Improving the mobile failure rate

by Giff on August 30, 2012

Like much of the tech community, I find mobile incredibly exciting. It brings new use cases and design/tech/marketing challenges galore.

But you have to raise your eyebrows at the sheer number of new apps being created right now that only collect dust. There are plenty of startups with dead-end ideas, and that comes with the territory, but especially egregious to me are the tons of vanity apps created by large brands. Too much polish, and not enough meaning.

Agile and “lean startup” approaches apply as much to mobile as the Web. Enterprises need to stop wasting money on vanity projects. You can buy vanity metrics through marketing spend. You cannot buy true engagement, or a true business model.

Tools for fast, early iteration include using html5, Android, and Testflight. Another new method is using the iOS Developer Enterprise program to deploy your product to a larger group before you are ready to go out to the App Store (how long Apple will allow this workaround, I’m not quite sure). However, the most important tool is a desire to balance vision with humility and the willingness to put that into action.

Another issue on mobile I’m wrestle with is the question of discoverability and re-discoverability. Google enables both on the Web. The app store is much less effective. Once tried, most mobile apps get relegated to the phone equivalent of the back of the closet. Re-discoverability only occurs if the developer pushes an update, but “update all” limits the impact. This again implies a need for patience and iteration before you do your marketing push, not after.

Here are two other posts if you want to read more about lean mobile development:
Paul Gollash from Voxy on lean testing for his startup idea
– Andrew Chen on “How mobile startups can iterate better, faster, stronger