When venture capitalist Mary Meeker predicted in 2008 that internet usage on mobile devices would overtake desktop by 2014, it was a bold prediction. Meeker’s prediction came true of course, and now well past the 2014 mark the question is no longer, how popular will mobile become, but how can I better leverage mobile to drive my business? This question has driven massive investments by companies to develop responsive sites and a landslide of mobile apps.

Last count, over 1.5 million apps were available in Apple’s app store alone [1]. According to a 2013 study by compuware, anywhere from 80 to 90 percent of all downloaded apps are used once and then eventually deleted by users. While 79 percent of users will give apps a second chance after it failed to impress them on the first go, that number plummets to just 16 percent that will go back for a third attempt. [2]

All of this makes for an extremely competitive environment where the pressure is on to get things right the first time. There are countless articles and books written about best practices in app design and development, but how do you know right up front if your app is a good idea? Start with these three must haves:

  1. It must be useful
  2. It must be intuitive
  3. It must be tested

It must be useful

Before the app is designed, before the first wireframe has been developed, take the time to understand your target user. What need does this app fill? How will the user use it in their everyday life? How often will they need to use it? Are there other options/competitors that they could use instead? Bottom line, if the app isn’t useful, doesn’t satisfy a real need or alleviate a user’s painpoint, it’s almost impossible to be successful.

It must be intuitive

Good UI is important no matter what the device or function. The user experience should always be interesting and captivating, which understandably gets more challenging the smaller the screen.

It must be tested

If your app budget only includes design and development, you might as well just throw the money away and save yourself the effort. Testing is critical to an apps success, both before and after it has been developed.

Done well, all three of the above must haves will support each other. Whether your app is for your customers, your employees etc. Starting from a place of understanding real needs, making it simple to use and testing will keep even the most complex app on task and maximize it’s chance of success.