Tag Archives: crap app

Size matters. Three tips for building a better app.

app under constructionAnyone who knows me, knows I’m in the app space.

I’ve been developing apps, managing the development of apps and critiquing apps for years.

As such, I’ve seen my fair share, both on the development side and as a consumer.

There have been absolute standouts – apps that I swear by, for their sheer utility and execution.

And there have been the sheer fails – apps that deserve to be put out to pasture and their developers shot (acts of mercy, let me assure you).

And everything in between.

What separates a brilliant app from a crap app?

I thought you’d never ask.

There are a number of things that makes one app a star and another a dud.

Anything from great (or poor) UI, to UX, to competitors apps (doing it better or worse).

But today you’re going to learn the three tips for building a better app.

Drumroll please…..

1. Size matters.

size-matters

If you’re going to build an app, remember that you’ve got extremely limited real estate to work with.

As my handy dandy graphic illustrates, with a mobile phone, you’ve only got so much space to work with.

You’re only going to able to place so many buttons before it’s a crammed, jumbled mess.

Not only does it look bad (to have a bunch of buttons) it also reduces the utility and functionality of your app.

And there is nothing, NOTHING, more frustrating than being unable to access a function from your mobile device because the button or icon is too small.

Many an iPhone screen has been shattered from sheer frustration that it’s owner felt being incapable of accessing an item on an app.

With space at a premium, the smaller the screen size, being judicious about how much you place on the screen is essential.

The more stuff you put, the smaller each item becomes, the more difficult it will be to access those items.

People complain of “fat fingers” as the reason for mistyping or shooting out emails before they’re actually done.

But the truth of the matter is that buttons are often so close together that you’ve got to use surgical precision to not make mistakes.

It’s not just button size that’s an issue, text size is just as important.

Tiny text is stupid.

Who wants to use a monocle just to read their screen?

Tip: Make your text big enough to see and  buttons big enough to press.

2. Not there. Put it here.

wireframe-ui-ios

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating.

There is limited space on a mobile device.

As such, the placement of buttons and actionable portions of the screen, is as important, if not more than, the size of the button.

I hate apps that place buttons along the screen edge.

Think about how many times you’ve found yourself pressing an “inoperative” button over and over again – seemingly right on the icon.

But never able to actuate.

If you’ve got a protective case like the Otterbox, which has a wide beveled edge along the screen, trying to access any button or navigation element is virtually impossible.

If you’re not conscious about the placement of your buttons and navigation elements, you’ll definitely frustrate your users.

Tip: Space your buttons and navigation elements far enough apart to avoid “fat finger” syndrome.

3. Show me what you’ve got.

menu-alt-512

I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage, “less is more.”

I’m not sure if that’s an actual ‘adage’ versus a mere ‘saying’, but you catch my drift.

The point is, when it comes to apps, keeping your interface clean, and focused on your primary functions and navigation, is best practice.

What to do with all those secondary functions?

Stick ‘em in a menu, that’s what!

Users have come to expect that there’s more to your app than meets the eye.

Updating your profile, accessing settings, providing feedback: these are all elements that, while important, don’t need to be front and center.

More importantly, things that are essential shouldn’t compete with the primary functions of your app.

Tuck them away in a discrete, easy to locate and intuitive location – a la the menu.

 Tip: Place non-essential items in a well designated menu.

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Filed under apps, digital advocacy, mobile

Crap App! What NOT to do with your app

If you follow any of my babbling, you probably already know that I’m in the mobile industry. Currently, I’m helping brands and businesses develop their mobile and social media strategies.

When I meet with potential clients and prospects, I’m constantly being asked about which apps I think are good examples for them to take a look at.  Every so often, I’m also asked my opinion about apps developed by other companies.

Recently, when I was pitching my company to develop an app for a newspaper publisher, I was asked about a particular app that they had decided to utilize: the Saxotech Saxoviewer.  So I took Saxotech’s Saxoviewer for a test drive.

I’ve played with their app for almost two weeks, so I feel that I have a good understanding of it.

First, the good:

1.  Nice clean looking interface. The splash page is great for branding, and replaced with the client’s logos or icons, is very impactful.

2.  Good use of space. The three (3) column layout, with the two (2) sidebars and main feature center column, is an effective use of space, and definitely drives the eyes to the content that you want (presumably what’s in the center column).

3.  Excellent use of embed video. The ‘Video of the week’ in the left sidebar is a good use of video if your brand has video content or is interested in offering video to your demographic/readership. The player loads fairly quickly, and depending upon the engine, can really enhance the overall utility of the app.

4.  Comprehensive menu capable of being accessed in multiple ways. The list icon (Change sections button) in the bottom left corner (which identifies which page you’re looking at) and the stacked pages icon (Article overview button) on the bottom right (next to the back arrow) allow a user to see the contents of the app in both list and ‘cover flow’-style layout. The second option is cool because it allows you to navigate through and preview additional pages without having to navigate away from the page you’re currently viewing.

5.  Instructions are excellent. In the bottom right corner is an ‘i’ icon (This Info button), which pulls up the instructions on how to use the Saxoviewer. It’s simple to understand and provides comprehensive information on how to use the app.

Next, the bad:

1.  Takes forever to load. Each time the app was opened, it took an inordinate amount of time to get passed the splash page into the app itself.

2.  Fails to maintain a connection to wifi.  Whenever the iPad went to sleep, was turned off or if I navigated away from the app, whenever I returned to the app, I received a warning message advising that I was no longer connected to a network, despite the fact that I was.

More importantly, this message would repeat itself over and over again (at one point over 20 times) despite being clicked or acknowledged, and in spite of the fact that I was still connected to a wifi network. I experienced this issue every time I interacted with the app (over 10 times in a two week period).

3.  The app crashed several times while I was using it. This was especially the case when I relaunched from sleep. It also crashed twice when I attempted to load the ‘video of the week.’

4.  Buttons don’t always respond to touch. In several instances, I had to tap an icon repeatedly before the underlying function was activated. I noted this primarily with the Change Sections button in the bottom left corner, but the Article overview button did this also.

5.  The featured content ‘floats’ over the ad window. In the top of the center column, is the feature window, which cycles through the featured content. Instead of being isolated in the center column, and the information loading from that area, subsequent content floats over the ‘Bernard Matthews’ ad (in the right column) before loading the feature window.

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6.  Preview text, article titles cut off. In several places, it appears that pictures are actually obscuring text.

7.  Broken characters. Several articles had nonsense characters in the place of text.

Now, in all fairness to Saxotech (and for full disclosure), I work for an application development company, so I’m definitely more critical than your average Joe.

Saxotech, if you’re reading this – check your app.

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Filed under mobile, opinion, Smack talking, technology