Every enterprise mobile app should be designed with one simple goal in mind: to provide value to your end-users. Too much content or functionality can oversaturate an app, overwhelm the user, decrease user-adoption, and detract from its overall value. It’s a delicate balance, and it’s important not to let edge-case features impede on the app’s central objective.
So whether this is your first time designing an enterprise mobile app or you have built and released many, my advice is the same. First, define the app’s purpose and then concentrate on the tasks to be accomplished. Let that purpose or task-set define the underlying functionality and help drive your ideal user experience. Forget about all the bells and whistles. But if a feature enhances or helps accomplish the app’s objective then be sure to include it.
If you already have a well-defined app and are looking to add features to enhance its value, here are some of the most common (and not so common) functions used in enterprise apps today. But if you’re reading this article to help define a user experience prior to establishing your app’s objectives then stop reading and go back to the drawing board. This is not meant to be used as a checklist; this is about creating valuable mobile apps.
1. Favorites List
While it might feel like fluff, the favorites list provides quick access to content users access most and strikes at the heart of why smartphones are so popular in the first place, for their ability to retrieve valuable information exactly when users need it.
In the context of an enterprise app, think about making favorites lists shareable or publishable. If a manager or employee has gathered a valuable list of appropriate content for their department, why not let them share it with the team?
2. Offline Functionality
Eventually we will all have Internet connectivity, regardless of our location. But until that day comes, it’s increasingly important to include offline functionality in our mobile apps. If this doesn’t jibe with your mobility budget, consider making key app functions operable offline, rather than all of it. Focus on maintaining mission-critical or high value-added functionality for users who might be working offline.
3. In-App Capture
In-app capture encompasses a variety of functions. Share or document user-specific information via native functionality such as image (or video) capture. A good use-case here is receipt submission for expense-reporting apps. In-app capture also enables users to scan QR codes and view their underlying data. Signature capture is another prevalent feature in enterprise mobile apps, one that has transformed how organizations do business and opened-up traditional processes to mobility.
4. Augmented Reality
While this will definitely amp up your app’s cool factor, unless you truly have a need for it, augmented reality will (at best) seem out of place in an enterprise environment. At worst, AR can cause app-bloat or lead to memory issues and crashes. Mapping and location apps present good use-cases for including this functionality, particularly if you’re dealing with multiple locations within close proximity to each other. In terms of design and space-planning, furniture companies may employ augmented realty to drag, drop, and rotate furniture in a room. If done well, AR can seem stunningly futuristic and offer users a novel interaction method. If done poorly (which is more often the case), AR can prove a waste of time for both your end-users and developers.
5. In-App Purchase
Over the last two years POS integration has become more common than any other feature. Whether it’s via the Android API, Apple framework or another vendor-provided SDK, the major platforms make this relatively easy to develop and provide users the ability to complete purchases at their own convenience.
6. User-based Data Aggregation
The best way to provide value to your end users is to allow them to customize the application as they see fit. This might mean implementing specific views users can add records or bits of data to, or—in the case of a large data set—might entail adding Sort By and Group By along with advanced search capabilities.
7. Carousel Display
Consider utilizing carousel-swipe functionality within your application. Include a title and a brief description beneath each image or document and allow users to quickly browse multiple assets by swiping instead of having to drill down into each record or summary to view an image or attached asset. Think about all the different ways you might visually display a set of records. Varying the display-method to optimize the experience saves users time and frustration.
8. Proximity services
Proximity services are a cool (and sometimes scarily accurate) means of targeting your end user, most often used by retail companies. Imagine walking down the chip aisle in a grocery store and suddenly receiving a push-notification for Lays Potato Chips just as you’re reaching for a competitor’s bag. Companies utilize WiFi routers, Bluetooth, and beacons to accomplish this effect—one that benefits your end-users and allows you to target micro-moments, reaching the right customer at the right place and the right time.
Android devices have offered an altimeter functionality for some time; iOS is just now catching up. As the ability to capture a user’s location becomes more and more accurate so does the altimeter reading already built into your smartphone device. Image an app that allows you to locate conference rooms or employee groups inside a building based upon the floor on which they’re located.
10. Daily Message
Need to convey timely information to end-users without enabling push notifications? Consider offering message-of-the-day functionality as the first thing a user sees after logging in. Messages can be fetched from a feed, web service or database. Daily messages are perfect for retail establishments that want to notify users of discounts or provide end users new or interesting information they might not encounter within a typical workday.
What enterprise mobile app features do you consider essential? Please leave your comments below.
Senior Project Manager & Scrum Master at Propelics