Around the holidays, when catching up with my extended relatives, I often get asked the question: “so…what’s the next big app?” I always secretly chuckle at this question because other than the fact that I’ve worked in and around technology for the lion-share of my career, I have no better likelihood of predicting America’s next big act of app brilliance than they do.
Once I get over my secret chuckle, I do however offer some insight. Whatever this next big app will be, it will be big because it gets right to the heart of basic human drivers.
So, here are some thoughts.
The more digital-media, social-media, new-media (or whatever you want to call it-media) proliferates, the more, it appears, we’re treating our innovations in technology like our innovations in medicine. A cure-all. We recognize a need: build online communities to engage citizens and solve problems, and assume if we apply a savvy technology platform to the need and measure the results, we’re good. Sometimes we even plunge into the technology aspect before even considering who/what we’re trying to engage and start measuring away. Like I often assume hair stylists are scissor-happy, sometimes we’re technology/measurement-happy.
Far from what a technology platform can ever deliver, what we really need to consider and study in our pursuit of better engaging our communities, citizens, etc, is basic human drivers. Stuff like motivation, trust, empathy, and responsibility. And as far as the measurement piece goes, we need to make sure what we’re measuring even makes sense to measure (sometimes we’re just collecting for the essence of collecting).
So, back to the “what’s the next hot app question?” My answer to this is: one that addresses rudimentary human behaviors. Whatever app at its core stirs motivation, trust, empathy, responsibility, etc is going to be a winner. The more we know about what’s shaping our interactions, etc, the better we can design interfaces, and usability, and get what we’re going for.