August 28, 2012

An App a Day Keeps Confusion Away

At this moment, we’re in the thick of the U.S. presidential election season—the Republican nominating convention is about to start and the Democratic one is just around the corner. Only a few weeks ago, the world was abuzz with the London Olympics, and now many of us are thinking about Labor Day, Back to School, NFL games, elections, and on to Thanksgiving and Black Friday, into the holidays. It’s not that our lives are defined by specific events, but outside of the daily routine—work, family, etc.—we do tend to be guided by outside forces that have a moment-in-time feel to them. Those of us in the business of applications need to be very aware of this. At Mashery, we’ve always maintained that applications should be designed to help companies create specific and simple experiences that distribute its relationship with the customer across as many relevant touch points as there are holidays, or even days. These experiences need not attempt the functionality of broad websites that serve a multitude of purposes. Looking at applications that are tied to a moment in time—seasonal, event-based, etc. — the need for simplicity in an app becomes clear. Take the London Olympics, a gala for the ages if there ever was one: from the opening ceremony to the athletes we’d never heard of performing miraculous feats with heart-wrenching suspense, it was a fortnight of stories that embody the best of human achievement. LOCOG (officially the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) managed a serviceable website and app collection in preparation for the games. The website, London2012, was comprehensive and easily navigable (the focus has since moved to the Paralympics), and the mobile version was clearly optimized for smaller devices. Signaling the era of instant communications, the apps available for download covered everything from medal counts to updates on individual athletes. Even with all the careful planning to bring the world a top notch Olympic experience, one piece of that experience stumbled to pay off how well the games were built for the right-time experience. The organizing committee aggressively promoted ticket sales, even announcing the availability of some 75,000 tickets to specific events after the Games had begun. All good news, clearly. Hopeful buyers who clicked the ‘ticket’ button were led directly to the main ticket site. This one was, by all accounts, not very mobile-friendly—it had the requisite check boxes and other complexities that can be a hassle even on a regular monitor and are frankly forbidding on the small screen of a smartphone. This apparent glitch calls attention to the importance of segmenting customer experiences consistently and how APIs help companies use apps to alter their touch points for a particular event, on a particular day, at a particular time. These elements will never be exactly the same next week, or the next day, or even five minutes later. We need to remember that customer context is time-sensitive. Whether it’s a sporting event that’s happening right now or a store sale that’s coming up next week, the application in question needs to take advantage of a moment and an appropriate response —it’s vital to making the customer experience more compelling.