When you pick up your phone, what’s the first thing you do? Chances are you’re tapping on your favorite mobile app. And, according to the data, you’re not alone. Research shows that people in the US spend an average of three hours a day on a smartphone or tablet and 87% of that time is spent using apps. So, why do we spend such a huge chunk of time using apps? It’s simple: apps are what make our smartphones feel “smart.”
Whether it’s through killer design or essential utility, apps turn our phones into our second brain. That’s time well spent. What you might not realize is that the best mobile apps are always changing. Developers comb through data on how we use their apps to uncover ways to improve them. So, that app you check hourly should never be 100% perfect by design — because, like you, it’s always evolving. “Finished” shouldn’t be a concept that app developers embrace.
As people’s wants and needs change, products must change, too. App developers, like the ones on AOL’s Alpha team, need to embrace this. Getting an app out into the wild quickly is the Alpha team’s ideal scenario. Opening the door for feedback helps the team dive back into the development cycle to make enhancements users want. Alpha’s agile approach to apps is pretty unique. Research shows that over 50% of app developers take six months or more to design and release an app. The Alpha team sets their goal at just six short weeks.
In the case of photo and video filter app Vivv, where the Alpha development team started wasn’t where they ended up — driven entirely by how people decided to use the app. “We launched Vivv specifically as a video application,” Drew Lesicko, GM of Alpha, explains. “No one in the market was doing color isolation for video, just images. Our hypothesis was that video was the big differentiator for the app, though we felt still images remained a key feature.”
But shortly after Vivv’s launch, Drew and his team were surprised by what the data told them. App users were using the photo features of the app far more than the video features. So Vivv’s developers pivoted. “More than 85% of content created in the app was still images,” Drew says. “So we immediately changed the app to default into still image mode, and updated the app to focus on pics over videos.”
That simple yet critical data-driven change helped Vivv earn recognition as one of the Apple App Store’s “Best New Apps.” We all get smarter with age. Why shouldn’t we expect our apps to do the same?
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1. comScore, U.S. Mobile App Report, 2015
2. MGI Research, State of Mobile Apps study, 2014