You know how all good things in life are attained after tough struggles? Well, we did not quite have to ‘struggle’ to bring out this week’s edition of AppBoard Tuesday – but yeah, internet connectivity issues had us in a tizzy since this morning. Any which way, the Teks wi-fi network is back up-and-running now, and we are all set to start off with today’s ABT.
This week, we are highlighting an issue that tends to confuse new (at times, even experienced ones) mobile app developers. Determining the ‘right’ UI/UX design themes is not the easiest task for newbies – and the myth that mobile apps are simply extensions of mobile websites further adds to the problem. Today, we will point out some common design follies that app experts tend to make, and how you can stay away from them:
- Using bitmaps instead of vector graphics – We are nearing the end of 2014, and low-resolution bitmap design themes have become so passe. The chief problem with this old fashioned mobile app designing theme is that, it does not support high-resolution displays. What’s more – it becomes an issue to customize the displays for phones and tablets that support different pixel density (ppi) levels. You need to move over to vector graphics and start off with high-res, HQ displays. Scaling down the resolution for lower-end devices is always an option.
- Using the same app layout for different OS platforms – Are you an Android app developer and have just taken up an iOS project? If yes, remember that a ‘Back’ button is required for all iPhone/iPad apps – something that is not required for Android applications. There are several other differences that you need to be aware of, while creating multiple versions (for different mobile OS platforms) of the same app. Simply porting the same version across the different platforms won’t work.
- Using ‘Gesture’ that do not properly respond – Innovative, interactive touch features and other ‘gesture controls’ can raise the overall charms of a mobile app – but you have to make sure that these features are working properly first. Apart from the final-stage mobile app testing, there’s another, easier way to ensure this. Find out which existing apps in your genre enjoy decent amounts of popularity. Implement the gesture control features that have been implemented in them, with a touch of newness (of course!). You need not try to be a path-breaker, and end up with slow, unresponsive apps that irritate users.
- Using heavy animations in splash screens – The splash screen of a mobile app should be visible for a maximum of 10 seconds (and even that’s a stretch). New Android and iPhone app development professionals often include animations in the splash screens – which significantly increases the loading time of the concerned apps. Remember, it’s the functionality of the app that people are interested in – no one is holding their breath to check out how ‘stunningly beautiful’ (and painfully long) the splash screen is!
- Using navigation themes that make users tap too many times – In the domain of mobile app development, there is an unwritten rule – a mobile-user should not have to tap an application more than thrice, to reach the latter’s main page. Unfortunately, many novice UI/UX designers end up creating complicated in-app navigation paths, which require people to tap many more times. Not surprisingly, it does not take long for the users to lose interest in such apps, and the latter soon get uninstalled from devices. The bad word-of-mouth publicity is an extra.
- Not following an app development flowchart – ‘Planning as I develop’ is a strategy you should steer well clear of. Before starting to create the wireframes and mockups of any app, chalk out a detailed flowmap of the different stages of the process. The map will serve as a ready reference, keep things systematic, and ensure that no step is being skipped over. No matter how experienced you might be in creating apps, without an activity flowchart – your activities would be like the movements of a rudderless ship.
- Making the app interface cluttered – When you are creating an iPad or an Android tablet app, there is plenty of screen space as well as pixel density levels to play with. That, however, does not mean you can plug in as much content, links, images and other audiovisual elements in each of the screens. An app that appears stuffy and cluttered would never appeal to its targeted users – even if the features are excellent in themselves. At times, certain sections of such overstuffed screens might become invisible. Arrange all the stuff neatly, under different tabs, sections and pages. An app should always provide ‘ample room to breathe’ to its user.
- Using too small buttons and tabs – Unless you are working on a mobile app for kids only (and even then it’s inadvisable), you need to make all the buttons, tabs and other tapping areas on the app screens conspicuously large. On an average, the width of users’ index fingers vary between 1.5 cm to 2 cm. If the buttons you have used are too small, users would have a tough time to make the ‘right tap’, there would be a lot of unintended tapping – and overall user-experience will take a hit. Make all the call-to-action areas of the app clear and large enough. Remember, nearly 80% users do not continue using an app that have not performed satisfactorily the first time.
- Playing around with standard GUI features – In particular, scrollbars. You will not find a person who loves mobile apps that come with vertical as well as horizontal scrolling options. In general too, people are familiar with a standard image of ‘radio buttons’, ‘checkboxes’, ‘text input fields’, and the like. Do not try to be too innovative with these GUI controls. All that you would ultimately manage to do is complicate things for the final users.
- Using features and design styles that users cannot relate to – Leading mobile app companies conduct customer surveys before starting on a project, precisely for this purpose. It is very important to find out the nature of designs, color combinations, audio features, characters (if any), and other in-app elements that a particular group of targeted audience would prefer. For instance, a cartoon character rattling off a story is perfect on an Android/iPhone app for kids – but imagine how inappropriate it would be, if the same character was used to provide serious information (say, stock updates!). The preferences of users are what matters most, and budget considerations are not the only thing you should be concerned about.
- Not paying attention to security parameters – The ‘Security 101’ parameters should always be considered as some sort of Holy Grail by mobile app developers. With mobile-commerce activities gaining momentum across the world by the day (the arrival of Apple Pay would provide a further spurt), an app that does not seem ‘secure enough’ is doomed from the very outset. Apart from secure logging in options, you need to pay due attention to data authentication and encryption techniques that are being employed.
- Drawing up design schemes that are tough to implement – Let’s make one thing clear first – app designers and app developers should be separate teams, working in collaboration with each other. The design plans and elements you come up with might look smart in theory, but can prove to be next to impossible for the developers (and no, coding and designing should NEVER be done by the same person!) to implement. The trick lies in conceiving such UI designing plans that a) would appeal to users, and b) would be simple enough for the developers to implement.
- Using ‘Doorslam’ ads for revenue – Of course it’s important to earn revenue from your applications – but not by compromising on the user-experience front. You will be surprised to find how many mobile app companies do precisely that – by setting up full-screen (‘doorslam’) ads, covering the home screen of apps. Do not make the same mistake and alienate your clients. Arrange ads near the bottom of the screen (no part of the on-screen content should get covered). Users should also have the option to turn off ads.
- Not optimising PNG files before uploading – Any app developer worth his/her salt knows that in-app images need to be in PNG format. But that’s only half of the story – and there is no dearth of developers who directly upload heavy 24-bit PNGs, straight from Photoshop. Do a bit of research about image optimization software, like ImageOptim and ImageAlpha. Without sacrificing even a bit on picture quality, you can convert your PNGs to 64-bit files. They are the ones that should be uploaded on the servers.
Another thing you should keep in mind is that, app designing is not a one-shot job. You need to make use of in-app analytics software, and seek feedback from users – to find out how well (or poorly!) your app designs are being received. Both Apple and Google offer detailed app design pointers, which primarily focus on human interactions. Follow these pointers at all times. If it’s a mobile commerce app – keep the vital tabs (like ‘My Cart’) above the fold. High-end functionality no longer guarantees the success of any app – an application has to be ‘good-looking’ and easy to use as well. An advanced app that appears lousy is a sureshot #fail!
And folks, that rounds up the 18th edition (oh boy, it seems we started only a couple of weeks back!) of AppBoard Tuesday. Most of the mobile app designing guidelines listed in this edition of ABT have been framed after consultation with our in-house UI/UX designers, developers as well as experts from other companies. We really hope they prove to be useful for those who are relatively new in this field.
ABT takes a festive season break next week (after all, it will be the week of Durga Puja – one of the biggest annual Indian festivals). We will be back on October 7 with a new topic related to mobile applications.
Teknowledge Software wishes hearty season’s greetings to each one of our valued readers. Enjoy the festive days to the fullest, everyone!
And, don’t forget to keep zapping with apps!