The many problems with travel apps and how to fix them
The ease with which one can generate an mobile app has, of course, encouraged many in the industry to go ahead and put resources into creating one.
To the “Follow me on Twitter” and “Like me on Facebook” has been added “Download the App”.
But this is all starting to take serious amounts of time. On my personal iPad, which is a wifi-only device, I typically get two or three update requests a day, requiring me to spend probably about an hour a week downloading the latest versions.
It’s yet another thing that increases the flow of digital junk on my machines. And this is before we, as users, even start using such apps.
According to Neilsen, the average user spends around 40 mins a day with apps.
I have also looked at the amount of interaction I have with the apps that I have (now numbering more than 150) on my various devices. I see now that many are really not that useful at all after their initial one time, “it’s interesting” peruse look at.
So, what strikes me is that the amount of time spent with just dealing with apps is increasingly wasteful, inefficient and often very annoying.
Here are the things I am beginning to see as general obstacles to the success of applications and the culture surrounding apps.
- Clutter – too many residual apps sitting around being useless – let’s call them Zombie Apps.
- Useless apps to start with, developed for no real reason other than it sounded cool and someone in IT had some free time on their hands rather than supporting users.
- Abysmal search on the various App stores. Apple and Google are particularly bad but NO ONE IS GOOD in this area.
- Mostly poor quality of the apps themselves, such as bad coding and lousy UX etc etc. I would also put this down to lack of discipline in the approval process by Apple and Google.
- Time wasted in companies managing apps
- Gaming the user to downloading useless apps (just when you thought SEO/SEM was bad!).
- Bad support for apps – how to fix or answer questions. Indeed, how arrogant is it to say that an app which is another channel for customer interaction doesn’t have customer support?
- Apps that assume that data is always on. Couple this with high roaming charges.
- Poor interoperability of apps with standard functions like GPS etc. I am amazed at how many apps just, well, fail.
- Privacy. Loads of people big and small companies have been caught abusing personal data.
So here is a series of suggestions of what you should be thinking about before starting your app development.
- What is the real purpose of the app? Define it and refine the use cases. Is the app really necessary?
- Apps may be smaller applications but they are still applications. This means that you have to use development methodologies – and there are NO short cuts
- Know thy users.
- HTML 5 is now pretty standard and makes the use of the mobile web probably just as functional without having to download and maintain an App
- Don’t over complicate things.
- Consider client and server side functions. Not everything has to be done at the client side.
- How are you going to get user engagement and, if necessary, increase the frequency of use.
And let me leave you with this thought. Check out this infographic:
With nearly 1,300 new apps being made available every day and 35 million being downloaded, how do you cut through the clutter?
Timothy O'Neil-Dunne is a contributing Node to Tnooz and managing partner at travel consultancy firm, T2Impact. He serves as the lead for the airline, aviation and airport practice. He is also a Co-founder of VaultPAD an accelerator devoted exclusively to travel and travel-related startup businesses.
Timothy was a founding management team member of the Expedia team where he headed the ground transportation and international portfolios, before founding T2Impact in 1998.
He has worked in aviation and travel distribution for more than 30 years, including time with Worldspan as head of technology where he managed international technology services from product to infrastructure.
He is also CTO and deputy CEO of Lute Technologies, a permanent advisor to the World Economic Forum and writes on the T2Impact Blog.