks about app development, the challenges faced by app developers, and offers his best tips to build a mobile experience that drives user engagement.
Ian Naylor is the Founder and CEO of Appinstitute, one of the world's leading DIY app builders. Naylor has founded, grown and sold 4 successful internet and technology companies during the past 18 years around the world. An expert authority on mobile app trends, Ian is a regular speaker at numerous industry events.
Can you briefly present Appinstitute and its business model?
Sure! AppInstitute is a SaaS business that offers a code-free app builder solution to small and medium businesses, or anyone who wants to create their own app. We have a drag-and-drop CMS with templates for a bunch of business types, from lawyers to barber shops. Users can create and design their app completely free, but must sign up to one of our packages to submit it to the App Store and the Play Store.
Which problems in the mobile ecosystem are you trying to solve?
We noticed that whilst many businesses recognised the need for websites, very few had really looked into the option of having their own mobile app. When asked why, most businesses came out with the same things:
“It’s too expensive.”
“I can’t write code.”
“We don’t have the time.”
These are the problems we wanted to solve with the App Builder — we wanted to provide an affordable, code-free platform that can be used to create an app in minutes.
What are the most significant trends you are seeing in the mobile advertising in general and how are mobile marketers adapting to it?
Localised marketing is gaining more and more ground and becoming a really powerful option for mobile marketers. Using features like iBeacons and Geo-Fencing, ads can be served based on the physical location of the user — something which has countless benefits. One way mobile marketers adapt to this technology is by serving location-specific deal notifications to users when they’re nearby. Our system actually allows geo-targeted push notifications to be sent, something which is pretty awesome for a small business.
How do you think the main mobile platforms and app stores will evolve in the coming years? Is there room for a third app store?
We’ve seen with both BlackBerry and Windows Mobile, that trying to get traction for a new app store is extremely difficult. App development is intrinsically expensive and developers will look at the ROI of an app store to justify the effort and so we have a chicken and egg situation; a new app store requires users to get traction with developers, but users won't use the app store if the choice apps aren’t in it. If the app store leverages an existing mobile operating system, this barrier can be lessoned, as it removes much of the development cost. However even this is not guaranteed, as Amazon has shown with their own app store, that is built on top of the Android OS and despite the might and momentum of Amazon, has seen limited adoption.
The key is differentiation, all existing app stores are generalist in nature, offering all types of apps. We think a rise of vertical niche app stores, built on top of existing operating system will start to come to prevalence. Offering hyper specific app discovery, for example for Business apps for the SMB market.
What are the main challenges facing developers today?
Keeping up with device updates. Screen sizes are changing constantly, with different tablets, phablets and phones (and everything in between) evolving. Keeping up with user’s expectations, too. More and more users are also expecting a much better experience on mobile than before — faster loading times, more seamless integration and intuitive design are all expected, rather than a bonus.
What are your top three tips to build a mobile experience that drives user engagement?
Make it fast. Users will just abandon your app if load times are ridiculously long, or if tedious processes make it difficult to navigate. Spend time making sure that your app has an acceptable level of performance.
Use a tool like UXCam to see how users engage with your app. Tracking what users press, touch and scroll is an excellent way of building a good app - because it’s informed by real people.
Use push notifications effectively, and sparingly. Don’t bombard your users with push notifications every 5 minutes. That’s a sure fire way to get them turned off — or worse — have your app uninstalled. Instead, opt for using push notifications only when necessary, to ‘push’ things that your user will be interested in. There’s a fine line between overdoing it and using push notifications effectively.
Which upcoming technologies do you see as potentially helping developers?
There are increasing numbers of development frameworks that are focused towards developing mobile apps. These include frameworks such as Ionic 2 and React Native which simplify cross-platform development and are optimised for speed. These frameworks provide a foundation to build Apps on and also include built-in and community developed modules such as generic toolbars, forms and lists saving developers from having to write their own.
What would you say are the top three main trends in app development that we are likely to see in 2017?
Wearables will gain more ground and become more of a part of the zeitgeist - this will see more app developers look to integrate their product into these types of devices.
Mcommerce will continue to grow. People love to use their smartphone to do their shopping. It’s so much more convenient than setting yourself up at a desktop or laptop, or - heaven forbid - going to the actual shops.
More small businesses will get their own app. It’s becoming more and more clear how important an app is to any business, and with DIY solutions constantly adding more features and integrations, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see their adoption increasing over the course of the next 9 months.
Thanks Ian for your time! Stay tuned for more interesting interview series, where we take a close look at the developments in the mobile industry!