Communication, business or fun: Stop trying to be everything to everyone

I love that I can get an app for my calendar that syncs across all devices, use an enterprise solution to access business content on my tablet, and play racing games with my son from our mobile phones. However, apps that try to do all three – communications, business and fun – are too cumbersome. Developers today need to decide on one key area that they’ll improve with their solution, rather than trying to be everything to everyone.

The consumer imperative

One thing that many of us vendors struggle with is user experience and design. In an age of consumerization, when consumers have a wealth of easy-to-use apps that they can download at the drop of a hat, a sleek design and utilitarian user experience is crucial. No matter what industry you work in, we’re all consumers when we leave the office, and I know I can count myself among the legions of consumers who are demanding the same types of simplified apps and solutions in the workplace.

Logically I know that this isn’t always possible – every app can’t be as clean to use as my favorite mapping app, or as engaging as the mobile games that keep my kids glued to their phones at all hours of the day. However, every company needs to consider what type of problem they’re looking to solve before creating a solution – are you a communications tool, a business supporter, or a fun game? Before building, businesses must choose, what is the core of their products?

Identity crisis

In the age of consumerization I see companies struggling with this. We all want to create the next beautiful app that is featured in a commercial and fawned over by millions. But at the end of the day, every company has to stay true to its stated benefits, and build an engaging user experience on top of that solution. I work in an industry where security is valued over everything else, but I still push my company to provide a sophisticated design that will appeal to end users who utilize our products. We just layer that experience on top of our security functionality.

In order for a solution to live beyond its launch, it needed to have a stated goal. It needs to provide a benefit to the user that isn’t muddied by design features that don’t fit with the user experience, or too many additions that confuse the core value of the product. My favorite solutions are simple – they either entertain me, they let me communicate with my family around the globe, or they improve my day-to-day business activities. I don’t want one solution that does everything, because a product that did that many things likely wouldn’t do them all well. Businesses need to pick one core value and build an offering around that.

An abundance of offerings

When the iPhone was launched in 2007, the most intriguing part to me was the explosive growth of its App Store. It provided end users with a myriad of options for gaming, for communications, and for business. However, this explosion meant that businesses were suddenly competing for eyeballs not just with their immediate competitors, but also with every developer who could slap together an app and get it approved by Apple.

This made many of us in the technology industry sloppy, because companies stopped focusing on their core offering and started trying to be everything to everyone, in order to compete in the landslide of products. Too many features stuffed into one solution do not make for a sophisticated user experience, no matter how elegant the design may be.

Embracing our core user experience

I think we should embrace the abundance of offerings on the market today. The key is to properly identify what type of solution you want to provide to the market – business, communication or fun – and put all of your resources behind making it the best product available in that category. This way you’ll be the right solution to the right people, instead of trying to be everything to everyone.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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