What does it take to get users hooked on your mobile application? The simple process of building the app, getting a following for it, and then profiting isnÔÇÖt really so simple in the end. Some games get played for 15 minutes followed by an uninstall and never touching it again. Some see a long term following that tends to bring in the real profit. We are going to talk about the habits of consumers, how they influence us, and some past examples.
The key to big success with mobile applications is to build a long term habit within your users. This is by no means an easy thing to do and is rather rare to see. Usually these game changing habits come alongside a huge innovation. Apple, Twitter, and Google are great examples of long term habit forming innovations that were successful. It rare to create a habit, but fads are common.
Many companies are aiming to create a long term habit, but end up with a mobile application that is popular for a short amount of time then falls off the map. These fads prove that habit design has rules and caveats like any other discipline. Examples here would be fads like ZyngaÔÇÖs Farmville and to some degree, Angry Birds. These were big while they were around, but their lifespan was short, unlike products like World of Warcraft or GoogleÔÇÖs Search service.
Making It Work
The fact is that long term habits are hard to build and new behaviors are the first to be forgotten. This makes it tough on designers when they are trying to create something to become part of consumerÔÇÖs lives. The human brain likes to run on cognitive autopilot using learned habits to function, until we meet something new.
We, by default, try to figure out and understand these new things, but once we have learned of it, we lose interest. Much like a baby with a new toy, once they figure out its patterns and functions, it gets thrown to the side.
The goal to overcome this behavioral instinct is to maintain attention. The biggest draws to keep humans interested are rewards and variability. Look at Farmville compared to World of Warcraft. Farmville was a linear browser game that got repetitive. Once users figured out the patters of the game it became boring. WoW (World of Warcraft) on the other hand is on a different level. It is a full game with all the fixings, but the important factor is that it has a massive and devoted following. It offers rewards, a never ending supply of variable entertainment, and a social environment. This example may seem a little extreme since it is the iconic Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game of the last 8 years compared to a browser game that had success starting in 2009, became wildly popular, and then has been declining ever since. The game has avid players like any game, yet it did not create a long term habit.
The principle of a long term habit is even more difficult for mobile applications. On average users spend around 40 hours a month using apps and use about 15 apps a month. This number is not very high when you want to build a habit out of it. One method for monetizing a mobile application and building as close to a long term habit as an application can is to offer the game for free. Like many PC games, giving the basic product for free and offering in game content or expansions that cost money tends to make more consistence profit than just selling the app. It will be interesting to see how the market shifts to attempt to build long term habits.
Building long term habits is key when it comes to the success of a program in todayÔÇÖs world. Mobile devices and many PC or browser games of gotten there, yet it is a real challenge for mobile applications. Mobile games are typically short in order to not stretch the attention span of users, but will that change? Could the goal that Google, Apple, Blizzard, and Twitter pushed for and achieved carry over to the mobile world? We will have to see.