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I have recently been working on some guidance on when to use mobile or web applications for my employer. What has been interesting is that there is plenty of information on the technical dimensions that should be considered. But not so much on the negative brand impact that could occur if the application isn’t targeted at users properly, and most crucially sustained.

Let me show what I mean by highlighting some common, but relevant observations.

Many end user businesses tend to work on a project or programme basis, so once a solution whether internal, B2B or B2C once delivered gets handed over to the operational teams to monitor and keep alive. Even for devops once the solution is deemed complete the bulk of the team will move to new objectives. Net result is that the solution remains static until new functional requirements are needed.

As businesses, we would like to increase the ability for customers to serve themselves and ‘shape their customer journey’ to what they want. All of which means we will increasingly see 1st point of customer engagement either as new or returning customers through apps in the same way as websites have prior to the rise in mobility.

We know that mobile devices are evolving at a tremendous rate driven by vendor competition. This has resulted in things like ever changing screen sizes and resolutions which have largely been growing but with Apple jumping into the watch market I think we’ll see another change in the next couple of years.

Not only have the screen resolutions changed, the interaction and presentation styles have been evolving. Take the huge change for IOS7 with the adoption of the ‘flat’ design paradigm, and with IOS8 subtler but important changes to allow changing of the feel of aspects like the keypad. This all before you think about the change and evolution of other solutions that you might want to integrate with such as Facebook, Twitter etc.

So, back to my original point, what does this mean? Well essentially if you’re going to invest in mobile apps you have to keep up the investment with regular updates to keep the experience current, you can’t really use the project model. With stats like Gartner’s around security (75% of apps not passing security tests by 2015) there is a clear need also to invest in capability to drive quality into the solution in all the less visible non functional issues and examining the solution continually from the user view point. This all adds upto a mobile application not being cheap.

Just to bring my point home, below are some screen shots from the Apple App Store taken very recently which reflect what happens and the impact you could end up with (and the feedback in a form that you’re unlikely to address). Not to mention Virgin is a pretty brand aware organisation, so we’d have thought they wouldn’t have got caught out by these challenges.

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