Creating Engaging Apps - Web vs Native

If you are writing an app for the general public (as opposed to one you’re writing for you in your organization), one of the first questions you face is whether you create it as a Web application or develop it for your target platforms using native code (XAML/HTML5/C#,Objective C, Java). There are a number of reasons I can think of to use native code over Web technologies. Better performance. Better integration with the device. Able to take advantage of functionality that is specific to the device (as opposed to coding to the lowest common denominator). By the same token, there are reasons to utilize Web technologies instead of native code. Faster time to market. Easier deployment. Consistent experience across all platforms.

But what does this have to do with creating engaging apps?


That’s right. The choice of technologies that you use is not what makes an application engaging. Consider the following tips for an engaging application:

Use the power of faces – People love faces. We have evolved so that we have specific wiring in our brain with the sole purpose of recognizing faces. We do it so well, we see faces where they don’t exist (such as in clouds, tree bark or grilled cheese). Take advantage of this by putting faces on your site. Even better, get the face to look at at important part of your site: people instinctively follow the eyes of the face.

Use food, sex and danger to attract interest – If you have ever heard me teach a courses, you will have heard me say (right at the very beginning) that when someone sees something new, they place it into one of four categories: can I eat it, can it eat me, can I mate with it, and everything else. If you want your site to be considered interesting, put it in one of the first three categories.

Tell a story – We learn through stores. It’s how we teach our children. It’s what we see in movies. Stories are a big part of how information is conveyed to us. Take advantage of this in your app. If you have information to give to the user, put it in story form. It doesn’t matter what medium you use (words, pictures, music), but using a story narrative will help your user understand and retain your information.

Build commitment over time – I’m guessing that most of you did not propose to your wife on the first date. It takes time for both people to make sure of the commitment that is implicit in marriage. The same is true of business. You don’t ask for a 6-figure sales order on the first cold call. Or, if you do, I’m guessing your success rate is low. :) Instead, let the relationship build over time. Let the user choose how they want to interact with you (RSS, Twitter, Facebook) and make sure that you don’t take advantage of the trust that is implicit in that interaction.

See? Nothing at all about technology. Engaging apps is all about the design sensibilities and visual aesthetics of the app. Focus your energies on that. Get that right and the choices you make for technology, so long as it doesn’t get in the way, because ancillary at best.