Designing your app with experience in mind

Designing your app with experience in mind
By Scott Loftus
Apr 18, 2022
5 MIN. READ
Are you creating an experience for your customers to really engage with your brand?

When you go out to see a movie, you have expectations—you’ll be entertained, the movie will be done well, etc. If you have a great time and really enjoy the movie, you’ll be excited and tell everyone about it, and as a result your friends are more likely to see it for themselves. But if it’s a bad movie, you’re still going to tell everyone, only now your friends probably won’t see it.

User experiences with brands are the same. Just as a movie is made to entertain you, an app should be designed around the user with their experience and expectations front of mind. To create an app that is personalized, genuinely useful, and well-run, start with experience and work backwards.

Building a beautiful app

There are numerous ways to think about your brand's app design. There's the practical side of what the app is, and there’s the strategy side of what aligns with your business goals.

When building an app, development teams should begin with what we all are: users. Every single one of us has had fantastic experiences that keep us coming back, rewarding experiences that keep our favorite brands at the top of our lists, and terrible experiences that drive us away. When you bring your own experiences to the table, you have better insight into the design process. There are ways to learn about the audience through feedback. But to start, your experience should be relevant to other brands in your industry.

For example, in booking a hotel, there are expectations of usability and flexibility. Consumers want options: Can they book with a combination of points and cash? Is the experience user friendly and easy to navigate? Can you finish booking from start to finish in a reasonable time? And even further, is this experience different from those they may already be familiar with? If the experience is disjointed across platforms or across brands, consumers will stop engaging very quickly.

Success does not rely fully on the designers; they should work together with strategy teams from the beginning to make sure the optimal user experience is established first. As a consumer, when you log into an app you should be able to say, “This brand understands who I am, where I've been, what I've done, how many points I have—and they will serve up personalized experiences that relate to me."

We don’t know how to predict sudden needs or wants, but we can strategically understand what people place as their most important elements or priorities. If you deliver something relevant at the right time, your consumers are going to feel appreciated and spend more time with your brand—developing brand advocacy and perhaps even a shared identity with your brand.

Adapting to new expectations

Consumer expectations are evolving, and they are no longer blindly loyal to brands. Instead, they're going to the most enjoyable experience or the brand that understands them best. Understanding best practices and what other brands bring to the table will guide you in tailoring your experience. But it can also help differentiate you, whether through your branding, voice, or something else.

People have become more focused on digital experiences over the last two years, and not just with apps. Consumers are highly aware of all their interactions with brands and their surroundings in general. With remote work now the norm for many, people are increasingly thinking about how they can get out there and experience the world. One person might engage with your brand on a desktop, another with a mobile phone, and a third at a kiosk—or a single person could engage with you on all three platforms. You need to design your experience to be adaptive, not just responsive, to ensure consistency across touchpoints so a user can access the right information at the right time.

As your audience gets more involved with your brand and provides feedback, you need to evolve based on how they interact with you, what they’re saying, and how they’re saying it—especially with the death of the third-party cookie. Your consumers will appreciate that you change based on feedback. It makes them feel heard and appreciated, and that builds brand loyalty.

How do you go further with personalization and participation? Even just two years ago, personalization was simply putting a user’s name on the app. To get true personalization you have to go beyond a name—explore things like geolocating or beacon technology. You don’t want to get so personal that it seems obtrusive but evolving to let users tailor their own experiences within your app allows every single touchpoint to be relevant. For example, if someone is near one of your stores on a rainy day and you sell outdoor goods, your app can deliver messages suggesting they stop in and buy an umbrella relative to their past interactions with you.

Work on getting to an empathetic level by taking world events into account. You can accomplish this by letting a user put some of their rewards earnings towards something good, like supporting war victims, natural disaster survivors, or a cause in their own community, giving them a chance to do something good while feeling supported by and connected to your brand. That's where a life-long interaction is built beyond personalization—when people see a benefit that's bigger than themselves.

Partnering for success

Having a knowledgeable, supportive partner can make all the difference in designing an app. The right team will help your app development, creative, or strategy team understand the process from both an internal and client viewpoint. That can take the initial possible miscommunication and turn it into a learning and equalizing process, getting everyone on the same page about the intended purpose of the app, what's going into it, what type of technology will be utilized, and setting expectations.

Ideally, a partner will also bring an understanding of the bigger picture—that through creating or redesigning an app, you can do something good and improve lives, no matter how big or small that may be. Knowing that will bring a new level of connection to the final product, which builds participation: Caring together, and through that, changing the world together. When you can get that across to your users, they’ll appreciate you on a whole new level.

ICF’s global marketing services agency focuses on helping your organization find opportunity in disruption.
Go to ICF Next
Meet the author
  1. Scott Loftus, Director, Creative

The latest marketing trends, uncovered.

Subscribe to get insights, commentary, and news sent straight to your inbox.