The Changing Face of Mobile Apps and the Need for More Engagement

Five years ago, there was no better opportunity for a developer to make a name for himself than by developing clever mobile apps. Not only was there tremendous opportunity to reach consumers, but there was also a lot of money to be made.

However, things are changing. And while some say mobile apps are dying – this isn’t entirely true. The way in which successful apps are designed is simply evolving.

How Apps Are Changing

“The idea of having a screen full of icons, representing independent apps, that need to be opened to experience them, is making less and less sense,” says Paul Adams, VP of Product at Intercom. “The idea that these apps sit in the background, pushing content into a central experience, is making more and more sense. That central experience may be something that looks like a notification centre today, or something similar to Google Now, or something entirely new.”

In other words, the fragmented nature of mobile apps is becoming a thing of the past. Instead, apps are becoming intuitive and streamlined technologies that work in the background and naturally feed relevant content to the user.

Today’s top app developers are spending less time developing pre-canned apps that reach a wide variety of users and are instead prioritizing custom apps that are designed with very specific clients. DoubleDutch, one of the companies leading this charge, is the perfect example. They create live engagement event apps that are designed for individual live events and give complete control of the event experience to the host. The result is an engaging app interface that adds value and turns passive attendees into active participants.

As other leading app developers and tech companies, like Google and Apple, allow this trend to progress, others will be forced to follow suit or risk getting left behind.

New Apps That are Getting it Right

We’re still very much on the precipice of change. The vast majority of developers and businesses have yet to recognize this impending shift. However, there are some who’ve anticipated this pivotal point and have already begun to develop apps that satisfy the changing tastes of users, such as:

  • Periscope. While most people wouldn’t put Periscope – the popular live streaming social media app – in this group, it’s definitely earned a place. Periscope has been able to do what many other social networking platforms have tried, but failed to accomplish. They’ve developed a social media app that feels natural and doesn’t bombard the user with lots of content and notifications. It puts the user in control and delivers real-time information on demand.
  • Shopkick. There are plenty of coupon and deal apps in the App Store, but very few are as engaging or interactive as Shopkick. This refreshing app thrives on elements of surprise, which include location-enabled offers, cross-channel capabilities, and social promotions. Users can earn points by walking into stores, browsing product listings, and more. These points can then be redeemed for gift cards and discounts.
  • Slack. Finally, there’s Slack. Arguably the hottest mobile app in the entire business world, Slack streamlines communications and makes it easy to accomplish specific tasks, without getting distracted by unnecessary elements often present in email and other chat platforms.

As you can see, the key to developing successful mobile apps in 2016 and beyond is to focus on engagement. People would much rather enjoy natural engagement than passive notifications. This looks different depending on the goal of the app and the nature of your strategy, but is best demonstrated by these examples.

Ready or Not, Apps are Changing

As a business or individual developer, you cannot control the trajectory of the industry. Unfortunately, you’re at the mercy of larger trends and developments. And while you can choose to lament over the death of apps as we know them, your time would be better spent focusing on the future. How can you adapt your strategy to better align with what the customer wants?

As you can see in the examples mentioned above, there are plenty of developers and companies that are getting it right. If you can be one of the first ones to capitalize on the trend of more engaging and less intrusive apps, you’ll certainly benefit.

Don’t delay – get started today!

Melissa Thompson
Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.