By: Kate Hampton, VP of ResidentPay
How to pick the right one and how to make sure your investment will be worth it
You’ve had a resident portal forever, but now you’re starting to think that it may not be enough any more. You feel the need to adapt more to your residents’ preferences. The new Renter Preferences Study published by Kingsley Associates and NMHC fully validates your instinct; the study says you should be mobile friendly to remain relevant in the long term (something that, by this point, we should all know). It all makes sense, after all. The majority of your residents are under 45 years old and pretty much all of them own smartphones. Your decision to augment your portals with a mobile app is fact-based and objective. In short, it is a good decision. But, how do you pick the right one and make sure your investment is worth it?
Hard work is not a virtue
People use apps to do things. They call an Uber, order a pizza, or message their friends. Your residents want to pay their rent, submit a maintenance order, and be notified of events important to them, whether it be a package delivery, a water shut off window, or a pool party. Your residents are busy people, so they want to do what they need fast. Pay attention to how many steps it takes the resident to accomplish common tasks. Smartphones these days have impressive processing power and innovative operating systems…the device should do most of the heavy lifting, not the user. If the app is poorly laid out, the resident will not have the patience to locate the right screens or buttons. They will exit the app and most likely delete it from their phone altogether. A good app anticipates what the user is there to do and what is important to them, then leads them right to it.
Just an app is no longer enough
Everybody seems to have an app. As of July 2015, there were 1.6 million apps in the Google Play Store and 1.5 million apps in the Apple App Store. The proliferation of the mobile ecosystem results in users downloading more and more apps to their devices. Yahoo reports that Android users have an average of 95 apps installed on their phones. That’s a lot of apps! So how do people actually use them without wasting a lifetime trying to find what they need? They change the way they interact with their phones! The best apps out there blur the lines between the device’s operating system and the app itself. If the app is built well, notifications will be integrated into the Notification Center. Users then don’t have to open the app to see they may have missed something important like, for instance, paying their rent. On an iPhone, all they have to do is swipe down to see all their notifications in one place. Many good apps will also support taking actions, such as launching a payment screen directly from the notification through the use of deep linking. Deep linking allows the device to skip the irrelevant home screen of the app and takes the user directly to the screen they are actually going to use. This can be either a payment screen if the notification reminded them to pay rent, or maintenance order detail page if the app notified them their leaky faucet was fixed. More innovative apps will use deep linking even beyond notifications, like in the device’s search module. Remember, the less tapping the resident has to do, the better their experience.
Play your own game
Lastly, the way to win is to play your own game. The reality is, if residents want to order pizza, they open the Pizza Hut app. If they want social, they go to Facebook. Don’t clutter your app with various “value-adds.” The trend is proving to be going the opposite direction. Apps are becoming simpler and laser focused on their core functionality. Facebook removed the Messenger feature from their core app into its own Messenger app. The Google Maps app detached the Street View feature to form a new Street View app. The only thing you can do with the Uber app is to order a car and pay for the service. The big players are paring down to the core functions, so they can create a user experience that’s well aligned with user preferences and behavior. They want to make sure their app’s purpose is very clear and unmistakable. This is harder than it sounds. But, first, you have to be clear on what your residents really need, want, and expect to do with your app. Then find, or build, an app that not only focuses on those things, but also does them exceptionally well. Nothing more, and nothing less. Play your own game, and play it well.
A lot of this has been done with our new ResidentPortal app, providing your residents with the sleek and easy-to-use mobility they’ll appreciate. It’s the app you deserve.