10 Ways to Make Sticky Apps

10 Ways to Make Sticky Apps

It's trendy to have an app that your organization can point towards.  "That's our app.  We're tech savvy and understand the next big thing!"  Fantastic.  But now that you have an app, why should a user keep that app on his or her device? How do you make sticky apps? At the time of this writing, I have 721 apps in my iTunes library.  Of those, I have 179 installed on my iPad, and 275 installed on my iPhone (with some overlap between the two).  Am I an extreme example of an app consumer?  Unquestionably.

Despite that, my own statistics illustrate I've downloaded numerous apps over the years, and have only allowed a subset to remain on my devices for daily use. It's really easy to get your app into a user's hands; however, it's just as easy for that user to delete your app.  You need to make your app sticky...a reason for a user to let your app sit next to Angry Birds on their home screen and stay there, getting used for months or years.

As I looked at my own app usage patterns, I identified ten characteristics of apps that earned their lasting places on my devices and kept me launching them week after week.  If you're looking to build an app or revamp an existing one, I encourage you to inform its design and development with these insights.

10 Characteristics of Sticky Apps

  • Presents A Rich & Luscious User Interface: When a user launches your app, it should be a delight to the eyes. Textures which mimic real-world materials like leather, cork board, or aluminum are familiar and pleasing to the user visually.  Ex:  Tweetbot & Find My Friends
  • Provides Clear Utility: Diving into your app should quickly provide value to your user, in a minimal number of taps. Deliver information pertinent to the user quickly and conveniently.  Ex:  USAA & The Weather Channel
  • Leverages Network Effect: When more people use your app, it should become increasingly valuable to all users of the app.  Ex:  Instagram
  • Solicits & Highlights Thought Leaders As Early Adopters: If your app will appeal to thought leaders in your industry, encourage those individuals to use your app and publicize their use of your app to other users.  Ex:  Oink
  • Delivers Useful Push Notifications: Provide users of your app the option to receive bite-sized text updates from your app via Push Notifications. If implemented in a smart and useful way, they bolster the app's value even when it's not running.  Ex:  ESPN ScoreCenter
  • Augments Daily Routine Frictionlessly: Fit your app into the user's daily routine in a way that doesn't require them to significantly alter their current behavior. If possible, allow your app to continue working for the user even when it's not the focus of his attention.  Ex:  BMW Connected & Google Latitude
  • Encourages Sharing: Allow the user an easy way to share information from within the app to both other users of your app and non-users of the app.  Help the user leverage their existing social networks and contacts in a meaningful way, instead of a one size fits all approach where all contacts are presumed to be equal.  Ex:  Gowalla
  • Contains Data That Becomes More Valuable Over Time: Structure your app in such a way that its contained data becomes more valuable to the user the longer and more frequently she uses it. Delivering analytics on the app's contained data to the user without requiring additional effort represents a good starting point.  Ex:  Gas Cubby & Weightbot
  • Accelerates A Necessary Task: Create a shortcut for the user to accomplish a task via your app instead of a traditional preexisting solution.  Ex:  JotNot Scanner Pro
  • Creates An Emotional Connection With Users: Tap into your user's sense of nostalgia, fondness of home, or duty to family. If your app can make the user feel joy or reinforce a positive self-image, he will keep coming back to your app.  Ex: TuneIn Radio Pro & WWOZ