At my day job, I work with many startups and entrepreneurs to help them bring their app ideas to market (my night job on the other hand involves a cane, fur coat and pink Cadillac). Having designed and built a number of apps with these clients, I’ve noticed a few things people overlook or forget to include in their app when flushing out the design of the app. Some of these things can end up delaying an app because of running into an Apple rejection, others are more serious and can actually end up ruining the experience of the app altogether.
Whether your are programming your own app, or working with a development lab to build your app, here are 4 things you should remember to include in your app when designing it:
1.) Tutorial Screens
Your users will never be as smart as you assume them to be. What might seem like straight forward concepts in your app can look utterly foreign for the first time user. Instead of clogging up your UI with instructional text, include a 3-4 tutorial screens to be shown the first time a user opens your app to quickly orient them to the concepts in your app. By doing this you can keep your UI clean and minimalist while providing your users with some context about how to use your app. Here are a few tutorial screens we included in our app Dani’s List that are only shown the first time the app opens and is meant to educate the user on how to use the app:
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2.) Mobile Analytics
Releasing an app without including any way for you to measure how people are using it is like putting up a GeoCities web site without a hit counter. Mobile analytics suites like Flurry make it drop-dead easy to instrument your app to send all sorts of usage data back to you. For those of you coming from the web site world, think of Flurry as the Google Analytics for your app. The best part about packages like Flurry is that they are free!
If you don’t tell your developer to integrate Flurry into your app, the only way for you to measure how well your app is being received is through app store download and reviews, both of which are easily gamed and unreliable indicators.
Imagine you are building the next great photo sharing app, how will you go about deleting offensive photos or moderating comments people post on a public feed? Apple is notorious for rejecting apps that do not provide a way for content to be marked inappropriate by users and removed from the app. If you’re building an app that lets people submit their own pictures and you don’t include some moderation capability, then don’t be surprised if Apple rejects your submission.
4.) Progress Bars
As the wise men of the Enlightenment taught us, progress is not a dirty word. When designing your mobile app remember that you are often relying on a 3G connection and that actions like uploading a photo to a server can take a few seconds to finish. Don’t leave your users hanging staring at a frozen UI waiting for an upload to complete, use progress bars and wheels to let your user know that the app is busy doing something and that it will be right back.
Progress bars buy your app the precious seconds it needs to communicate with any back end server, fetch data and complete other tasks like sharing to Twitter or Facebook.
When designing your progress bars don’t settle for throwing up a spinning wheel and leaving it at that. Progress bars are great places to communicate with your user while they wait for something to finish. Take these seconds to share tips with your users, highlight interesting facts about your app or in the case of our app Bahndr (see above), just crack a few funny jokes to keep your users entertained while they wait!