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The Importance Of User Testing In Mobile App Development

Posted by Stephen Bateman | Posted in app development, design, marketing, new product development, user experience, user testing | Posted on 15-12-2011

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The Importance Of User Testing In Mobile App Development

The Importance Of User Testing In Mobile App Development


A reference tool that helps people navigate out of harms way

We’ve finished user-testing and we’re about to launch our first app: a learning and reference tool that helps people navigate out of harms way by avoiding potential collisions on the sea. It helps people learn and understand the International Maritime Organisation’s navigation lights and shapes and the collision regulations (ColRegs)

It’s better than flash cards, less weighty than a book and the simple in-app navigation means that users can pinpoint the shape, light and rule quickly by referring to the menus and graphics. Users that tested the app have been very positive about their experience using it and have pointed out some improvements that we’ve acted on.


You don’t need an app for that

A colleague of mine, a journalist working in publishing, always says, when the subject is apps: “you don’t need an app for that.” “You need a mobile something but not an app – perhaps an m-site, because it’s more dynamic”. But in our case users will not be opening emails and reading sites on their mobile phones at sea.

Who is your target audience?

Another colleague in media production that I’ve always admired always asks “who is your target audience and what are their mobility characteristics and needs?”

At iGlimpse we’ve spoken to our target groups, analysed their lives, reading activity, their use of technology and we’ve developed mobile apps that embrace the concept of “dead time”.

We’ve developed our first few apps to allow our users to dip in and out of the subject matter at will, on a need-to-know basis.

Talking To App Users

Talking to our app users we discovered that they do not know that they need something until they need it and, therefore, their search for information most often happens on the spur of the moment. That made us realise that our apps needed to be part of their daily lives, in their pockets, ready to fire up anytime, any place.

ColRegs NavLights is simple and it can be dipped into and is ideal for “reading-on-the-go“.

What if we had not spoken to our users?

If we’d not researched our users’ needs carefully at the outset, attended shows, met with users, talked to trainers and tested the apps online via beta and with survey monkey, I think we’d have defaulted and done something similar to what we had previously done for 20 years: shoved in as much as possible between the back and front cover of a book to give it the pagination and thickness needed to justify the £25 price point.

Being able to see how mobile devices serve a very different purpose to other media has meant that we’ve avoided many mistakes we might have made if we’d followed our instincts.

What about app pricing? 

As far as pricing is concerned, we had to price competitively and in accordance with our audience. It’s a fact that people will spend hours evaluating a £1.99 app then go and spend £2.50 on a very mediocre cup of coffee. So we spent time positioning ourselves in the competitive landscape, looking at generic media and direct competition on the app store. We hope we’ve got the price right but only a solid number of adoptions and some positive recommendations will prove whether or not that is the case.
If you’d like more information on our apps, please contact us here and we’ll send you a notifications.

How to improve mobile app discoverability and increase mobile app downloads

Posted by Stephen Bateman | Posted in app development, content management, cross platform, design, educational apps, Navigational apps, new product development, user experience | Posted on 11-11-2011

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How to Optimise Discoverability Of Mobile Apps
How to Optimise Discoverability Of Mobile Apps. Photo Credit: gadget_media Flickr

As we prepare to launch a new series of branded mobile educational applications for ocean goers, we want to put everything we can on our side to ensure our mobile application does not get lost in all the noise and our discoverability is optimised.

To help ensure greater discoverability we’ve had to have a focused approach to product marketing throughout our creative process.

From kick-off: marketing and the process of creative app development 

Before we gather around the drawing board at iGlimpse, we like to start with the analytical stuff (just as we we did when considering a new books and their viability); first we look into what kind of app types and user experiences are currently being positively reviewed. We study rankings, user reviews both in the app store and across the web and we download and play with mobile applications. This enables us to better map the functionality, building blocks, coding and plan the critical stages of development and production.

Only once we’re happy a product matches the needs of a target audience and that there is a commercial gap do we begin storyboarding and wire-framing the application screens. Only when we’re sure we’ve scoped our project fully, do we get stuck into production, applying frequent alignment meetings throughout to ensure we stay track, to make corrections and improvements, spot bugs early and stay on course to hit the milestones in our critical path plan. With testing and bugs, rewriting code is no fun at all, so we aim to get everything right from the start.

What’s our mobile application?  

Our mobile application is an educational tool that helps sailors identify the types of vessel and the activities they are engaged in at sea, as specified by the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (Col Regs).

The app provides “iGlimpse” access to schemas, graphics and descriptions of the lights and shapes in the Col Regs and the rules that apply to them as well as featuring a “Test Yourself” section.

Using a single code base and a bridging mobile framework that supports 7 mobile platforms, our app will be platform-agnostic and ready for distribution in multiple stores simultaneously.

But, like new books, new music releases or new film releases, the app needs to be discoverable through search, promoted and priced correctly to ensure its sale.

Our application is launching into a crowded marketplace in which Col Regs are available in many formats including books, flashcards, videos, DVDs and apps. To stand out from the crowd our USPs are: iGlimpse access, ease of use, convenience. These elements coupled with our designer graphics will ensure people enthuse and review the app positively. Word of Mouth is probably the most important single piece of marketing we’ll achieve.

Who are our users, where do they hang out and what sails their boat? 

As well as the many existing sailors of small and larger vessels, our users include trainees on the RYA Day Skipper Courses and their trainers. There are about 155 000 new recruits annually. Our users are of mixed age / gender; they could be Apple, Android or RIM enthusiasts, they are online savvy, they like gadgets, they have disposable income and they actively seek content that helps them improve and grow in their preferred pursuits. We prefer to apply psychometric tagging rather then demographic tagging so are more interested in their likes and pain points than their income bracket or age. Outside the pressure of the Day Skipper Course and the exam, trainees read specialist sailing / motor boat magazines, they are on Twitter and Facebook, they like brands, they search on Google, YouTube, DailyMotion and VideoJug and they are hungry for material that will inspire, inform and entertain them. They also support the RNLI and attend events like the London and Southampton boat shows. London 2012 will be a big focus point for our community. Boating enthusiasts are fascinated and fearful of collisions at sea!! The metrics we’ve studied confirm all the above. Our customer persona is the best guide we have for our marketing decisions.

Routes to market

The app market is a tough and unforgiving place. The app store models are fundamentally optimized to drive pricing down and this is a hard model to build anything other than a hobby business around until you reach notoriety and critical mass.

Discoverability is a big challenge and we’re fully aware that the shelf life of an application, from a revenue earning perspective, is lower than it is for books and music. So the big question for us is: How do we get our application discovered?

We know we’ve got to enable discovery and trial so we can do three things:

  1. produce a demo video to host on YouTube and embed in social media (blogs, FB, Twitter etc) that replicates the user experience
  2. segment our product into a full ‘paid’ version and a lite ‘free’ version, so we maximise downloads and can focus on conversion to paid.
  3. we can also create a storefront around our application, where the user downloads a base application that is free, and, via an in-app purchase, we can augment that users application by adding new content or new functions.

Promotion and PR 

With so much available content we’re conscious we need to support and manage our community of enthusiasts. We’ve already found the concentrations of users which means we can target the channels they hang out in online and offline.

We know who the opinion leaders are, who the influential bloggers and press reviewers are and we’ve got the marketing content assets ready to supply when they request them. This is where the video showcasing our application and our promotion codes will seamlessly integrate with our communications.

Mistakes and assumptions we must not make: 

We must not ignore paid-for-marketing and make the mistake of thinking word of mouth on its own will drive sales – it won’t

We must not assume that sufficient enthusiasts searching searching with keywords will discover our app – they won’t

We must not forget that there are several app stores we need to be visible in

We must not leave the marketing till launch or post launch – priming our market for readiness is key


The app stores can be a casino for developers but we believe our decision to publish fora clearly defined community of users means that we’re better equipped to anticipate our product marketing. We come from media backgrounds and know the value of great content. Because we are starting our marketing early, we stand a better chance (but not guarantee) of getting our app and supporting marketing materials into the hands of the opinion leaders before we launch. And we will continuously nourish, moderate, manage and maintain buzz in our verticals.

What advice do you have for ensuring better discoverability of mobile apps?

Mobile applications and book publishing

Posted by Stephen Bateman | Posted in app development, design, new product development | Posted on 09-11-2011

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Mobile applications and book publishing
Mobile applications and book publishing Photo Credit Ownipics (Flickr)

Failure and success in the creative media 

In a very short space of time mobile applications development has become fiercely competitive. The barriers to entry for app developers are very low and the stats prove it: for every “appilionnaire” there are thousands of developers whose game plans have been pixelated into nothing.

Book publishing on the hand is mature, some would say outmoded. There is no other business that works similarly on sale or return. It’s a lottery. The calibration of print runs and sales forecasts is chaotic. It’s a world in which 80/20 rules and where the top fifth of books contribute four-fifths of revenues and one title in four is a flop. The failure rate of aspiring novelists who never see their name in print is colossal. The failure rate of books that do make it to the printers but which are subsequently pulped is catastrophic.

Polar extremes: niche and blockbuster 

In truth profit in any traditional mainstream media tends to come from a tiny volume of super-successful titles. That’s because popular culture idolises the “hit” and media chases tribes that want to share the same culture. This is why media companies devote their resources to creating bestsellers, because they understand and can predict the psychology of tribes and followers. This “blockbuster” model has been the backbone of media commerce for a very long time. Yet the endless shelf space of stores like the app store and amazon means that the niche, the obscure and the specialist now have an equal chance of amassing fans. In this new media world, niche audiences can locate and cluster around esoterica and mass audiences can consolidate as they always have around blockbusters. It’s the middle ground that is losing out: the land of mediocrity that sprawls between blockbusters and niche.

Creativity: the big divide between geeks and publishers 

That’s why all creative enterprises need to function with robust marketing disciplines and none more so than mobile app developers who face a multitude of different platforms, discerning shoppers and complex business models.

In the last five years book publishers have been under pressure from basement and garage geeks. But unlike the untethered and nimble dudes in dressing gowns and pyjamas, publishers are strapped by legacy and liability, which means the hobbyists have been growing market share at the expense of the traditionalists, taking the risks and following their passion rather than being guided by what has become the dominant institutional decision making tool: the infamous title profit and loss (TP&L).

In this new media ecosystem successes like Tiny Birds, created by one-man-band Andreas Illiger, push billions of micro-payments from app stores in 80 different countries into the bank accounts of one man operations. Mobile users spend an estimated $250 million on apps every month and 10 billion apps have been sold through the app stores to date. In that same period it’s estimated that 80,000 developers have signed up to the iOS operating system.

In an ecosystem that incubates +500 app submissions a day it’s not difficult to see why the app failures are as apocalyptic as the successes are great. For every success in the app stores, there are several thousand failed app developers. Not unlike book publishing and its millions of failed and pulped titles, so much of the app development process is uncertain and risky.

The euphoria of media success is the same, the drive and culture are different 

The excitement of creating a success on the app store is no different from the excitement of breaking new ground and establishing a new brand or bestselling title in the book trade. The difference is purely that publishing was once gentlemanly, traditional and reserved, whilst app development is a moneyed business, cut throat and desperate. The barriers to entry on the app store are zero and the store is a magnet to brands with money to spend on getting their gadgets built. But, whichever way you look at it, there is pleasure to be had from both processes and that satisfaction in both cases comes from the simple act of creating a product that finds an audience.

As with book publishing there is risk in costing and building an app and the potential for making money. But savvy developers can mitigate against this risk and build apps for niches they can get to know the behaviour of. Publishers of bestselling fiction have always followed the mainstream blockbuster model that relies on advertising and promotion. Non-fiction publishers, on the other hand, have a very different approach to publishing: they cost and sell their titles based on lower volumes. In app development it is the same: the culture of game developers, who rely on brief and transient chart popularity for success, will always be very different from the culture of specialist niche developers who set out to create apps that are costed and designed for audiences they know and that will sustain sales over a longer term.

The iGlimpse Mission expressed in words and pictures

Posted by Stephen Bateman | Posted in app development, design, educational apps, engagement, new product development, news, user experience | Posted on 12-02-2011

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iGlimpse from Simon Jollands on Vimeo.