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Customer Experience and Design

What “Angry Birds” teaches us about Mobile Apps

Once upon a time, when you took a stroll down the aisle of an airplane in mid-flight, you would see lots of people playing solitaire on their Windows laptops. Today, you see many, many more people engaged in intense concentration on game of “Angry Birds.” Angry Birds is an addictive, fun, easy to play game that, in my humble opinion, teaches some important concepts that are applicable to building successful mobile applications, especially for healthcare.

One of the questions that I get asked frequently about mobile healthcare applications is “What can we do to make physicians, patients, or plan members ‘lock in’ to our organization?” When I hear this question I immediately think of the concept of stickiness. The concept of the stickiness factor comes from Malcolm Gladwell’s book called The Tipping Point and it is explained as an approximation of churn – the secret sauce that helps an organization understand their customer’s lifetime value and maximize revenues. According to Gladwell, there is a simple way to package information that under the right circumstances can make it irresistible; all you have to do is find it. One of the clever ways that Angry Birds gets this stickiness factor is to package the game play for easy starts and stops. One round only takes a few minutes – win or lose. The game player can start and finish a game while waiting on their lunch to heat in the microwave. The take-away is that user experience makes a big difference in stickiness to keep them coming back.

The second thing to learn from Angry Birds is the power of incorporating social media into the experience. The ability to share game results with friends, brag on success of the various levels of difficulty and share the experience is another key strategy. Focus groups and opinion leaders, called mavens by Gladwell, within your target demographic are powerful ways to learn how to influence key members of society that, in turn, influence the masses. Feedback from the fanboys to improve on the mobile experience is key – listen, improve and repeat. Angry Birds quickly adapted in the early days to add more interesting birds, tougher forts and more challenging levels.

The third key concept that Angry Birds taught us is to treat the mobile application as a platform. Platform is a term that is often used incorrectly, but in this instance, a platform is defined as a series of components or modules that can be extended over time. A demonstration of the platform concept was Angry Birds Seasons. The original Angry Birds platform was extended using themes – holiday themes in this second version of the game. One of the key principles of a platform is the idea that what the end user had learned so far transfers to the new game – no big learning curve for something new. The ability to extend the application without forcing the user to start over with new skills is critical to the successful of a mobile application, and maybe any application.

Finally, my favorite lesson from Angry Birds: Allow people to fail, fail fast and start over easily. How often have you used a mobile application that the slightest error was a massive set back sometimes meaning you lose all of your hard work. All mobile apps should have the Angry Bird big counter-clockwise “do over” icon. People will make mistakes, struggle with mobile applications and suffer from learning curves. A great mobile application will make it easy to fail, fail fast and start over on the right track. And you thought it was only an addictive game…

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Martin Sizemore

Enterprise Architect with specialized skills in Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) and Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). Consultant and a trusted advisor to Chief Executive Officers, COOs, CIOs and senior managers for global multi-national companies and healthcare organizations. Deep industry experience as a consultant in manufacturing, healthcare and financial services industries. Broad knowledge of IBM hardware and software offerings with numerous certifications and recognitions from IBM including On-Demand Computing and SOA Advisor. Experienced with Microsoft general software products and architecture, including Sharepoint and SQL Server. Deep technical skills in system integration, system and software selection, data architecture, data warehousing and infrastructure design including virtualization.

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