This originally appeared as a guest post on

Mobile apps continue to be an essential part of the digital marketing ecosystem in 2015, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to create them successfully. Thankfully, we are long past the days of marketers everywhere clamoring, “I need an app!” without understanding how or why. Remember that, circa 2008?

Successful mobile apps

We have learned a lot about mobile behaviors since then. For instance, U.S. smartphone owners use an average of 24 non-native apps per month but spend 84% of their time on just five apps – Facebook, Gmail, Instagram, Weather and YouTube. It’s easy to see why. Those apps are powerful, useful and convenient. They help us make connections. They serve a specific purpose. Above all, they make life easier.

So what about the millions of other apps out there? Why are so few considered successful?

One reason is that users are suffering from mobile app fatigue. That means that telling your constituents you have an app is no longer a selling point; it may have no further effect than to elicit a collective groan. Therefore, it is more imperative than ever that your app makes life better or easier in a way that fits the context of your users’ lives. Consumers more than ever expect everything when they want it, in the want that they want.

Let’s be clear, though: the opportunities are out there to create amazing apps if you ask the right questions along the way.

I have compiled the following list of 10 questions to ask yourself when planning to develop your app.

The Basics

The better you can answer these questions, the more quickly and effectively you can bring your app to life.

1. STRATEGY: Why do you need an app?

Hint: “Because the CEO wants one” is an insufficient answer.

2. CONTEXT: How will your app help users conveniently accomplish a task or provide something beneficial to them within the context of their lives?

This isn’t about you; it’s about them. Put your users first and define how you are making their lives easier.

3. AUDIENCE: Who are your target users? Current customers? New customers? Employees? The world at large?

This answer in large part determines whether you will be publishing to public app stores or through an enterprise mobile device management (MDM) system.

4. FUNCTIONALITY: This might seem basic but what OS(s) and device(s) are you targeting, and will you require connectivity?

Android (48.4%) and iPhone (47.4%) are now within a percentage point of each other for smartphone market share, so you may want to consider how to target both operating systems. Also, consider whether or not your app is worthwhile for users on phones, tablets or both. And don’t forget wearables, which bring a whole new set of smaller, quicker use cases.

Standing Out/Best Practices

The best apps go beyond the basics and effectively answer the following questions.

5. FEATURES: How will your app utilize the unique features of mobile devices?

The most effective apps utilize the device’s unique features such as geolocation, accelerometer and health tracking sensors.

6. USER EXPERIENCE: Have you optimized and tested the design for smaller screens and miniscule attention spans?

Your app isn’t just a website on a small screen, so don’t design it that way. Make your targets big so they’re easy for users to tap. Reduce the number of elements that are on the screen at the same time. Use buttons instead of text links.

7. HANDSHAKE WITH I.T.: Are you working with your IT team from the beginning?

I can’t stress this enough: Marketers give themselves the best chance for success by facilitating a strong handshake with I.T.. Unfortunately I’ve seen apps come to a complete halt because I.T. wasn’t consulted from the beginning and didn’t have the bandwidth or buy-in when it came time to launch. Marketers, make I.T. your best friends!

8. DATA PRIVACY: How are you protecting user information?

Along the same lines as #7, Marketing should work with I.T. to address this question. Forrester Research suggests that data privacy will continue to be a prime concern for mobile users.

9. SHARED EXPERIENCES: Can your app become even more valuable by providing seamless experiences with other apps?

This is a relatively new trend that refers to brands providing seamless experiences with other apps or mobile sites. One example is a travel app that allows you to book a trip in its own context or in the Google Maps app. Users will gravitate to these shared experiences because they provide an even greater level of convenience.

10. PROMOTIONS: How are people discovering your app?

If you build it, they may or may not come depending on how well you promote it. For public apps, start by soliciting as many user reviews in the app stores as possible. Draw attention to it on your website and don’t be afraid to continually remind your users about the many ways in which you are providing them something useful and unique!

These days, it takes more effort than ever to develop an app that provides a meaningful experience for your users and distinguishes your brand. But when done right, apps can be one of the most effective and rewarding components of your digital strategy.