Yesterday, I had the honour of sitting on a panel of ‘Dragons’ at an app development competition held by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. Five teams had to present their app ideas for the Business is Great Britain app, and the winning idea from yesterday will soon be going into development.
App designers and website designers face very similar challenges, particularly when it comes to the key desire of all app developers, which is how to make their app ‘sticky.’
You see, it’s not so difficult to create an app and get people to download it. What is difficult though is to get people to return to the app and use it again and again. From a personal point of view, my phone is full of apps that I thought would be helpful and that I’d use, but in reality I’ve only opened once since downloading them.
Truly ‘sticky’ apps are Facebook and Twitter, whose users open them dozens of times a day, but many apps fall into the quagmire of only being used once before silently disappearing from our lives altogether.
Hence stickiness was an issue that each time pitching yesterday addressed, trying to convince us ‘dragons’ why their app would be sticky (and trust me, this is not a question with a straightforward or even predictable answer as if it was we would all be app millionaires).
As web designers, we also talk about stickiness. If you are a talented person wanting to showcase yourself with a great website, you are not necessarily going to get anyone logging on dozens of times a day in the same way as people do with their Twitter app, but still you need people to visit your site and hang around. The website still needs to be sticky, to draw visitors deeper and deeper into what you have to say and show, and give them plenty to do.
What noone wants is for a visitor to hit your site and leave it again. You want visitors to engage, to form a (positive) view.
So here are three stickiness lessons to take away from yesterday’s app developers.
The winning app development team talked about ways to reward users for their interaction on the app and to make participation inside the app more like a game. The idea is that users can accumulate points, status and authority and be rewarded with something of value to them. Looking at a website, which is a different platform to an app, could users be rewarded for participation inside a forum? Another way to reward users to to reward them for sharing the site, perhaps with a discount code for your products or services (must add that functionality to this site now!).
2. Live chat
When people are looking for something, they want answers from those in ‘the know’ and they want answers quickly. Web designers are increasingly adding live chat technology to websites as a way of enabling visitors to ask you something and get an answer right away. I know whenever I talk to my hosting company, I much prefer live chat than submitting a ticket and then waiting 24 hours for them to respond. Live chat also adds to the feeling that you are very much present within your site (ok, so not actually within it) but that this is not a site that has been left to languish.
Everyone talked about how no app or platform can succeed until it reaches a certain of users. It’s the same with a website. One visitor hitting your website won’t result in a sale, but 100 is likely to. And one method of driving users is through content creation, although this would normally be the job of the website owner not the web designer. Your content then shows up in Google searches and drives traffic looking for the things you are writing about. That is why updating websites and keeping blogs populated with fresh content is so important.
And here’s the video about the event (watch out for my 10 second appearance!!)