Engagement is, in some ways, the only metric that matters when it comes to mobile apps. You can define your level of success based on how engaged your audience is; that is, actively using the app, rather than downloading and ignoring (or deleting). Engagement is valuable. It catches people’s attention, puts your name in headlines. Engagement is what grows your app. It’s the holy grail of app design. App owners lose sleep thinking about how to engage users, and when they sleep they dream of beautiful UI designs and hordes of happy customers. I can’t offer all the answers here, but maybe I can help kickstart your brain.
Action: Your design and text should always urge the user to act. Promote what tasks the user can do inside the app. Use strong calls to action to clearly reveal what the user should be doing. You want to make them feel like they are accomplishing something, otherwise there is no reason for them to be in the app. If it isn’t obvious what they should be doing, they’ll just leave, and the user won’t be compelled to reuse the app again in the future.
Simplicity: When I say simple I don’t mean “lacking depth,” I mean “lacking confusion.” Depth is fine, but don’t toss the user into the full depth all at once. It’s a matter of ease-of-use and organization. When a user looks at the app, they should immediately know what to tap in order to accomplish their goal.
Aesthetics: Attractive designs are important, obviously. Everyone pretty much already knows this, but it has to go on the list, because it’s a big deal. People like pretty things and don’t like ugly things…of course, design is a lot more complicated than that, so you should probably involve a professional app designer to ensure you’ve got a great UI. But, in general, you’ve got to think about the impression your visuals are making on the user. An app with perfect functionality will still suffer from poor engagement if it looks like a web page from 1997. People put a lot of If the app doesn’t look high quality, it will never feel high quality.
Now let’s look at a few more specific things you can do to engage users:
Rewards: The simplest example of an app rewarding its user is the coupon app—users get direct monetary value just for opening up the app. If you offer such incentives to users, they will keep coming back to the app. Now, this doesn’t work the same way for every app obviously, but it can come in many different forms: sales promotions, discounts, contests, bonuses
In-app Messages: If you need to communicate special information, you can have a message pop-up to the user inside the app. This is useful for informing regular users about new features, promotions, news, etc. If you have features that are under-used, you can use an in-app message to promote them. If you want to inform users about new rewards or
Push Messages: These are notifications that go to the phone’s home screen, essentially reaching the user when they are not in your app. These can be used just like in-app messages, with the added benefit of being able to invite the user to launch the app as a call to action. The down-side is that many apps have abused this capability so that users tend to ignore or turn off push notifications. Even so, they can be useful for re-engaging users.
Social Media Incentive: There are a lot of benefits for getting your users to share their experience on social media. One major advantage for app owners is that the users end up spreading awareness of the app through their networks. This can be a multiplier effect for building your user-base. Many apps offer special rewards for social sharing, like exclusive coupons or minor bonus features within the app. But even without those added benefits, social media includes incentives on it’s own: likes, favorites, follows, etc. When I share something from an app and my friends like it, those “likes” are a reward all on their own. Either way, if users feel rewarded for using social media it can be a repeatable, long-term engagement option.
And obviously there are many other ways to keep a user’s attention. Some of them haven’t been invented yet, I’m sure. New entrepreneurs are probably imagining awesome apps right this very minute with high engagement potential! If that’s you, we should get in touch. SDI offers free app consultations to help entrepreneurs and business owners make their way into the mobile market.