Five Ways To Avoid Becoming the GeoCities of Mobile Apps

I recently conducted an online search for a repairman when my washing machine decided to die halfway through the spin cycle, and what surprised me most is how many of those with an online presence had sites that hadn’t been updated in years. Quite a few were on the now defunct (at least in the U.S.) Yahoo!-owned GeoCities. The repairman which eventually earned the privilege of bringing my appliance back to life had a fresh, easy to navigate website with an option for booking an appointment and acquiring a bid online.

It got me to thinking about the 90’s and the website boom of the small business owner and how it applies to today’s mobile app boom.

When Yahoo closed their United States GeoCities, their free homepage service boasted over 38 million user-built sites, many of which still live on in posterity several years later despite the inability to update content or the proliferation of better options for small business owners. GeoCities’ popularity peaked during the 90’s when small business owners everywhere came to the realization that if they didn’t have a website, they were missing exposure on the growing internet phenomenon. But, sadly, many didn’t progress past those free cookie-cutter sites. And today the presence of the outdated content is actually a detriment, conveying a tired, has-been aura to a company whether that, in reality, is true or not.

I firmly believe the same is true for mobile. Statistics point to the ever-growing mobile market and the demand by consumers to find what they want in mobile. And experts preach the need for businesses to get into mobile – and they’re not wrong.

But all mobile is not equal.

If a small business is to put their best foot forward into this grand new world of mobile commerce, then the need to be unique, to protect and promote branding and identity, and to interact regularly both through in-app notices and updated content must be just as important as affordability. A cheap app that looks cheap, acts cheap and doesn’t impress the user both through a pleasing user interface and useful content is probably worse than no app at all.

It is this philosophy which firmly drives our products and services at APPCityLife. It is why our small business apps don’t all look alike. It is why we partner with graphic artists, videographers and other professionals to create professional quality and affordable content.

Here are five ways to avoid becoming the GeoCities of Mobile Apps:

1. Get Fresh

An app with activity and fresh content will retain and gain users. One of our clients, AlluraDerm, sends out notices the first of each month with new specials. Our analytics show a marked increase in their mobile app not only after the notices are sent but even before. Their users have come to learn that the new specials arrive the first of every month and visit the app in anticipation of the new content. The app also features fingertouch links to their website and social media links right on the landing page, meaning fresh content is always the first thing that users see when they visit the app.


2. Get Sexy.

Sexy in mobile is all about blending the right colors and fonts to not only tie in your branding but also to create the right aesthetic effect on your users. The app we developed for Mean1 MMA & Fitness is edgy with dark reds, grays and blacks. In contrast, our non-profit client, Roadrunner Food Bank, chose earthy browns and greens to compliment their online color scheme. Right now, we’re putting the finishing touches on a mobile app which will celebrate Albuquerque, New Mexico’s Centennial and Summerfest. It is important to not only share information about the year-long celebration, but to share it in a way that celebrates the city’s rich history. And thus we implemented a clean, grayscale design that is totally retro.

3. Get Picky.

Your clients aren't cookie cutters; you shouldn't be, either.Don’t settle for a free app that doesn’t do your company justice. Do you really want your restaurant app to have the same navigation options and features as a floral shop or a day care? You don’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to create a one-of-a-kind app if you don’t have that kind of money to put into mobile, but you shouldn’t sell your company short, either, but settling for something that isn’t going to help your brand and may, in fact, hurt it. Your customers aren’t cookie cutters; you shouldn’t be, either.

4. Get Creative.

Tours of Old Town, a tour-guide company, came to us wanting to do something out of the ordinary that would create an interactive experience for their potential and current clients. And by taking their time to think through exactly what they wanted their user-experience to be, we’ve created an app that will not only be functional and offer fingertip access to information about tour times, costs, where to meet, etc., but the in-app hot spots will also provide users with exclusive content available nowhere else but in the app. Now that’s the way to create a unique small business presence in mobile.

5. Get Social.

One of the best ways to create fresh content in an app is to feed content that is constant being updated from other sources. Make sure your mobile app features your social presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Google+, and wherever else you hang out on the web. And be respectful of your users’ privacy. I recently deleted an app that I was actually quite interested in when they required me to create an account that included all of my personal contact information before I could even see the content of the app. When your users trust that their privacy will be respected, they’ll be much more likely to engage with you in mobile.


About APPCityLife

APPCityLife connects people with cities through a complete end-to-end mobile and cloud platform where cities, developers, civic hackers, nonprofits, schools and enterprise can publish robust mobile apps with seamless Open Data integration. Our platform is powerful enough to support rapid prototyping for experienced coders and developers, but it is also easily accessible to those without any previous coding experience; we empower individuals to create solutions and build mobile apps which address challenges they see within their own community.
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