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#CIOChat: User-centered design for enterprise mobile app development

A successful mobile app strategy starts with knowing your customer. #CIOChat-ters share advice for user-centered design in an enterprise mobile app development program and explain how to be 'customer anthropologists.'

As The New York Times recently discovered, enterprise mobile app development is not an easy job. It's a challenging process that goes far beyond creation, testing and deployment.

In a successful mobile app strategy, companies not only need to keep pace with the speed of innovation, but also must understand their customers and their enterprise. Put differently, CIOs need to do their research, because, as both mobile app competition and customer expectations rise, they can't afford to be uninformed.

Enter SearchCIO's recent #CIOChat on enterprise mobile app development practices. Guest expert and independent enterprise mobility consultant Bryan Barringer joined our editors and fellow Twitter participants to discuss the importance of knowing your customer and share tips on how to build a mobile app strategy focused on user-centered design.

How can CIOs ensure their companies' mobile app dev programs are customer-focused?

User experience (UX) can make or break a mobile app: If companies lose sight of the customer in the development process, their app could be in serious trouble. If the saying goes "the customer knows best," then it's the mobile developer's job to know the customer best.

As Barringer recently wrote for SearchCIO, "development and deployment of a mobile app are the easy parts" because its user response in the field is where an app is really put to the test. This point of view was shared by #CIOChat participants, who suggested that knowing what customers want -- through healthy interaction -- and how to provide it is critical to a successful mobile app strategy:

A major step toward producing a user-centered design for a mobile app is selecting an attractive, straightforward design. "How an app looks and performs has a significant impact on the comfort of the user," Skip Allums, the UX design lead of mobile financial at Monitise plc, said in a recent webcast. Barringer and other chatters agreed, highlighting the importance of developer-designer synergy in the user interface (UI) design process:

What do anthropologists and mobile app developers have in common? The study of human traits and behavior. SearchCIO Executive Editor Linda Tucci inquired about best UX app practices, touching off discussion on the mobile app developer's new role as a "customer anthropologist":

Mobile payment apps are on the rise, complicating development and PCI DSS compliance, as we discussed in a recent SearchCompliance #GRCChat. Since mobile payment apps are still a relatively new tool, developers and CIOs must be extra careful to ensure consumers are comfortable, informed and willing to put their trust --and their personal data -- into an app. One #CIOChat-ter even broke news to his fellow participants of a just-announced mobile payment app breach:

What user-centered design practices do you think CIOs should employ when developing mobile apps? Sound off in the comments section below.

Next Steps

For more on mobile app development, check out the first part of this #CIOChat recap on native vs. HTML5 apps. Read a UX designer's seven tips on how to create a mobile app strategy focused on user-centered design. Then take this SearchCIO quiz to find out how to make the most of your mobile app strategy.

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What methods can mobile app developers use to better understand their customers?
Mobile app developers need to focus on trends in the demographic and review prior ebbs and flows with mobile app use. One example of monitoring habits and trends of mobile app users is Facebook and Twitter and how they usurped and overtook the forerunner, MySpace. Listen, watch and learn what the target demographic is wanting in mobile apps by seeing what apps are being scuttled for new mobile apps with new features.
In addition to the points that carol482 mentions, another excellent method is dogfooding – have the developers use the product. This doesn’t have to wait until late in development either, as the team can start using the product incrementally as soon as a feature is possible. This approach works great for not only working out the bugs and providing a more robust application to the users, but it also allows the team to better understand the user’s reasonable expectations, needs and potential frustrations.