How To Rock Your App Launch: 10 Quick Tips

Launching a new app can be a pretty daunting task.

A good friend of mine recently developed and launched an app because she had wished for years that it would exist. It’s an app that allows wrestlers, parents and coaches to track wrestling scores, matches and opponents with ease.

I learned some important lessons while watching her go through the app launching process that I’d like to share with you.

1. Make sure you’re passionate about the concept behind the app that you’re developing.

She needed this app to exist so that she could use it, and she thought other parents may want to use it too.

2. Launch your app at the right time.

The pre-season just started, and she put the app on the market at exactly the right moment. Before her app had even been out for 1 week, she already had tons of downloads. If she had launched it a few months before or a few months later, it wouldn’t have been nearly as successful at launch.

3. If you’re going to launch the app yourself, make sure you do your pre-marketing months in advance.

Before her app was even finished, she was posting teaser links in wrestling forums, and reaching out to wrestling organizations to let them know it was on the way.

4. Check branding options before you become too attached to an app name.

She didn’t name her app until she made sure that the domain name, Facebook url and Twitter handle were available. If they hadn’t been, she was willing to change the name of the app.

Don’t marry yourself to an app name until you’ve secured the appropriate branding.

5. Perform Usability testing with all of the appropriate personas.

She tested her app with kids, teens and with adults to ensure that it would be usable by her entire target audience. She focused closely on UX from the very beginning which helped with her rapid adoption rate at launch.

6. Once you launch, sincerely ask your users for feedback.

After she posted links to the app in various forums, she asked sincerely for feedback and feature requests from her target audience. Her son has only been wrestling for a few years and is in elementary level tournaments, so she didn’t have experience yet with high school level wrestling. She wanted to make absolutely sure that she was meeting the needs of her entire user base.

7. Iterate like crazy.

She launched the app with the features she felt were necessary for success, but had a plan for various iterations of those features in advance. After launch, several of the feature requests that her users presented were so fantastic that she integrated them in with the first couple of planned feature iterations immediately.

8. Don’t trip yourself up by trying to integrate every single feature that is requested, but don’t get so focused on your planned iterations that you don’t listen the feedback you’re receiving from your target audience.

This is quite possibly one of the trickiest parts of app development. The knee jerk reaction in the beginning stages is to include every single feature request people send your way. Over time your app will become huge and cumbersome and so feature heavy that the UX will suffer.

At the same time, you can’t get so obsessed with your pre-planned release strategy and timeline that you don’t take time to integrate the best feature requests while you work on iterations of existing features.
Strike a balance between these two areas and you’ll wind up with a phenomenal app that really meets your users needs.

9. Pre-plan your monetization strategy.

Before she had even finished her app, she reached out to some experienced industry folks through Twitter and other social media outlets to determine the best way to monetize her app.

The option she landed on makes perfect sense for her audience. Don’t think that you need to milk people dry from the beginning to make money. I don’t ever download an app that I have to pay for, unless I have an opportunity to try a lite version first, and I often find myself upgrading to the paid version if I love the app.

10. Add analytics from the get go.

You know what’s awesome? Being able to watch the use of your app increase on a daily basis, and having the opportunity to watch which features are being used the most. Custom events in Google Analytics are a great way to keep an eye on what’s going on with your app in real time. You can also put together some pretty killer stat sheets based on the data you receive on a monthly basis. Having analytics access also helps you locate problem areas from a UX perspective with ease.

My friend added custom events before her app went live, and is having a blast looking at her stats each night. Data = fun. 🙂

I hope you found these tips helpful. Now get out there a launch some killer apps!

In case you want to check out her app, you can download it for Android or iPhone by visiting, or (See? Solid branding FTW.) 🙂

You have a mobile native app! Great! But why?!


Brands I shop at very occasionally keep spamming me with their announcements about their new improved native phone apps.

Some of them are actually kind of cool. SweetFrog has an app that contains games for kids, and a frequent shopper QR code. You pay, they scan your app’s QR code and they give you credit for your purchase. A certain number of purchases = free ice cream. Who doesn’t love free ice cream? The app is a total win.

Another app I couldn’t live without: Mobile Banking. How did I ever survive life before I could cash a check using my phone?! Driving to the bank is so 4 years ago. If a bank does’t have a solid mobile banking native app, I refuse to do business with them. A responsive website isn’t enough for me because I check my account daily (thank you identity theft incident for making me paranoid) and a native app is more convenient/feels more secure to me.

Walmart has their new app that contains their price catcher thing, which actually proved to be kind of helpful during back to school time. You scan your receipt, they compare your purchases to local sales at other stores, if they are charging more, they credit you the difference. Why is this helpful? As a parent, I didn’t have to go to 982374 different stores to save 20 bucks on school supplies. I threw them all in my cart, scanned my receipt and got my savings 3 days later.

Now lets talk about native apps that don’t make sense to me. Once a year at Christmas time I hit our slightly lame mall and buy a bunch of stuff for my family.  I’m not going to download the native GAP app to shop there once every Christmas. I’m not going to download the AE app because I buy a gift card there once a year for my sister. I’m not even remotely invested enough in these brands to download their native apps. That’s space that I could be filling with pictures and videos of my kiddo and my puppy.

Are younger shoppers downloading these apps and using them often? Could be.

On the flip side, I do occasionally shop on my phone at Christmas time, to avoid the crowds (since I’m kind of a hermit). If your retail site isn’t responsive, and you try to force me to download a native app to shop, I’m not buying your stuff and I’ll move along to your competitor.

Choosing between Mobile Native Apps and Responsive Web Design is a big deal for brands. One size does not fit all. Sometimes a responsive site just makes sense. Sometimes you really need to have a mobile native app. Think about your audience and how they access your brand.

If you can swing both a responsive site AND a mobile native app, and they both make sense for your target demographic, more power to you.

Is your target audience a group that will surf the app store to find you? Will they download your native app if you put a giant banner on your lame mobile web site that doesn’t contain any content? Or are they the type that will visit your site on their mobile device and expect to be able to find everything and shop without that annoying download step?

If you’re legitimately not sure which way the majority of your target audience will swing, ASK THEM. Fire off an email campaign, ask your audience which they would prefer and why. It’s a pretty big decision for your brand. If you make the wrong choice you’ll potentially be losing out on mega bucks. It’s very much worth the time to conduct some user research.

To sum things up, don’t just assume that you need a mobile native app because everyone else has one. Take a hard look at your audience and see if the investment makes sense. Obviously you HAVE to have a mobile web presence of some sort these days or you’re going to lose out on huge amounts of cash, but don’t assume it has to be a native app if it doesn’t make sense for your target audience.

Mobile UX: User Expectations Have Shifted


The New Smartphone User

Welcome to the world of the “New Smartphone User”.

“Give me a break,” you say. “There’s no such thing as a “Smartphone” anymore. Practically all phones are smart. My 10 year old has an iPhone, and so does my great aunt.”

You’re right. Everyone is jumping in on mobile. It’s disruptive technology that didn’t exist in “lots of people can afford it” form 5 years ago.

Mobile Back in the Day

I remember my first “smartphone”. I got it back in the day when the only “smartphones” were Palm Pilots and BlackBerrys. I worked at Verizon Wireless right out of college, and got to watch the users who came in with their “SmartPhone” devices. Most of them were middle age business women and men. They rolled up in their Mercedes’, walked in in suits, and asked us for help reconfiguring their email settings. They exchanged their BlackBerry pins at meetings and had inappropriate conversations while looking extremely hard at work. The “Smartphone” wasn’t cool, it wasn’t helpful for the average user, it was a business tool.

Texting Takes Over the World
Then a shift started to happen. Folks began to text like crazy on their flip phones. Parents were coming in to our store waving their cell phone bills around screaming bloody murder at us because they had $1200.00 in charges from their teenagers going WAY over the 250 text limit. (Once a dad even ripped a phone off the wall and thew it at us. People get REALLY fired up when it comes to their cellular devices and bills.)

The phone manufacturers realized that it would be easier to text on a qwerty than it was on a regular flip cell, so out came phones like the LG EnV. It was a huge seller. Still a “Flip” but a long skinny one, that flipped open to reveal a full keyboard in all of it’s teenage text loving glory. And the Moto Sidekick. You could slide the screen up to reveal a keyboard. It was new, it was exciting, it was incredibly disruptive to the mobile industry. Kids would come into our store, and it was like a ray of light was shining down from heaven on those devices. The gateway to general population smartphone usage was beginning to open.

iPhone Changed Everything

Then entered the very first iPhone. And nothing in the mobile tech industry was ever the same. They targeted the young hipster market. Early adopters of tech, not business users. Young adults who were searching for the perfect way to promote their status. They had something to prove and they weren’t afraid to drop some serious cash to do it. iPhones 1 & 2 were pretty magical. Only a select group of users got on board that early, the Mac addicts were in heaven.

Then came the iPhone 3G, and everything changed again. I jumped into the iPhone scene at the 3G mark. No more CrackBerry addition for me. I became an Apple fan. I wondered how I had ever lived without this little device. I started out using it mainly for email and games, then Facebook stepped up their native game and I was hooked.

At this point other manufacturers started to scramble and really try to get in the game. There were LG touch screen phones, but they were kind of messy from a UI stance, Motorola gave them a shot too, but battery life was insanely short, you basically had to have them plugged in all day. No one came close to iPhone, until Android exploded on to the scene.

The Android platform had a slow start, then caught like wild fire. Non Apple smartphone manufacturers grabbed hold of it like it was a lifeboat in the sea of mobile they were drowning in. Some went vanilla, others started customizing, and here we are today: with a ton load of Android devices all running fragmented versions of the OS. It’s all over the place, but it’s customizable, and the users who love it, REALLY love it. The freedom to customize your OS was a huge selling point for the tech savvy folks who had been jailbreaking their iPhones for years.

Businesses starting buying employees smartphones, parents starting buying smartphones, they started buying their kids smartphones, the years passed and now even my great aunts and uncles are iPhone and Android-ing it up when they go in to upgrade.

So why all the fuss about changes to mobile app navigation right now? “Folks have been using smartphones for years and years, what’s the big deal?” you may ask.

The New Demographic Expects More

The big deal, is that up until very recently, Smartphones were not full blown main stream. They were still a couple hundred bucks, and not everyone could afford them. You can now walk into BestBuy and pick up an iPhone 5C for $1.00 with a 2 year contract. The demographic has shifted from the tech savvy hipsters who have used iPhones and Androids for years, to the grandparents who have been using a flip TracPhone up until now. They’re also being used by parents who don’t want to deal with a wifi contract so they let their kids use their smartphones to do research for school, and by elementary kids in the classrooms. A local school just started a BYOD program, and they’re including smartphones in the program. We’re dealing with a brand new demographic of mobile users here folks, many of whom have no idea what a series of stacked lines in a square mean (hamburger icon to you). And they expect more.

Disruptive Tech: A History

I think of it this way. Back in the 80’s, DOS was where it was at. Prior, if you wanted to program, you ran around punching holes in things and feeding your masterpiece into a machine. Usability was not the key focus, getting the thing to work was the key focus. Function > than Form, UX & Usability at that point.

Then came the internet. If you had a website, you were a magical sorcerer. I created my first one in the 90’s. It was an HTML 1, Geocities back when Geocities was just a big white box to type your code in, Javascript ticker infested hot mess, but it was right in line with industry standards. It had photos, links, the ticker (the shame still runs deep on that one) and that was it.

Did it work? Yep. Was it beautiful? Not so much. Was it usable? Barely. Websites and programs didn’t have to be user friendly back then, they just had to exist. Folks piled their homepages full of crazy amounts of info. We were on dial up so images had to be tiny or you’d be sitting there for 10 minutes waiting for a page to load. 26.6k modems. Shudder.

Then the industry began to grow and change. HTML grew up, JavaScript grew up, CSS burst onto the scene and things began to improve. Folks started to expect more than for your site to just load. They expected to be able to FIND things on your site, and navigate around with ease. And slowly over time, we moved away from the Function>Form, Usability and UX mentality into the mindset where we are now, where if your page isn’t user friendly, folks leave and go find another one that is. Form, Usability & great UX are now the focus, functionality is a given. Now user friendly interfaces and a good looking website are the user expectation. The industry has grown up.

How Does This Apply to Mobile?

So now, here we are. Mobile app designers and developers are scrambling around trying to figure out what’s going on with mobile navigation and this shifty hamburger icon. Mobile apps have been around for years now, the hipsters are well versed in the iconography and the expected navigational structures, “It’s always been done this way,” is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. But the way it’s always been done, isn’t going to be enough anymore. We’re moving out of the land of mobile being disruptive and new and people being amazed if your app actually loads, and into the land of people expecting your stuff to load in seconds, look fabulous and be usable. Is mobile moving at breakneck speed? You know it. You thought the internet transformation progressed quickly? Mobile is stomping that record right into the ground.

Mobile Usability and Fabulous UX Are Now Expected. Test All of the Things!

We need to start testing all of the mobile things. Designs can’t just be based on, “I’m the designer and I like this so I’m doing it,” like the internet was back in the early days, we’ve moved past that point in the mobile space.

People now expect your mobile designs to be sexy AND usable. How do you make sure your designs are usable? Mobile usability testing. And I don’t mean showing your app to your brother who has been using a smartphone for 5 years and him giving it a thumbs up. I’m talking about testing your app design with your specific customer demographic.

Mobile Usability Testing Tools to Get You Started

Mobile Usability Testing tools have come a LONNGGG way in the last few years. There are some killer tools like UXRecorder for mobile web and responsive testing on iOS, SolidifyApp and inVisionApp for testing mobile prototypes on iOS and Android, and and TestFlight for testing native app designs. Get yourself set up with the right tools in your toolbox, and get out there and test your mobile designs with your demographic. Otherwise, your future will be bleak and your apps will wind up chilling next to the old forsaken javascript tickers in that big design graveyard in the sky.


6 UX Tips To Help You Keep Your Website From Becoming “That Guy”

Have you ever seen a person and thought, “Wow! He or she is REALLY attractive!” Then the person starts talking and is so arrogant, crazy, clueless or obnoxious that you’re all, “Wait, false alarm, the attraction is gone.”

Well some websites have the same effect on people. I’ve gone to some beautifully graphically designed sites, only to discover that their content is a giant hot mess, and I can’t find a thing.

On the other hand, I’ve visited some HIDEOUS sites (Ahem, Craigslist) that get the job done. I’m able to find what I need in seconds but I have to force myself not to hide my eyes.

So let’s talk a bit about what it takes to keep your site from landing in the “Wow, this site is awesome! Oh wait, no, never mind.” category.

1. Display all of your contact information prominently on your homepage.

Or not so prominently as long as it’s somewhere on your landing page. Put it in the footer if you must, but for the love of all things holy, do NOT put it in a graphic. There is nothing worse than wanting to call a business, looking it up on your phone and not being able to click the phone number. My short term memory is shot, I don’t want to have to memorize your phone number and type it into my phone keypad. The same goes for email and physical addresses. In the wise words of one of my favorite meme stars Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

2. Don’t bury your product information.

I do not want to click 94 times to get details on your product specs and pricing. I also don’t want to chase the the info around an obnoxious homepage slider. Just list your products and give me the deets quickly please.

3. Make it sexy AND well organized.

While I cringe each time Craigslist loads, I do come back. And there’s another site that shall remain unnamed that is a nightmare content wise, but it’s so beautiful that I still peruse it from time to time. Your goal? Gorgeous AND well organized. Lean too far away from either option and you’re tempting customers who have a 3 second attention span, to leave (myself included). You want their money, so find a happy medium.

4. Don’t ever unceremoniously dump people on the landing page of your mobile app when they find you through search.

Hate. That!!! And it happens to me about 42 times a day.

“Oh look! I Googled and found EXACTLY what I need! Happy dance!” Click the link: “This isn’t what I… Ugh, are you kidding me? AGAIN?”

Google search has also started penalizing sites that do this, so it’s bad for business in addition to being wretchedly bad UX.

5. Optimize your site.

Even if I adore your product, I’m not going to wait longer than 5 seconds for your site to load. In fact, 5 seconds is an eternity. Check out stats on extended load time bounce rates. Even hundredths of seconds count! Make 110% sure your site is optimized for the quickest load times possible across devices.

6. This goes without saying, but make your site mobile friendly.

There are tons of ways to go about this (native app download banners on the site if you navigate to it via phone, mobile web apps, responsive web design), just pick one and make it happen. The number of mobile only internet users is rising significantly every single day. You can’t ignore the phenomenon, and if you try you’re going to get left in the dust and experience massive financial and customer satisfaction repercussions. Take a deep breath, pick a method and make it happen.

Put this it all together and what do you get? A website that is fabulous looking, easy to navigate, cross device compatible and full of well organized content! You also get happy customers, more money in your pockets, and you keep your website from becoming “That Guy.” Good stuff!

UX and Design Tools That Will Improve Your Productivity

This is a list of some of my favorite UX, design and accessibility testing tools at the moment! I hope you find them useful!

Tools for Collaboration

Tools for Usability Testing

Usability Testing Services That Provide Testers

Tools for Mobile Usability Testing & Prototyping

Tools for Usability Tester Recruiting

Mac Tools for Demoing Apps

Tools for Stat Tracking

Tools for Accessibility Testing

Miscellaneous Tools I Love

If any of your favorite tools aren’t listed, please feel free to leave them in the comments! I love testing out new tools! 🙂