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GCN : June 2015
Developing a new app for your agency? Make sure potential users don’t need to invest much time figuring out how to use it, app designers say. If training is required, your audience might already be lost. “For mobile apps and even desktop apps, if it requires training then you... did not do a quality or complete job of user-experience design,” said Tim Young, a principal at Deloitte Digital, which helps government agencies design apps. To avoid confusion, the design must account for the user experience well enough to anticipate any navigation hurdles. To do that, Deloitte’s app design process builds toward a highly refined profile of the end user, which starts with identifying the appropriate platform, whether it’s iOS, Android, Windows or multiple platforms. The firm’s user-experience designers conduct ethnographic research, focus groups and stakeholder interviews and dive deep into the user preferences they uncover. People in a rural area might have spotty Internet access, for instance, so an app designed for them might incorporate an auto-save function. Young said aligning an app’s requirements and the target user group’s characteristics requires discipline. “It’s not, ‘Here are some requirements I came up with because I’m a coder and I’m good,’” he said. “ That’s not how this works. That’s not how you get high technology adoption rates with very low training costs.” “ The bottom line is user-centricity, making every decision on design based on what the users want and need versus what the client or the developer wants,” Young added. — Paul McCloskey GCN JUNE 2015 • GCN.COM 21 The city’s app suite includes a 311 mobile app through which people sub- mit 600 service requests monthly; an e- services app that residents use to send requests via the city’s website; and inter- nal apps, including a graffiti abatement tracker used by the city’s maintenance crew. “Our next step is to take an inven- tory of all of our apps and determine if citizens would be better suited with one app that does it all rather than having all these individual downloads that they have to do for each piece of functionality they want,” Deesing said. COLORADO’S PEAK Colorado has been building its back end by setting up a CRM platform for the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing’s Program Eligibility and Ap- plication Kit. PEAK enables state residents to check their eligibility for Medicaid and other health services via a mobile app. It has helped automate a process that used to take 45 days, said Antoinette Taranto, the department’s chief client officer. Before it launched the website and app, the department had been fielding about 5,000 calls a day. “We went from a heavy paper process to all of a sudden having 60 percent online,” Taranto said. About a third of the online users were accessing the website via a mobile de- vice, she added. In developing the app, the depart- ment looked at statistics for its call cen- ter to determine the top reasons people were contacting it, she said. Callers were mostly pursuing five questions that were conducive to self-service, including ask- ing for a medical card or updating their eligibility information and status. “We took those five things and put them in the mobile app,” Taranto said. Today, Medicaid clients in Colorado can update current income or job chang- es. If they qualify for programs that re- quire paying a fee, they can use their mobile device’s camera to take a photo of a check or credit card and upload the necessary payment information. “It’s really given consumers a lot of TRAINING-FREE APP DESIGN flexibility and control, and it stream- lines the administrative side,” Taranto said. ‘ THE LONG TAIL’: APP MAINTENANCE Although government agencies are mak- ing progress on building more mature mobile apps, few are tackling what some say is a potentially costlier problem: maintaining all those apps. “What’s happened is that agencies and commercial entities now have dozens of apps,” said Brian Paget, technical direc- tor for content and analytics at Adobe. “They’re realizing [that] while it’s rela- tively inexpensive to build an app once, it’s much more expensive to maintain that app over the long run. That’s where the long tail is.” The task of maintaining mobile apps mirrors a challenge that surfaced about a decade ago during the evolution of Web content management tools, Paget said. “If you look back at how we used to maintain websites, you would write HTML code,” he said. “Then if you want- ed to publish your story on the website, you’d call the developer to put it on the site.” The same problem exists today in the app content arena. “When agencies get to the maintenance cycle, they still need a developer to maintain the content,” Paget said. “The job of mobile adminis- trators is how to centralize the manage- ment of app content and figure [out] how to get internal business users to do that. That’s a sea change.” And making that change requires an ongoing evolution. “The next level of maturity is to make the maintenance on those applications a lot more efficient and make sure we embed analytics into these apps, so that we understand pat- terns of utilization that we need to im- prove on,” he said. “Mobile applications can be a legacy system, too, if we don’t have an easy way to continue to maintain [them],” he added. “You don’t want to build the next generation of legacy applications that happen to be mobile friendly.” • 0615gcn_016-021.indd 21 6/1/15 10:11 AM