Building a Mobile App
Making an appealing and successful mobile application is often times much more difficult than people might expect. Making the application on a good budget (and sticking to it) is usually harder still. Many times people want their apps made, but don’t have a full understanding of the process, or where common snags will cut into your time and wallet. My goal is going to be to write a series of posts to help address issues, and to give tips on how to best be prepared and what to expect from having a mobile application developed. One of the things I would like to cover is: Mobile Design: It is extremely critical to have a great looking, and intuitive design for your mobile application. A great design encompasses not only the visual graphics, fonts, and layout, but also how information is presented to the user, the flow of the app, and having things arranged to maximize intuitiveness. No one wants to download a mobile app, and then have to look for a manual on how to use it. The world today moves at a much faster pace than ever before, people want information and to perform actions as soon as the thoughts and questions cross their mind. The job of a designer is to figure out how to give the user what they want, as fast as possible, and as intuitively as possible, while also providing a WOW factor in the visuals. People will be more kind to an app that works well, and looks standard, then they will be to an app that looks amazing, but is a serious let down in ease of use. It is sometimes very difficult to figure out the best way to present your apps functionality to the user. What you may find as a help to planning a app out, is to write down the functionality of the app. Divide the functionality into its most basic parts. For example for a fantasy football app you may have several pieces of functionality such as recruiting/drafting, trading, rearranging players, tracking players, viewing stats, scores, and standings. When you divide up all the functionality into as small pieces as you can, then stop; go and download a ton of apps and look at their design. Think about their functionality, and how everything is linked together. How is the information being presented to the users, and how are users able to do actions? Maybe even sleep on it. After you have a clear open mind, go back to the drawing board and began to piece functionality back together again. Remember that you only have so much space on a screen, so you will have to think about how you can display everything you need to display, while not making the screens look cluttered. Figure out the navigation (which may very well be different for iPhone then it will be on Android or Windows Phone). It cannot be overstated how this is the most key part of the app: user intuitiveness, ease of use. Another thing to touch on here is consistency; design must be consistent throughout the app. You do not want to have two parts of the same app work in different ways. This brings us to a scarcely thought about point, that is often glanced over by people. When you are making an iPhone app, or Android app, there are particular design patterns, and particular ways things are supposed to work for each platform. What this means is that you do not always want to have both apps to look and operate the exact same. There are ways things are meant to be done on Android, and ways things are meant to be done on iPhone. While you can very well imitate either Android on iPhone or iPhone on Android, you are losing a lot of the individual character that can be applied to each app, and a lot of times losing opportunities to do things in cool ways that only one or the other really natively supports. Also to be considered is that Android users expect an Android user experience when using their apps, and iPhone users expect an iPhone user experience. While making the app look and operate exactly the same on both platforms may be what you need, sometimes there are things to be gained by individualizing them for the platform and user base. One final thing to think about in that area is that sometimes it can be more costly trying to imitate one app on a given OS after another OS, because it is not natively supported, it has to be custom created, and this requires time, and time requires money. A bad design will not only turn away users, but it can make the app more costly to build. This final point is about the great evil in all projects. Scope Creep. The best way to limit Scope Creep is to do all the planning you can in advance, Have every detail worked out. However even then you will want to let in Scope Creep. You will have to consider the cost-benefit of allowing in the scope creep. Often times it is now worth it. Learn how to say no to Scope Creep. The great thing about mobile app stores is you can instantly send updates to all your users. There is always an update, always a second version. One of the potentially most costly thing you can do is switch to version two, in the middle of version one, and the over all design of an app is usually one of the more difficult things to change.