It’s time for another edition of AppBoard Tuesday, and this time we are covering a topic that all of us are interested in. Now, all of you mobile app developers (and others who are reading this) might be aware of the technicalities involved in creating smartphone applications. However, making a useful and easy-to-operate app is not as easy as it seems at first – and getting it approved at iTunes/Play Store at the first go is a bit tricky as well. This edition of our newsletter would be focused on addressing all the queries you might have, regarding effective, successful (and financially rewarding!) mobile application development:
Keep the design simple and systematic
You guys are experienced enough in customized mobile app designing – but newbies often mess up on this factor. From the very outset, a developer needs to keep in mind that the mobile screen is way smaller than a computer – and hence, what works great on a general website is likely to appear cluttered in an app. Whatever might be the features and controls put into a smartphone application, the design has to be simple and you should never include too much of text/images/graphics in it. A slow app never works!
Make use of icons
While focusing on putting in visual branding elements in the splash screen and other tabs of a mobile app, the importance of icons often take a backseat. Remember, smart usage of mobile app icons serves two purposes. Firstly, if you choose well-designed, colorful ones, they can attract the attention of new users. Also, icons with pictures on them minimize the need for putting text on the app display screens. Everyone would get what an icon is about, if it has the image of a video camera on it, right?
As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words!
What’s the purpose of the app?
We organize workshops regularly at Teknowledge Software, and they are attended by representatives from several other mobile app development companies. It’s surprising to note how many new developers are solely concerned with showing off their programming skills by developing complicated apps – which do not have any clearly specified function. At the end of the day, your app has to be saleable – and for that, people have to feel a need for it. Clearly specify what each of your apps is supposed to do, and do not put in too many functionalities within a single application. A confused user won’t take long to uninstall an app from his/her phone!
Don’t make users work/think too much
Another often overlooked point. Surprising as it may sound, an average smartphone user is too reluctant to tap their way through multiple screens (no matter how creatively they are designed), to arrive at the page they are interested in. Keep the navigation simple, and make sure that all the key features of an app are accessible within a maximum of 3 taps/clicks. You can use the enormously popular Angry Birds app, or our very own Story Time For Kids application for reference.
Make your app customized for all devices
There are smartphones of various models. And tablets. And phablets. And feature phones. If you create a static mobile app and lie back, thinking that it would work like a charm on all devices – you are sadly mistaken. Research about the popular mobile devices in the market, their screen sizes, display resolution levels, and other such important features. Make sure that your app has custom features – so that the version displayed varies correctly with the device on which it is installed. An iPhone app that does not work on an Android handset (or vice versa) has only limited profitability scopes.
Use images and graphics that go with the flow
It’s a fine line between making an attractive mobile app and going overboard with high-end graphics and images that take an eternity to load. This is precisely where the importance of having an expert UI/UX designer comes into the picture (our designing team is, thankfully, world-class – according to client-reviews!). The pictures included in the app display should never distract users and/or disrupt the navigation flow of the application. Similarly, the app development graphics used should never affect its speed. Pictures that go with the flow of an application make the latter charming – while those which distract make the task of using it an absolute pain!
Choose the text fonts carefully
You wish to create apps that would keep users engaged, right? Well, that’s not going to happen – if the poor souls have to squint to make out what messages, instructions and other stuff that are written on the display screens. Too curvy, ornate fonts are an absolute ‘no-no’, as are fonts that are very small or stylized in any other way. Large, clear, plain fonts always work best in a mobile application – since people do not (understandably) have the patience to spend minutes to read single lines of text on their mobile.
Do not use too many colors
This is a factor where you need to tread with care. You do not want to create a ho-hum black-n-white app (no one would be interested to download boring apps!) – but it’s equally important to not make mobile applications a total riot of colors either. You should ideally pick and implement a main color theme (for business apps, kindly choose sober colors), and not introduce too many other color shades/motifs. Using too many colors in a single app reeks of amateurishness on the part of the developer.
Note: On mobile apps for kids or select gaming apps, you will have to use more colors than that on a serious business application. The onus is on you to judge the extent of color variations that would be apt for different categories of apps.
Avoid Flash files & Bitmaps
If you are a specialized iOS app developer, pay particular attention to this point. iPhones/iPads do not support Flash (yeah, okay, that’s a shortcoming of the OS – but what can you do?) – which makes it imperative that you do not use Flash on the splash screen or the internal display panels of your application. On Android/Blackberry apps too, do not put heavy flash files which might slow down the software. In addition, avoid using bitmaps, which do not have scalable properties. On a mobile app, vector graphics work much better.
Be aware of the difference between mobile websites & mobile apps
A mobile website is a customized version of a main website, meant to be viewed on the go – via the built-in browser of mobile handsets. On the other hand, an app is supposed to help users perform specific tasks/get particular information, irrespective of where they might be. As such, it would be a folly to adopt a run-of-the-mill fluid website design theme for mobile applications. Your app may or may not require online connectivity – but it is not something that is meant to be ‘viewed’ on the World Wide Web.
The index fingers of every individual are not of the same size, which makes it essential to design relatively wide buttons and tabs (so that those with relatively thicker fingers do not face any difficulty). Keep keyboard input options minimal – since typing on virtual or QWERTY keypads for operating an app is not a particularly attractive idea. At the start of this newsletter, we had said that making a user-friendly app is not very easy. If you follow these basic guidelines, the task ain’t difficult either!
That’s about it for this week’s AppBoard Tuesday. You guys have already churned out well over 500 apps – so it’s likely that you are familiar with many of these points. Still, doesn’t hurt to take another look, right?
Do let us know if you want any specific topic to be covered in the next edition of AppBoard Tuesday. Till we meet again, stay zapped with…you know it…apps!
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