Google shook up the digital landscape recently, when they retooled their search algorithm (again) to give preference to websites that have been optimised for mobile devices. Websites that haven’t yet made the leap are likely to be buried on the search page.

Mobile development is no longer optional. Either a business leans into mobile design and apps, or it sinks without a trace.

The Nerdery is a custom software design firm with over 9,000 projects and 3 million hours under their collective belt. We took a moment to talk to The Nerdery’s Jon Bauer about some mobile trends in 2015 for companies that have already been investigating the industry as well as those preparing to take the plunge.

The Nerdery wrote an eBook called Mobile Trends In 2015. Could you briefly touch on what you go over in that book? What are a few mobile trends you’ve predicted?

The main trend we covered – and one that’s still a hot topic – is the idea of problem-solving design. Apps have to solve a user’s problem or provide them with a solution that is an excellent experience from start to finish. It’s not enough to just have a cleanly-designed app; you need to engage the user and optimise their experience. (Often, people copy Apple’s streamlined design without considering the user’s path or process when using the application.)

The other main point was about data. Apps are getting very good at sharing data, and there’s a continuing trend toward integrating multiple features and functions on a phone or device with an application (exercise apps are a great example of this). This concept falls into hyper-contextualised apps that work in very specific situations for very specific users (we gave the iBeacon example in our eBook.)

Our Mobile Trends in 2015 eBook resonated with our readers because we went more in-depth than just talking about wearables. Certainly, advancements like the Apple Watch are changing the mobile landscape, but we wanted to focus on the larger trends and updates to the mobile ecosystem.

This article from Mashable.com on Mobile Trends in 2015 talks about the battle for wearables beginning. Have you noticed this in your own experience? How might a company go about getting started developing apps for wearables?

The battle for wearables is something of an amusing concept because we all know that Apple will likely win any sort of competition when a device is involved. However, we can continue to expect that the gigantic players, Apple and Google, will continue to dominate devices.

Where we see a real opportunity with getting involved with wearables is to start researching what current (and upcoming) devices can do as well as what applications are currently available. There is a tremendous amount of opportunity in the wearables market, but you have to make sure you’re not creating an app that currently exists. Companies also have to make sure that they’re considering things like marketing and promotion with the development of their wearable applications (and all applications). It could be the best application in the world, but users won’t download it if they can’t find it.

That same article talks about companies using mobile to engage many times, rather than only having one interaction with a customer. How can apps and mobile websites be used to be a bigger part of your clients’ lives? How can that increase brand loyalty and awareness?

The best applications, whether they’re used on a phone, computer or wearable, have to provide a user an optimised and pleasant experience. When people ask us about wearable application development, we generally want to begin by making sure these general principles are in place before we even begin discussion about unique wearable-components for the app. 

Apps are getting very good at sharing data.Click To Tweet

Yes, companies want to make sure their services and applications are available on all of their customers’ devices, but they also have to make sure there is a consistent experience across these platforms and that the company’s feel, branding and messaging are the same. Customers should be able to access the same information on a website using their phone or their laptop, but they also need to be able to navigate through this information on their device. Simply having a ‘mobile friendly’ website generally isn’t enough to ensure your users are engaged with your website on their device. Additional testing and design will help ensure their experience is good on all devices.

Venturebeat.com wrote about some mobile trends for 2015, including the proliferation of mobile games. Gamification can be used to mine useful data from our app users. What kind of insights can gamification yield from your users? How can it also be used to make your company or brand a part of their lives?

The topic of gamification comes up quite frequently with our customers; and while the opportunity is tremendous and engagement can increase greatly, we have to look at the basics before we start any development. You can’t just ‘gamify’ a boring process and expect users to start using it. The game and user-path through the game must be well defined and amusing if you want users to actually use your app.

We live in an age of copycat apps every time a successful app takes off. Companies interested in pursuing gamification must look at their ultimate goals, then develop a process that their users actually want to complete – or their efforts won’t be successful.

What effect will Google’s algorithm change have on companies that are not yet optimised for mobile use? And can you give a few pointers on the best ways to optimise a site for mobile usage?

The bottom line is that if you’re site isn’t mobile-optimised, you’re missing a lot of your visitors. Even if your website appears in the Google search results, if someone on a device visits your site and finds it non-optimised, they’re going to leave before they do anything – whether your goal is to sell something or simply share information.

Mobile optimisation varies site-to-site, so it’s difficult to give specific pointers. There are situations where fairly basic updates can make a site mobile optimised, and other situations where the entire website needs to be rebuilt to make it mobile optimised. We generally suggest a discussion with our sales and development team to determine how much effort will be required to make a client’s website mobile optimised.

For companies that are considering developing an app but haven’t taken the leap yet, where should they begin?

Research. Research. Research.

We’d love to talk to anyone who is interested in moving forward with an app; but the reality is, unless the company or person has done their due diligence with research, the app won’t be successful. Look at the landscape of current applications that provide a similar service. Chances are, your idea has been done by someone else, so make sure you have a unique take on the idea or a new aspect that isn’t currently available.

Additionally, make sure you have the proper resources to move forward. This includes financial backing for regular updates and maintenance to the application. In today’s app landscape, users are expecting regular updates and additional features if they’re going to keep using an app. The long-term success of an application is a long-term business process, not a one-time release. Finally, make sure you’re considering promotional and business plan aspects for the long term. An app must be found if you want users to download it, and you have to think about where you want your app to be a year after development and even further on after that.

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