|In May of 2012, the Obama administration released a document entitled “Digital Government: Building a 21st Century Platform to Better Serve the American People.” This memo requested government agencies begin offering more servicens via mobile apps and required each agency to start making at least two services available to the public in this manner in the proceeding 12 months. President Obama said, “Americans deserve a government that works for them anytime, anywhere and on any device.”This step seems logical in order to continue guiding government down the path of the digital world. However, many of today’s government apps lag in terms of helpfulness and even simplicity, when compared to those from the private sector. If your agency is looking to build a great app community members won’t want to live without, keep reading.|
Four tips for building a successful app
Building an app your citizens will love takes thoughtful planning and consideration. Here are four tips to creating an app people will use.
- Keep it simple: Mobile apps should be built with a specific function in mind. All too often, we see apps attempting to be everything to everyone. Focus on a specific task that provides easy access to information citizens want and your app is more likely to be one they can’t live without. And don’t make users work too hard to get that information. Apps that are feature-crazy and require a gazillion steps to accomplish a task are less likely to be adopted by users.
- Make it interactive: Apps that allow for feedback, provide acknowledgement and include elements of gamification provide users with elements of interactivity—and an engaging, interactive experience increases the chance your app will get repeat use. Allow citizens to report potholes or snow removal needs via a mobile app. Immediately acknowledge receipt of reports and allow citizens to track progress right from their smartphone. Add elements of gamification by allowing citizens to prioritize or rate current initiatives with a plus or minus—this not only encourages engagement, but also provides a clearer view on which issues are most pressing.
- Deliver value: Having an app is all fine and dandy, but if it doesn’t solve a problem or deliver some sort of value, it will be deemed unnecessary and will not be utilized. Apps should provide residents with information they can use or services that are helpful to them. Consider offering an app that provides real-time parking availability or bus arrival times. Or, build an app residents can use to pay parking tickets or renew their drivers’ licenses. Apps that provide value are apps people can’t live without.
- Promote it: Simply building an app and making it available via the App StoreSM or Google Play™ will not be enough to drive traffic to it. You’ll need to promote it if you want people to use it. When mailing out public reminders (for instance, snow removal guidelines or street repair notifications), include a magnet or Jar Opener that promotes your mobile app and the related services it offers. Imprint mobile app icons and a message that says “Renew your license anytime, anywhere!” on a Multi-Sleeve Wallet or key tag. Hand them out to all citizens renewing their drivers’ licenses at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Or, promote a mobile app to check bus or train schedules and on-time statuses with signage or banners at the bus or train station. Imprint them with a QR code so users can download your app right then and there.
Schroeder, Stan. “Obama Wants Government Agencies to Focus on Mobile Apps.” Mashable. N.p., 24 May 2012. Web. Retrieved 15 Jan. 2014.
Breeden II, John. “The 10 best mobile apps built by federal agencies — GCN.” GCN. N.p., 22 June 2012. Web. Retrieved 15 Jan. 2014.
Heaton, Brian. “Building Addictive Mobile Apps for Citizens and Employees.” Government Technology. N.p., 24 Oct. 2013. Web. Retrieved 15 Jan. 2014.
Finnie, Scot. “Scot Finnie: 5 tips for developing successful mobile apps.” Computerworld.com. N.p., 14 Jan. 2013. Web. Retrieved 15 Jan. 2014.