If you are planning to build a mobile app, there are a few important factors to keep in mind, and if the app development company you are hiring for this project are experienced and good at what they do, they too should be on top of these essentials.
Be sure to remain aware of these fundamentals to avoid making costly mistakes later on.
1. Interface is king
People expect simple, intuitive and beautiful interfaces. Apple have raised the bar for design; their most successful apps having great looking and superb functioning interfaces. A great idea with a poor design is bound to go nowhere.
Tips for a good design:
- Bear in mind that a great programmer / software company may not necessarily also be great at design. Invest generously in design and hire the best UX and visual designers you can
- Download some well-designed apps from the App Store. Study them, become acquainted with what works best and provide guidelines to your app developer
2. Batteries don’t last forever – minimise use of location services, avoid background tasks and avoid unnecessary animations
Batteries are still a precious commodity and not all apps consume the same amount of battery power. Users tend to stay away from apps which could potentially drain their phone batteries.
Some tips for the optimal use of battery power:
- Ensure location services that use GPS are shut off as soon as they are no longer required. Careless use of location services is guaranteed to drain battery life
- Avoid background tasks. Apps running in the background, especially on Android, continue to consume battery power even when it’s not required. Therefore, remember to avoid background tasks unless it is absolutely essential. An example of where a background task would be required is with bulk / large file uploads (we developed the app ’photo prints’, which required photos to be uploaded to the server). Remember that background tasks differ from an app running in the background. Both iOS and Android can save the state of an app without consuming resources.
3. A native app delivers a better user experience than a mobile web app
You might be faced with the decision of whether to go with a native or a mobile web app (e.g. phonegap solution). While there are advantages in going with a mobile web app (such as cost,one code, multiple platforms, etc), as a rule of thumb, if you are willing to spend a little more to have a native app for each platform, go for it. Native apps execute faster, are much smoother and in general provide a much superior user experience. This is one reason why Facebook now have a native app; they already had a mobile web app wrapped in a native frame but had to write a native app all over again for speed and performance; the same is the case with the original Gmail app on iOS.
4. Small screens and fat fingers Mobile interfaces are tiny compared to their desktop counterparts. People with the mindset of web based interfaces unwittingly make the mistake of designing interfaces that are suited for larger monitor screens. Mobiles, with touch input and smaller screens, call for a different user interface paradigm.
- Avoid too much information on a single screen
- Follow platform specific UI guidelines; Apple iOS, Android, and Windows Phone all have interface guidelines and recommended best practices for their respective platforms
5. Plan for the offline experience
If your app requires an Internet connection, consider what will happen when connectivity isn’t available. Plan for instances such as unavailability; what will be available offline, consider the behaviour of certain features when in offline mode, etc. If you are designing an app similar to Twitter for example where new tweets are downloaded when a user opens the app, decisions like, should older tweets still be accessible, need to be thought about and decided upon. (In answer to this question, of course yes! But it is surprising to see so many poorly designed apps show a sad ‘no Internet connection available’ message).