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Five steps to a successful mobile learning app

This post first appeared on the LINE blog on 25th April 2012.

Katie Hart, LINE’s Information and Usability Architect, lays out the five steps you should follow in designing a mobile learning application that gets results.

Our clients are already using mobile in a myriad of different ways. Approaches taken range from productivity apps and tools that improve immediate performance, to programmes designed for more reflective learning and immersive engagement. And all points in between! But whatever it is that you want to achieve, bringing mobile into your learning mix is something that requires careful consideration and planning.

This post provides you with five key steps to success, and hopefully also gives some food for thought to get you thinking more strategically about mobile within your learning provision.

Five steps to success

  1. Know what you want to get out of it
  2. Know your audience
  3. Draw up the blueprints
  4. Testing, testing
  5. Launch – but it’s just the beginning

1. Know what you want to get out of it

Your mobile learning initiative should begin with questions around the business need. Don’t just create a mobile app because you think you should have one. By articulating what it is you want to achieve, you will make it far easier to measure whether or not your app has been a success later on. Try to put time-based success metrics in place and refine these throughout the process to make sure the project stays focused on the key business requirements.

5 steps to mobile learning

2. Know your audience

Start by taking a goal-orientated approach listing out all of the end goals that your users will have when they access the app. From this you can then start to map goals to functionality – and develop a clearer picture of the scope of your project. You can enrich this further by conducting some preliminary user research; focus groups and the development of user personas can pay dividends by bubbling up preferences and behaviours that you alone could never know.

Understanding your audience provides the central lynch pin for everything else you do. Being able to clearly articulate what the user needs are before you start the build is vital to success, and de-risks the project, giving you a constant benchmark against which to test.

5 steps to mobile learning

3. Draw up the blueprints

Rapid prototypes, wire frames and sketches of the app really help to quickly iterate the user interface to the point where you can be confident that it meets all of the user goals and requirements before build commences.

Content strategy is another big area for consideration. As a general rule, less is more in mobile app development. Avoid cognitive overload and focus your content on user goals, if it doesn’t meet one of these goals – lose it!

designing an app

4. Testing, Testing

So now you have your application architecture mapped out, you have created some low-fi prototypes, and you have started to formulate a solid content strategy. Next you will need to test all of this with your users to validate your approach before you start to build the application. Doing this will further de-risk your project, throwing up any issues which can be resolved on paper rather than in code.

5. Launch – it’s just the beginning

If you want users to keep coming back to your app, then you need to give them a reason to do so. Keep content up to date and dynamic, and respond to what users are telling you with their behaviour. By regularly analysing usage of your app you can identify things like most popular content, navigation paths through the app, and exit points.

As with each of the other steps detailed here, there is a lot more to say on this topic – in particular, about getting launch strategy right, and making sure you market the app correctly – however, we hope to cover these topics in more detail in subsequent posts.

In the meantime, I hope this post has given you some valuable tips towards designing more usable, more successful mobile applications.