AppBoard Tuesday – Guidelines For Choosing Great Mobile App Titles & Icons

By | September 9, 2014
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Hello everyone, and a hearty welcome to yet another edition of AppBoard Tuesday (oh boy, Tuesdays come along pretty regularly, what say?!). This week, we will be considering an issue that every mobile app company frets over, regularly. There are literally millions of apps at iTunes and Google Play Store – how to make a particular application stand out from the crowd? You guessed it – with the help of the icon and title that you choose for your app.

It’s easier said than done to zero in upon a good title-icon combination though. For starters, there would probably be many similar apps already present at the store – and you cannot very well select names that are ‘too similar’ to theirs. Trying to second-guess what would capture the attention of prospective buyers/downloaders is no easy task either. Even so, these broad guidelines should help you in choosing an app title and icon that trigger off decent download figures:

 

  1. Avoid using text in the icon – You have the title section for that, right? Presence of text will only make the app-icon look messy and cluttered – you can rest assured that hardly anyone will bother to read what’s written in those miniscule fonts. Instead, a graphic designer should focus on creating an icon that serves as a teaser of the overall UI of the app.
  2. Think over ideas, prepare a shortlist, and then choose – No matter what your app is all about, there will always be multiple ways to convey information about it to potential customers. For instance, an airport dating app icon can have the snapshot of any real airport, or simply the picture of a plane. The  icon for a mobile storytelling app for kids can showcase smiling children tapping on mobile devices, or characters from the in-app stories. Once the app-concept has been locked, prepare a shortlist of such icon ideas (make a list of at least 4), and run them by your colleagues, client, creative heads, and, if possible, an external focus group (i.e., a survey). Choose the one that is best-received.
  3. Special characters in app title is a ‘no-no’ – Nopes, they are not ‘smart’, they are, in fact, damaging from an app’s sales perspective. If there are weird special characters (the ‘@’s and the ‘#’s!), people would be confused as to what the correct pronunciation of your app’s name would be. What’s more, your online visibility would also be hurt – since search engine optimization (SEO) guidelines do not support special characters. Keep things simple, it always works!
  4. The title should not have too many characters – Although there are no specific rules regarding this, leading mobile app developers prefer app titles that are 24-26 characters long (maximum). The reason for this is mainly twofold. Firstly, it would be easier for general people to remember the app’s name, and with better recall value, chances of higher downloads increase. In addition, a compact title would also show up better in the search results. Your app, in other words, would get better exposure.
  5. Resize the images in your app icon properly – And ‘properly’ does not only refer to what ‘looks good’ to you. If you are into iPhone app development, you are probably already aware that there are specific guidelines regarding image sizes – spelt out by the iTunes approval team. Make sure that you are abiding by these instructions. There will be certain pre-specified rules for choosing image filenames as well. The icon should be simple, creative, correctly sized, and, as we have already mentioned, text-free.
  6. Avoid trying to piggyback another successful app – Consider this: There is an app (say, its name is ABC), and you have developed a similar application. It seems a pretty good idea to simply choose a variant of ‘ABC’ as your app’s title, right (some people will come across your product while surfing for ABC)?. Remember, this is a completely unethical policy – and might even land you in copyright violation lawsuits (particularly if you have done a direct title copy-paste!). Users are no fools either – they’ll soon realize that you are pursuing a shady shortcut to make your new mobile application popular.
  7. One icon, one idea – Sadly, UI/UX designers new to the profession often ignore this pretty basic guideline. Any good, user-oriented app focuses on delivering a single key benefit to people (for instance, as a social networking companion, or a mobile personal finance manager). Accordingly, the icon should also convey that SAME, SINGLE idea – a preview of the app’s functionality. If an app icon includes too many images, people would get confused, and that’s something you do not want!
  8. Repeat words/letters in your title – A cool trick to make your app name easy to remember, and of course, pronounce. We can cite the example of ‘Candy Crush’ (see the ‘C’s) in this regard. One of our soon-to-release mobile apps, ‘Queueu’ plays around with three letters only – and we feel that it is going to be one of the most easy-to-remember apps in iTunes, ever. Do not make your target customers tax their brains too much while trying to remember your app’s name. It should always be on the tip of their tongues.
  9. Do not join any color bandwagon – All travel-related apps at the store have maroon icons, you have a travel app, so you need to choose a maroon-themed icon too, right? That would be the perfect way to get lost in the crowd of other applications. Find out which colors/designs are being used by developers who have released apps that are similar to yours – and go for something completely different. The objective is to ‘stand out’ and not ‘blend in’. Keep that in mind.
  10. Icons need images, not photos – If your mobile app agency does not have a creative design department, this is one mistake you are extremely likely to commit. Apart from the fact that there would hardly be any readymade photos that would correctly indicate what your app is all about, it can also be shown that a scaled-down photo does not look nice as the icon of the app. You might even run into copyright issues. Get creative and strive for uniqueness.
  11. Do not be vague – Abstract work is for new-age painters, not an iPhone or Android app developer. In your bid to really sound ‘different’, do not choose a title that people find trouble understanding the meaning of. The same goes for icons as well. The title-icon combo should give a clear indication of the app’s overall functionality. A great app can fail if people do not understand what its benefits/services are.
  12. An app-icon should not be a riot of colors – There’s no harm in designing a colorful, vibrant app-icon, but do not go overboard with this. Do not take more than 3-4 colors from the overall palette of your application, and use them in a smart and elegant manner in the icon. A mishmash of too many colors in the icon tends to irritate users, and lends a frivolous air to your app.
  13. Test the display compatibility of your app – Before finalizing on any app icon, ensure that it remains properly visible in almost all types of background colors and textures. No one in the world purchases a smartphone and keeps its default home screens and themes. Whatever might be the personalized display features on your users’ mobile devices, the app icon should appear equally smart. For this, you need to test the icon in the backdrop of a wide range of color palettes.

 

They say ‘Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover’ – but if you replace ‘book’ with ‘app’, the phrase no longer holds true. A new app simply has to grab eyeballs through its unique, attractive, and smart title and display icon. That would ensure a fair number of downloads by app-enthusiasts – and only after that happens, do you get the chance to impress users with the top-class functionality of your application. Like most things in life, the first look is often the best look for a mobile app!

With that, we round up the 16th edition of AppBoard Tuesday. We would be more than happy to hear about any other title/icon selection pointers from you. Write to us if you want any specific topic related to mobile app development covered – and we will do our best to delve into it. By the way, all of you are aware that the much-awaited iPhone 6 is scheduled to make its debut later today, right (you can even follow Apple’s countdown at http://www.appletimer.com/iphone/)?

 

ABT returns next week with a new topic. Keep zapping with apps, and we’ll soon be back!

 

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
Hussain Fakhruddin
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