Mobile Darwinism: Why Too Many Apps Could Be A Good Thing

User expectations around app performance and functionality have never been higher, and the proliferation of mobile apps means the competition has never been more fierce. It’s an app-eat-app world out there, and for both business and consumer apps, survival is anything but guaranteed.

Survival of the fittest may be a ruthless concept in the animal kingdom, but aspects of Darwin’s theory can — and actually should — be applied to help enterprises achieve mobile app success.

While many enterprises worry that too many apps will overwhelm and fatigue their users (to say nothing of their IT departments), the fact is that building many (MVP-driven) apps and letting the best of the best rise to the top isn’t a bad idea at all. In fact, by taking the lessons of Darwin and applying them to your app development strategy, it’s possible to create a portfolio of mobile apps that survive and thrive by delivering only and exactly the features that end-users want. Let’s take a closer look at the parallels between the laws of the animal kingdom and the new mobile economy.

1. Start Small – And Stay Small

As with the origins of the human race, the best mobile products come from humble beginnings. Mankind has traced its roots back millions of years to single-celled organisms that eventually developed into more complex beings that walk the earth today. Through a process that Darwin identified as natural selection, this development occurred incrementally as the characteristics that lead to survival became more and more developed.

The parallels between app stores and the animal kingdom in this regard are striking. The idea of MVP (Minimum Viable Product) development can be applied through Darwin’s lense in regards to competition in the mobile market. Creating very simple products is the best way to test the waters when it comes to the hyper-competitive mobile marketplace.

This in direct contrast to the way most legacy applications came into being, whereby groups spend months or years building in every possible bell and whistle before launch. Precisely because apps are not applications, companies should focus on a small handful of features per app, and iterate based on actual usage of the app.

2. Recognize Your Strengths, And Evolve Accordingly

As we mentioned, in order to survive in Darwin’s animal kingdom a species has to develop and strengthen the characteristics that give them a leg up on their rivals. Whether that means speed, strength or camouflage, knowing your strengths and fine-tuning your competitive advantage has always been the key to survival in the wild.

The same is true for your mobile apps. Analytics give developers and stakeholders insight into exactly how the products they build are being used. These insights allow developers to see how users are engaging with any given app and to understand their strengths and weaknesses. Release a lean product with one quality feature, gauge the reception and iterate based on the data and the market’s appetite. Analytics can give you early insight into which of your apps are going to remain relevant over the long-term.

Understanding and fine tuning your apps’ strengths is the only way to remain relevant. A weak product will not last long, and will eventually die a lonely death as user engagement plummets. If users are not making it all the way through the intended flow of the app, there is an opportunity to improve the product’s competitive advantage and increase the apps chance of survival.

3. Let the Weaklings Die

It may seem counterintuitive to encourage your developers to work on as many apps as possible, but by addressing one pain point clearly and effectively per app, you are more likely to gain a following of users than if you focus on building a “super app” that attempts to do too much at once. Plus, smaller scale projects means that there is less to lose if an app doesn’t catch on with its intended user base. With a mindset like this, dev teams can feel empowered to think quickly and creatively, pushing out all sorts of new products with low downside if they don’t survive the process of users’ natural selection.

Low initial adoption isn’t the end of the world, but if after several releases that include improvements based on analytics there is still no momentum, it may be time to cut your losses. This type of mindset will result in companies developing a wide variety of apps, rather than focusing on one or two large scale development projects. Then, by a process not too dissimilar from natural selection, the useful apps will see adoption and the less useful apps can be put out of commission.

In this way, enterprise app stores are a better, more accurate reflection of actual user wants and needs than the top-down, spreadsheet-driven attempts of traditional application portfolio management.

A Brave New (Mobile App) World

Its an app-eat-app world out there, with users ruthlessly determining the fate of mobile apps through a process similar to Darwin’s natural selection. To combat this and prevent wasting resources on only a small number of development projects that may or may not pan out, organizations should be creating a wide variety of hyper-specific mobile products.

At times, the new mobile economy has rules that seem to defy common sense, and the idea that developing more apps is actually better than only a few projects is one of these rules. But when you peel back the layers and look at the landscape through Darwin’s lens, creating products that are built to survive and thrive in a hyper-competitive environment is the only way to be truly successful.