Last time we discussed the stages of building an app, from idea, sketch, interaction flow, wireframe and mockup to product development. Theoretically, this process looks organized and predictable, but only on paper. In reality, there are many variables in the equation, and some of them can and do go wrong. Many mobile app projects are started every day, but only a handful of those are a success. In order to minimize chances of failure, it’s important to know what roadblocks may hinder development, how to harmonize form and content and what basic dos and don’ts you have to keep in mind when entering a mobile app design project.
When wireframes and mockups are not enough to provide visual support for product approval, an elaborate prototype is built to demonstrate the future app. Developers assess it and comment on the technical and financial side of the design. After the prototype is changed according to the requests of all key players, designers start making the end variant of the product.
A prototype can be built at any stage of design. An earlier stage can help avoid endless alterations, save time and cut design costs.
When making an app as an independent entrepreneur, the approval of any other party may be irrelevant. But on a project that involves other players, it’s vital to cut down the number of decision-makers.
If the company decides to involve their staff, the number of reviewers with the right to veto design decisions should be limited to persons who have a clear vision and profound understanding of project goals. Opinions provided by staff should not drive design; design is determined by the business concept, creative idea, app purpose and platform design guidelines.
Designers should have full access to the future mobile app backend infrastructure to make informed decisions. With corporate apps, designers have to find a perfect balance between corporate philosophy and the app purpose, as well as platform requirements.
When it comes to the notorious number of Android devices, platform guidelines advise building visually stunning apps that look good on all devices. But how? Android suggests solutions like flexibility, optimizing layouts, providing resources for different screen densities, etc. One strategy is to start with a base standard and scale up or down for other buckets; another is to begin with the largest screen and scale down. Android provides detailed guides on multi-pane layouts, designing for multiple screens and building dynamic UI with fragments.
Let’s take the highly anticipated iOS8, coming to the general public in autumn 2014. Changes in iOS8 may be divided into consumer (group messaging, private browsing, additional camera features, iCloud drive, Health app, Family sharing, Siri improvements) and developer-specific (widgets, extensibility, Touch ID API, third-party keyboards, home automation APIs, metal graphics system for detailed 3D graphics, and possible new iOS hardware). The Apple Store will also undergo a number of alterations (app bundles, preview videos and a new beta test service). Besides getting new developer tools, designers and developers will have more freedom – a new move for Apple. Right now designers may find themselves in limbo since iOS8 is only available for beta users. That is the challenge of waiting for the actual product while dealing with rumors and previews.
Design should never be overthought. Good design is the design you don’t notice, a result of cutting the unnecessary elements, and leaving only self-explanatory parts of the app.
With iOS design, it is essential to balance the technical and aesthetic aspect of Apple Store requirements with company vision, marketing purposes and target audience tastes. iOS8 is again a combination of clean minimal icons and transparency effects with succinct content.
Android guidelines on form and content are similar: a good app is a combination of beauty, simplicity and purpose. Users should be able to grasp features intuitively, and effects should be subtle. Android likes their content brief, with short phrases, simple words, using images to explain concepts whenever possible.
Surface is ultra modern and minimalist, also trying to cash in on form familiarity (old Windows applications and well-known icons).
All in all, platform store requirements are rules designers should abide by.
These projects don’t succeed because there are already popular apps on the market.
Designers can follow a simple rule: one visual compliment on a page or section. The iOS 7 guide on clarity states that the text should be legible, icons – precise and lucid, adornments – subtle and appropriate. Surface apps also look clean, and Android always voted for simplicity.
Developers and business analysts are a great source of information for designers. Developers can point designers in the direction of existing successful apps, relevant knowledge centers, resources for customer feedback and reviews.
Sometimes it is better to estimate a longer time period and finish the project before the deadline, rather than be rushed with a subpar result.
Mobile design is a dynamic field of IT where technologies change constantly. New products also mean new technical possibilities. In order to keep up, it is crucial to stay educated by subscribing to relevant blogs and joining professional communities.
Apps can’t be successful without attractive, intuitive and user-friendly design. It is something that distinguishes one app from countless others. Multiple factors determine the success of a well-designed app, including deep knowledge of platform guidelines, business requirements, company brand and vision, as well as target audience expectations.
Mobile app design’s primary purpose is to appeal to consumers and enhance their life. Apps should speak to users without words, and a good designer should make the app not only crisp and clear, but also eloquent and self-explanatory.
Do you agree with our dos and don’ts? How can you avoid mobile design roadblocks? What’s more important, form or content? Add your comments below, and share your opinions on the topic with us.