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Graham Jones is a psychologist and provides consultancy services on web psychology to businesses eager to understand their customers in more depth. Jones, B.Sc., B.A., Adv.Dip.Ed., MBPsS, M.Ed. M.Sc., is also a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Buckingham and an Associate Lecturer at The Open University in the UK.

In 2010, Pew Research Center reported that we were entering an “apps culture.” Five years later, more recent research from that same organization shows that their prediction has come true. The study showed that in 2010 only 35% of people had a mobile phone with apps on them; now, for the younger age group at least, it is over 90% of them. In just 60 months, these studies showed, mobile device usage has largely been taken over by apps.

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Our mobile phones are stuffed with apps – we love them!

But why are apps so popular? Chances are that your own phone and tablet have hundreds of apps between them. On average we all use 27 different apps each month for a total of more than 37 hours, according to consumer analysis company Nielsen. There must be something peculiarly attractive in apps that entices us all to use them so much.

Great Apps Appeal to Our Minds

One of the key features of apps is the way they attack a fundamental part of our psychology. Deep inside the brain is a survival instinct. Its job is to save you energy. It does that by making sure that everything you do each day – including reading this article – is done with the least amount of effort. By reducing the effort you need to do things, your brain is able to ensure that energy can be stored and saved. That’s important for your survival. If you face some sudden danger, you need energy to either take on that problem, or run like crazy away from it. That’s known as the fight or flight instinct, and it only works if your body is able to store quick-release energy. Your brain is constantly on the lookout for ways to do things with the least amount of effort so energy can be snaffled away in your liver, to be used in case of emergency.

Apps appeal to this basic psychological driver of human behavior. It is much easier to use an app to go directly to something than it is to use a web page. Apps save time; they make it easier and more convenient for us to achieve things, and that’s why we like them. One of the eight tried-and-true lessons for top app developers is to focus on the “pain” that customers face. Central to such issues is the speed with which people want to do things – because it appeals to their survival instinct. 

Top app developers such as the team at The Guardian use psychology to help them work out what to do in terms of producing apps.Click To Tweet

But that’s not the only psychological reason people are attracted to apps. Another factor that makes many apps popular is that they are personal. If you think about the apps you use the most, they log you in and provide a completely personalized and customized experience. No two people using the same app actually get identical experiences. This taps into the psychology of our personality where we love anything that is “me, me, me.” App development companies that ensure their products are personalized for individuals make them much more appealing.

Social Apps Are Engaging

There is one other reason apps attract us psychologically. Many of them allow you to connect with others, either using location-based services or through social networks. Human beings love to do what other people do. It is a kind of glue that holds us all together and makes society tick. Psychologists call it “social validation”; as soon as we see other people like us doing something, we want to do it as well.

Top app developers such as the team at The Guardian use psychology to help them work out what to do in terms of producing apps. The Guardian recently produced an app for the Apple Watch and used assessments of user behavior as a starting point. That’s a lesson for all app developers – the more you understand your potential users’ behavior, the better.

If you can produce an app that makes it quick and easy for users to achieve something, that focuses on them as an individual and includes social proof, you will have tapped into some key psychological factors that explain why many apps are so popular.

To get your app produced so it connects with your users psychologically, contact us to find out how we can ensure that happens.

Simon Lee

Simon Lee

Founder and CEO of Glance. Simon has a wealth of development and management experience in mobile technologies and is an innovator and new technology evangelist.