Developers have contributed more than 2.2 million mobile apps to the Google Play store, and more than 2 million apps to the Apple App store. This meteoric rise of apps has encouraged a flood of app developers to get in on the game.
The result has been a landscape of increasing mobile app insecurity, and a virtual epidemic of hacking. Our eBook, The Developer’s Guide to Mobile App Security, can help you avoid falling prey to one of many security myths when launching your mobile app.
But security myths are just the beginning. The mobile app landscape is mired in mythology, false wisdom, and outright lies. Ignore these myths, and let real knowledge guide your approach to mobile app development.
Mobile App Security is an Issue for Consumers, Not Businesses and Developers
Consider the following statistics:
- Tests reveal that the average mobile app hosts more than a dozen data breach vulnerabilities.
- More than a billion records were breached in 2014.
- A quarter of apps encounter a serious mobile threat each month.
- Mobile apps pose an economic threat of more than $60 million across industries, and the cost is skyrocketing.
- 40% of app users use their devices for work, suggesting that mobile app vulnerabilities can endanger large industries and trade secrets.
- 56% of enterprises say they probably don’t have the ability to detect a sophisticated mobile attack.
- An average of 2,000 unsafe or malicious apps are installed on the average large enterprise’s employees’ phones.
You probably already know this. What you might not know is that mobile app security issues stand to harm the businesses that create insecure apps — not just the consumers who use them. If you knowingly create an app that harms consumers, or that is insecure, you could be liable for the effects of that app’s creation.
Target faced at least 140 lawsuits in the wake of its costly data breach. To date, the breach has cost the retailer at least $240 million. That’s a figure only the largest enterprises can saddle. Smaller businesses can be destroyed by app breaches and the lawsuits and fines they can trigger.
Developers Aren’t Liable for Security Breaches
Even if you understand that a data breach can harm the business for which you develop an app, you might believe you’re protected. After all, consumers only sue businesses, and governmental entities fine big industries, not individuals, right? Think again.
Developers can be held personally liable in court for insecure apps they develop. The costs just begin there, though. You might also:
- Lose your job.
- See your reputation damaged such that it’s difficult to find another job.
Developers have spent a career sharpening their skills and building a reputation. Don’t allow a mobile app breach to destroy all you have built.
All You Need is a Quality App
Quality matters in an increasingly competitive marketplace. If your app doesn’t do what you promised — and do it quickly, cheaply, and with minimal advertisements and other annoyances — then consumers will move on to one of the many other apps making promises similar to your app.
So it’s worth your time to create the best app you possibly can. But quality is not enough. By 2020, the Apple App Store alone will be home to more than 20 million apps. This competitive marketplace means that your app might never see the light of day if you don’t craft a specific, effective marketing strategy. It’s not enough to throw money at a marketing firm. You must continually hone your strategy based on what works and what doesn’t.
Even that, though, is not enough.
Research shows that the single most important factor in whether consumers opt to download an app is the app’s consumer rating. Reviews matter, and consumers can tell when a review is fake. This means you must incentivize real users to review your program. You must also provide them a program that’s worthy of a good review. After all, reviews can affect how visible your app is in various app marketplaces, and likely matter even more than your marketing plan.
We also now have data on why consumers opt not to download apps in which they seem to be interested. Address these factors and watch your download rate accelerate.
The most significant deterrents include:
- Too many negative reviews (39%)
- Not enough storage on phone (36%)
- Price too high, or higher than expected (36%)
- Similar to an app the consumer already has (32%)
- The app requests permissions the consumer doesn’t want to give (31%)
- Download too slow (28%)
- Not available for the consumer’s smartphone (27%)
- App is different than advertised (26%)
- The app is installed elsewhere, such as on a tablet (13%)
Note that none of these factors have anything at all to do with quality. Quality is a small portion of the battle. It’s far from the whole story.
Quality Apps Have to Be Expensive and Time-Consuming
Mobile app developers need to make a living, whether they’re independent freelancers, own app development businesses, or employed by enterprises. They deserve a fair wage, but that doesn’t mean mobile app development has to be expensive. By streamlining the process, it’s possible to cut down on the hours each app takes to develop. This slashes costs to businesses and consumers.
Though building an app through a firm can easily cost in excess of $200,000, a number of app development companies are providing small businesses with a more affordable alternative. By building a new app on an existing foundation, it’s possible to save time and money. And in an increasingly competitive marketplace, app developers can profit from offering these savings.
Launch Day is the Most Important Moment
App developers often put lots of time and money into launch day plans. They want the app to be released with a big bang, and so they count on thousands of immediate downloads.
Not every app is going to have loads of success on release day. In fact, an app can be a flop on release day and still be a success. Some apps thrive on thousands of immediate downloads. Others accumulate downloads over time.
No matter what your launch day strategy is, the strategy for long-term success (and the profits that accompany it) is the same: app store optimization.
The hallmarks of an effective app store optimization strategy include:
- Quality visuals, logos, and other branding for the app. These branding efforts should be consistent across all platforms, and in line with the brand message.
- Seamless keyword usage in the app’s name and description.
- Positive reviews — the more, the better. And don’t even think of using fake reviews.
- Number of downloads. You can’t control this, but this is one factor that builds upon itself. A successful app store optimization strategy creates more downloads. This, in turn, elevates the app’s visibility and produces even more downloads.
Fake Reviews Can Raise App Visibility
Many app developers mistakenly believe that they can ask friends or family to quickly dash off a fake app review, thereby raising the visibility and trustworthiness of their apps. Don’t do it. App stores are cracking down on these reviews. Developers who get caught asking for them may see their apps penalized — or even banned from app marketplaces.
Fake reviews give themselves away in several ways:
- They’re usually shorter than legitimate reviews.
- They’re always positive, and never cite anything negative about the app.
- They rarely provide specific details about the app or its use, since fake reviewers may not have used the app.
- They are usually posted all around the same time.
Don’t ask for fake reviews. Instead, provide consumers with an incentive to leave a good review. Consider prompting them for a coupon in return for reviewing your app. Honesty can be scary, but it’s ultimately better than a lot of fake reviews that could damage your app and your brand.
Consumer Feedback is Irrelevant
Everyone finds feedback a little scary. That’s why employees are always on their best behavior immediately before an annual review, and teachers dread anonymous student reviews. So app developers should be forgiven if they find themselves a little anxious about soliciting feedback from consumers.
Don’t be. Even bad feedback is valuable. Consumers aren’t vengeful by nature. They leave feedback because they think it might offer some value. So listen, and then adapt accordingly.
Encourage consumers to leave you more constructive feedback by:
- Following up with customers who leave negative reviews.
- Directly contacting app users with detailed questions that can guide future app development strategies.
- Looking for trends in consumer reviews. Do several customers complain about the same thing? If so, you already know what you need to improve upon for the next version of the app.
Consumer feedback is free market research. As such, it’s always valuable. Ignore it at your peril.
Every App Needs Lots of Features
It’s easy for app developers to get swept up in an “and another thing…” mindset. Adding one more feature, and then another one more feature, and then one more becomes even more tempting when developers are paid hourly. But before you add another feature, ask yourself what value it really confers on the app.
Most users download an app only for a single use or two. They’re not necessarily interested in dozens of related features. And if those features slow down the app, require additional permissions, or lower overall security, they can actually serve as a disincentive for a purchase.
Early Releases Are Always Best
The app marketplaces is one of the world’s most cutthroat and competitive places to work. It’s no wonder that so many app developers think the earlier the release, the better. That’s not always the best strategy.
Two factors matter more than releasing your app as early as you can:
- App quality: An app riddled with bugs or security holes is eventually going to land you in trouble. If this app compromises your reputation as a developer, or the reputation of the company for which you develop it, it could even lose money.
- Timing: Some apps do best when released at specific times. There’s no benefit to releasing a Christmas app a month after the holiday. A romantic app might excel before Valentine’s Day, and tank in the summer. And an academic application probably won’t accumulate many downloads if it’s released on Memorial Day. Consider when consumers are most likely to need your app — and whether any news or recent scientific developments might drive further interest in your app — and then release accordingly.
The early bird might get the worm, but the skilled developer gets the profits and the publicity.
Consumers Will Pay More to Get More
Just as consumers don’t necessarily want an app with lots of “bonus” features, they may not be willing to pay more to get additional features.
Before building in additional features for an additional fee, ask yourself the following:
- What value does this feature add?
- Does this feature take consumer feedback into account?
- Does this feature answer a clear consumer need?
- What have our customers told us about pricing?
- How can we market this feature such that a price increase feels less significant?
- Does the increased price come with enhanced security, more privacy, or more control over permissions?
- In addition to paying more, do consumers have to give up something else, like privacy?
- Can we sweeten the deal with more storage, access to additional related apps, or something else of value to the consumer?
Consumers have finite money. So they’re only going to spend it when doing so offers them something they want — not something developers tell them they should want.
Once an App is Built, it Only Needs Minor Tweaks
This is perhaps the most damaging myth. Yes, it’s true that a good app will stand the test of time. But every app, no matter how excellent, needs constant tweaks. What’s more, you’ll need to find a way to incentivize consumers to download updates or new versions of the app. That might mean disabling certain features, prompting consumers to make a download, or disabling an app without security patches.
The changes you’ll need to make over time will likely be substantive. Budget your time and money accordingly.
Plan to address:
- Consumer complaints about privacy and permissions.
- Unanticipated issues, such as a feature that doesn’t work on a specific device.
- Consumer feedback about features that might make the app better, or features that are buggy and should be removed.
- Security holes, emerging threats, and consumer concerns about data breaches.
Mobile Apps are Primarily for Smartphones
App developers often contemplate only smartphone users when developing mobile applications. But research shows that consumers are increasingly accessing the Internet from tablets, too. Interestingly, some consumers may even want to use mobile apps on their laptops. So mobile app developers can expand their market reach by ensuring their apps are compatible with tablets. For an even greater market share, consider a website or desk and laptop-friendly platform, too.
The more devices you can reach, the more consumers you’ll reach. More consumers means more market share. And more market share means more profitability now, and greater consumer demand in the future.
If you want to learn even more about creating consumer-friendly, threat-proof apps, download our quickstart guide now.