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The Web App Help Philosophy Doesn’t Translate Well to Mobile Apps

If you use a web app whether through your Chrome browser or an installed application, you’d notice that there a lot of tool tips, question marks and easy icons you can use to quickly and intuitively figure out what to do with that particular app. Things are fairly easy to figure out and use. This happens for a reason. The web app design has reached the point where you don’t have to go through several steps or jump through several hoops just to get an explanation or guidance as to what to do with a particular function or figure out if the app has a particular function that you’re looking for. A lot of the help and explanation you need to use a particular piece of software is already built into the design and the interface of the software in itself.

Regardless of what particular pieces of software application you like to use, there will be lots of app tips and help tools built into the app itself. Things have gotten to the point where this has become so established that a lot of web developers think that this is completely natural and they have built it into their assumptions when they are building mobile apps. This is a disaster! The truth is web apps’ help philosophies, principles and designs don’t translate well to mobile apps. With mobile, you’re dealing with a much smaller space and a completely different dynamic and the person using the mobile app simply just don’t have the time to click around, explore, and look at the interface for a long period of time. They need help and they need it quickly. This is why the vast majority of mobile apps either doesn’t have a help function embedded or their embedded help function is just completely not up to the job.

It’s extremely important to pay attention to the help features of your mobile app. Why? First, it gives you a competitive advantage because the vast majority of your competitors don’t seem to care about the help features of the mobile app that they have produced. This gives you a competitive edge. Your competitors might have a better product but if you are able to connect better with your users, the user based for your app might grow faster and you might eventually crush your competition in the future. The second reason why mobile app developers should pay attention to the help functions of their apps is that it helps increase the overall value proposition of their product. You may have a Ferrari engine but if people don’t know how to work it, get around it or even appreciate it chances are you will remain obscure and you company will die in the future. It’s really important for your health functionalities to highlight and pay up the strengths of your app as a whole.

Finally, app developers need to pay attention to the help functions of their mobile devices because mobile device platforms evolved very quickly. They need to keep up with the changes and with each evolutionary cycle of this platform, they risk losing whatever market advantage they have. Mobile users just like most technology users are fickle. The old comforting days of Microsoft where people feel that they have to stick to a particular piece of software regardless of how much it sucks is no longer the case. If you are not up for the job, people have a very short attention span and even shorter patience. You better do your job right and quickly or else they will find somebody better, bigger and faster than you- that’s the truth.

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