Mistakes to avoid while creating an App
Did you suddenly think of a great idea for an App that, you believe, will be compelling to users? That’s great! However, take it easy… take baby steps! Before rushing to development, it is necessary to setup a detailed project. Once development begins, it is important to have the project always at hand, and avoid a few typical errors, which might turn into horrors.
The Flow Chart
It’s absolutely important, before the development of your App starts, to create a simple yet very useful flow chart that describes all the App’s features and processes, without leaving anything out. This step is extremely important regardless of the application’s size and complexity. It is really important to have a clear idea about what the App will do and how it will look like: this is the first step towards success.
Design and functionality
It’s important to figure out how the App should look like, and how well its interface would work with the required features. The slightest change in the interface can significantly impact the App’s functionality and structure, and viceversa. In order of importance, the App’s usefulness comes before its appearance. It is because of the functionality that we’ll select the proper design and graphical elements, it is never the other way around.
Low resolution and bitmap images
It is very important to start working with high resolution images from the very beginning. It’s always possible to downscale the images, while up-scaling them is impossible. Further, the resolution of mobile device screens is continuously changing. Ideally, vector images are more flexible than raster graphics, hence should be preferred.
The “Hit area”
Have you ever been in that situation where you need to press a tiny button, and you succeeded only at the third or fourth attempt? It is critical to avoid using tiny buttons, which are really difficult to press. The average size of our index fingertip ranges from 1,6 cm to 2 cm, which is the reason why buttons should be big enough to allow for comfortable tapping gestures. For the same reason, buttons should be spaced properly. Keep in mind that fingers move rapidly across the screen, and are not capable of hitting a tiny spot with sufficient precision.
High resolution screens
Now that high resolution screens are available (think of the latest iPad with its Retina Display), it’s always tempting to exploit their capabilities. Those who are well versed in graphics design will have fun creating high resolution images and animations. While it’s true that we have previously suggested to work with high resolution graphics, it’s also important to avoid overloading the App with an excessive amount of pixels, otherwise its performances may suffer. It’s good practice to test the App on the actual target device, to make sure that its performances are not negatively impacted by an overload of graphical elements.
If you can, avoid them. If you really need them, try to design them as short and lightweight as possible. Animations are just waiting time to the user: if the intro takes a long time to load and play, it might become a source of stress. It is critical that animations are looking really good, hence they must be thoroughly reviewed; in addition, their loading time must be constantly assessed.
An unique style
Every mobile operating system has a distinctive style. It’s wrong to create an App that imitates the style of one operating system on a different one. In general, mobile operating system vendors have created guidelines, which are available to developers. The look&feel of an App that targets the iOS is very different from that of an App that targets Android, and viceversa. The same applies to Windows Phone 7. You must make sure that your App’s style is consistent with that of the target operating system, in order to avoid confusing the users, or even annoy them.
The forgotten user
It is neither funny nor functional to leave the user waiting in front of an empty screen. Even while the App is busy with loading some content, it’s important to provide the user with some feedback. Without any feedback, the user might think that the App has crashed, and will close it, or even worse, uninstall it. Valid feedback includes progress bars, background images, short animations… anything that provides a sign of life and lets the user know that the App just busy with loading something.
People are different!
There’s a saying that goes like “the world is great because it’s so varied”. Never take for granted that all users will use your App in the same way. It’s critical to stress-test your App thoroughly, doing all kind of things to it. Try to get out of your mental schemes, try to put yourself in the shoes of an user who faces your App for the first time ever. Even better would be to publish a Beta, to allow a limited amount of users to try it out before the official launch: this will be the way to obtain valued feedback from actual users and modify the App accordingly.
All of the above isn’t meant to be a strict guideline to create perfect Apps, but it should be considered as a good starting point. If you follow these suggestions, there will be less chances of going back to the whiteboard while halfway through development, or even worse when at the end of it.
For those who are about to start developing their own Apps, here is a list of useful websites:
AppsBuilder (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Chrome Store e HTML5 Webapp)
AppDoIt (iOS, Android and, coming soon, Windows Phone)
Free Android App Maker (Android)
And now… back to work!