How To Create a Slam Dunk Mobile App (Inspired By March Madness)

by 0 03/23/2012

We pay lip service to “designing for the end user” and “creating a better experience for users.”

But we don’t always execute.

If you are designing a mobile app, there is no question more important than the following:

“What missions will my end user be trying to accomplish using this application?”

Make a list.  Prioritize that list.

The most important missions should be one click away from the home navigation.  The lesser missions should be two or more clicks away or eliminated from the application completely.

A mobile app shouldn’t be a smaller version of the main website.  It should be more like a screwdriver or a hammer.  A tool used to accomplish missions.

March Madness Missions

If you live in the U.S., you know it is March Madness time.  The NCAA Basketball tournament is in full swing with only the Sweet 16 teams left from a field of 68 teams that played over the last week or so.

As a college basketball fan, I downloaded the NCAA March Madness iPhone app.

And I immediately went to work accomplishing missions.

The March Madness app is very well designed.  Over the course of the first week of the tournament, I accomplished many missions.

Just by looking at the main navigation for the March Madness iPhone application, you can see what they believe are the most important missions for a college basketball junkie.

March Madness iPhone Application Navigation

What’s the score?  What time are the games tonight?  What does the actual bracket look like right now.  What does my bracket look like right now?

Missions accomplished in real time.  With one tap of your finger.

My March Madness Missions

I have two kids, a wife and my mother-in-law was visiting over the weekend that the tournament started.

I’m a busy dude.  Cutting the grass, sweeping a box of Peanut Butter Cheerios off the floor and driving to my sister-in-laws house for a family dinner.

I saw a lot of basketball on the television.  And I filled in the gaps with my iPhone app.

The app made my experience with the tournament better.  A lot better.  I was never out of the loop.  I was always just a few finger taps away from the action.

To illustrate this point, take a look at these three missions accomplished by a real user (me) of the March Madness iPhone app.  My hope is that it will make you more “mission focused” in your iPad app design.

Mission 1:  What time does Missouri play?

I’m not just a college basketball fan.  I’m also a University of Missouri basketball fan.

The black and gold Missouri Tigers were ranked #2 in their section of the bracket and figured to slaughter their first round opponent.

I wanted to see that.

I missed the first part of the game because I was working and then picking up the young’uns from school.

With the game in progress and while waiting for my children to emerge from school, I didn’t want to waste time when I got home.

My first mission with my new app:  What channel is the Missouri Tigers game on?  And, by the way, what is the score?

Simple.  I open the app and see the home navigation, one tap on the Scores/Schedule button and mission accomplished.

What Channel Is Missouri On

Missouri is losing as they approach the final minutes of the first half.

I feel both disappointment in the score of the game and euphoria about the excitement of the tournament.  The app made that happen.  I was connected.

Mission 2 – Who is to blame?

Well, things didn’t exactly go as planned for Russell (that’s me.)

My wife sent me a text as I was eagerly driving home with the kids and let me know we would be driving to the airport to pick up her mother in 15 minutes.

I dashed into the house and watched the first few minutes of the second half.

I just wasn’t destined to see this game.  No worries, Missouri would be playing a number of games after they came back and beat their “lesser opponent” — 15th seeded Norfolk State.

My wife drove to the airport and I monitored the score from my iPhone app from the passenger seat.  She also informed me that we would be going to her sisters for dinner.

Good news, my wife’s sister is a great cook and I enjoy their company.

Bad news, Missouri lost.

I quickly went from denial to anger about my Missouri Tigers being eliminated from the tournament.

I opened my March Madness app and set out on Mission 2:  Who was to blame for this loss?

Why Did Missouri Lose?

With two taps of my finger, the mission was accomplished.

I narrowed the blame to two statistics.  First, one of our best shooters, Kim English, had a terrible shooting day.  Second, switching back and forth between our stats and our opponents stats, our opponent got twelve more rebounds than we did.

I felt a little better as I dug into dinner.  My app sitting open next to my plate keeping me abreast of the action in real time.

And then, I saw it.

Mission 3 – Who will I root for now?

With my Missouri Tigers bowing out in disappointing fashion, I needed a new team to root for.  A new reason to be excited engaged with the NCAA tournament.

I opened my app and went to work.

In all my excitement about the Missouri Tigers, I had forgotten that the Saint Louis University (SLU) Billikens were also in the tournament

While looking at my app and confirming (for the 8th time) that Missouri had indeed lost, I saw that the SLU Billikens were winning their game.  The game was in progress.  My brother-in-law and I grabbed our plates and settled into a couple of Lazy Boy chairs to watch SLU win their first round game.

Who Do I Root For Now?

SLU was eventually beat by Michigan State (good game but they were outmatched) but that’s not the point.

The point is that I was excited.  I was connected through my emotion.  Excitement, anger, disappointment and surprise.  This is engagement at its finest.

Design Apps For Real People

The best apps increase engagement.  Anytime and anywhere.

It starts with knowing the missions that real people are trying to accomplish with your application.  Then, allowing people to accomplish those missions as simply as possible.

What missions will people want to accomplish with your app?

Allow them to accomplish those missions and your app is sure to be a slam dunk.

By the way, who are you rooting for in the NCAA tournament?

Thanks to Vecteezy for the iPhone vector art.

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About 

Russ Henneberry is the Editorial Director at Digital Marketer. He's worked on digital marketing projects for companies like CrazyEgg, Salesforce.com and Network Solutions. You can connect with Russ on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or on his blog.

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