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.
1. 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.
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.
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.