Is your enterprise iPhone app user-friendly?

Mobile enterprise apps running on iPhones, Androids and other smartphones must be "user-friendly"

Many CIOs bringing mobile apps into the enterprise have heard this criticism from workers: Your mobile apps are crappy and confusing, which is why we don't use them. The user-friendly mantra started by Apple-"It just works!"-has become a recurring nightmare for CIOs.

Mobile apps are a bit like a "dog's breakfast, frankly," says CTO Martin Hudson of Mobile Data Systems, a London-based consultancy. Mobile Data Systems is often called in when an enterprise mobile app project has gone awry-that is, there's little to no engagement with the app from the target audience.

Truth is, CIOs often fail when attempting to rush a mobile app out there. They either take an overly simplistic approach, by converting a mobile website to an app, or an overly complex approach, by jamming features of a desktop app into a mobile one. The end result, in both cases, is a mobile app that isn't easy to use.

"It's not the IT professional's fault," Hudson says. "They want to do a good job, and [to them] this means putting in as much stuff as you can... But on a mobile device, less is more. Understanding where to draw the line takes a little bit of experience."

Slideshow: 15 Best iPhone Apps for Newbies (2012)

For the CIO, there's much at stake. A failed mobile app can raise the board of directors' ire and put the CIO on the hot seat. After all, the board's made a high-profile investment that not only isn't paying off but is making the company look inept. Hudson's team usually must work closely with a subcommittee appointed by the board of directors to overlook this crisis.

So why do CIOs fail? Everyone knows that a mobile app largely depends on its user friendliness-the calling card of the mobile app world. Most CIOs, though, can't define what it is to be "user friendly." If you can't define it, then your mobile app project is probably doomed.

Hudson has a definition that works well: 80 percent of users can perform the most important task on their first attempt.

Mobile Data Systems starts every mobile app project by doing an app mockup and gathering 10 to 15 people who fit the target-user demographic. The group is given a single attempt to perform the most important task without any references or documentation.

Each person gives a streaming commentary on what they're doing and thinking. Mobile Data Systems records the action but does not correct users when they take a wrong turn. After the trial, Mobile Data Systems adjusts the mockup and gathers another group of people.

"At the end of the third cycle, we usually get to 80 percent," says Hudson. Only when the 80 percent mark is hit does Mobile Data Systems move the mobile app project forward.

That's how Hudson defines user friendliness.

Tom Kaneshige covers Apple, BYOD and Consumerization of IT for CIO.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn. Email Tom at tkaneshige@cio.com

Read more about applications/development in CIO's Applications/Development Drilldown.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags IT managementmobilesmartphonesApplemobile applicationsenterpriseDevelopmentappconsumerization of ITSmartphones | Applicationsuser

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tom Kaneshige

CIO (US)
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?