Home Depot, Workday, Mint Execs Offer Tips on Building Hit Mobile Apps

Developers must avoid basic missteps if they want to build successful mobile apps, according to three IT executives speaking at the Mobile Beats conference July 13.

Mobile App Dev Tips 2

SAN FRANCISCO—Software developers and enterprises of all kinds want to reach the growing number of mobile users who have ditched the desktop in favor of smartphones and tablets. But while users may love their mobile devices, they don't love apps that are overly intrusive and stray from simple design concepts.
That was the message conveyed by several veteran application design managers speaking here at the Mobile Beat conference July 13, which is focused on successful mobile market business strategies.

For example, Mike Amend, vice president of Online, Mobile and Multichannel at Home Depot, said the company found users didn't like getting alerts and "push" notifications about deals and special offers while trying to work with apps because it interrupted what they were looking at.

"We did some testing and found that most customers don't like to be pushed with messaging; they like to be engaged [with the Home Depot] app in an episodic manner," Amend said.
What has proven move effective is what Amend calls "message marketing" where promotional texts from the retailer are sent to a message center in the app. For example, users got a message last year near Father's Day that they could buy an eGift card right in the app. "We saw a 61 percent lift in eGift card purchases," he said. "It's promotional, but it's not in your face."

But a focus on unobtrusive and clean design hasn't kept Home Depot from including some pretty sophisticated features in its app. For example, Home Depot's mobile app is "geo-fenced" so that when you're using it in the store, you can get a 3D view of the store to help find what you're looking for and chat online with sales associates. Once you leave the store area, the geo-fence is broken and you get the more traditional view and navigation to products.

A later session titled "The art of a kick-ass mobile design" featured application design managers from four well-known online software companies—Workday, Mint (the financial management application division of Intuit), Evernote and Airbnb.

Joe Korngiebel, senior vice president of user experience at Workday, said mobile apps are rapidly changing the way we live, work and play. "Yahoo has done some innovative things with its weather app and a News app that has some gamification to make it fun. With the Uber app, I can get a ride; Intuit will let me do all my taxes on my phone," he said.

David Needle

David Needle

Based in Silicon Valley, veteran technology reporter David Needle covers mobile, bi g data, and social media among other topics. He was formerly News Editor at Infoworld, Editor of Computer Currents...