We have some good news and some bad news here, potentially all good news depending on your outlook. Good news: you finally have all the tools to create your own app!
Every day, the technology and tools to create apps are becoming more easily accessible and more user-friendly. Bad news: you are not the only one who knows this.
People all over the world are embarking on their first app making journeys. But no worries, there is more good news: everything you need to know to design the perfect app is right here.
The mobile app industry is bigger and better than ever. Every business, from sports franchises to grocery stores are looking to design a mobile app. And what client doesn’t want their favorite team or their shopping list in right in their pocket?
With mobile app designing, you are in charge of the look and feel of the product, as well as the relationship between app and user. Knowing this, the possibilities are endless. However, with so much room for success, there is also a lot of room for error.
Let’s take a look at the top things to keep in mind when designing apps, from research to working with developing teams.
Before we take a look at the research portion of creating an app, take a second to pat yourself on the back. Congratulations! You are about to embark on a journey that is very fun, a little difficult, and extremely rewarding.
The old proverb says, write what you know. This applies to app designing. If you are planning on becoming an app designer a good first step is to be an app user. As an app user, you will start to learn what you like and don’t like in an app, like which fonts look the best and which layouts are easiest to use.
Mobile app design is different than designing websites or online applications, but you know that – by now you are a prolific app user and an obsessive smartphone owner, right?
You know that mobile apps are focused. They are specific. They are individual. They are insular. Remember this when you are designing your app.
Another thing to keep in mind is that mobile applications are new! And so are the platforms they are used on, smartphones. Keeping on top of the new innovations in the world of smartphones will put you ahead of the curve in the designing world, helping your app to be the newest, shiniest version of itself.
Also, reading about the official guidelines for design, the iOS Human Interface Guidelines or Android User Interface Guidelines, is not a bad idea.
Second, more research
Why are you doing this and how are you going to do it? These are two daunting, but absolutely necessary, questions you must ask yourself at the beginning of your app designing process.
Why are you doing this? What are you accomplishing by designing an app? Is it a marketing or branding move? Is it to gain extra revenue channels? Is it simply a mobile version of your online presence or product? You have two goals.
First to design an app, second for the app to generate something, whether it be money, discussion, or convenience. If you have clearly in mind the latter goal during the designing process, the product will be more effective.
How are you going to make an app? Writing a list of tasks that must be completed in order to create your app is extremely helpful. Having an agenda and a plan to check off every item on your list is the most efficient way to go about creating your app.
Also, think about who is going to be using your app. If you think about your app from your perspective as a designer and the audience’s perspective as users, you will create an app with which both sides are happy.
Check out your competition
Seeing what you are up against is always smart, regardless of whether you are in a battle of the bands or a cooking competition. In the case of mobile apps, there are many different sites, forums, and threads for users to express opinions about apps.
Perusing these sites and comment sections for a few hours can give you a really good picture of what is on the market, as well as what the users wish was on the market. Knowing your user’s preferences before you even begin to design the app is going to save you a lot of time editing later.
Of course, the customer is always right, but don’t take the internet’s word for it! Watch and learn. Download a couple of apps, think about what they got right and what you would do differently.
As previously mentioned, you are entering into a huge, dynamic, and young field. With thousands of apps being created every day, there is always something new. The popular phrase, “There’s an app for that”, didn’t sprout up out of nowhere. A number of apps and things that they do is staggering. You want to be different but approachable. Be unique and usable.
Visual inspiration is very important part of this. It is also a way that you could leave your own mark on the entire industry. Think about the gestures that exist on mobile phones. The techniques used to get stuff done on our phones is constantly evolving. Think about what doesn’t exist yet. Your mantra should be, “What is the most natural way to get this done.” Double tapping? Swiping? Typing?
Remember: inspire yourself but don’t steal. You will learn a great deal and vastly improve your app by looking at what is already out there.
Now it’s time to design the app
Finally! Time to put all that research to use! Think about all the things you experienced using apps and all of the comments, concerns, and suggestions of the users that you have read. Now, keeping this in mind, how do you want your app to look? To feel? To be used? Either by sketching or using Photoshop, start to design the app.
This part of the process can be difficult and time-consuming. Remember: Time spent here is time saved later.
After you have a vision for your app, one that you have put on paper or on your hard drive, it is time to build the bones of your app. There are many prototyping applications you can use, just be sure to use one that is compatible with the interface you are designing for.
Making sure that the basic components of your app are functional is very important for obvious reasons. Creating a strong core will ensure that your app is a pleasure to use, instead of a hassle. Different drafts or versions of your app will be necessary, so starting with the basics will make all of your versions usable, if not perfect.
If the devil is in the details, so is the angel. A beautiful accent or a stylish font will help your app to stick out in a huge market. The little things matter; they can make or break an app.
Navigating your app should be easy. If users can’t find what they’re looking for, they will not get the full app experience. Intuitive use should take precedence over style. Taking a page out of the books of google, bing, or other popular search engines is not a bad idea.
Experienced app designers all agree navigation is not an element to be extremely creative with. Add personal flair to conventional searching systems, don’t create a system that users will have to learn.
This is one of the most important aspects of designing your app. If your text is difficult to read or your font is hard to look at, your app will be impossible to use.
Spaces between lines and words are important to nail, especially with mobile apps where space is limited. You want to make sure you are maximizing your space without cramping your text.
Experienced app designers all agree you can make it possible for the client to choose the text but you still have to make the fonts look great. It’s all the more impressive if your clients get options when it comes to the font. But regardless of whether you include font settings in your design, make it readable, make it stylish, and make it match.
If you are anything like me, this is the fun part! Picking out the perfect colors to complement your design is fun and important. Too many colors can be distracting or confusing.
Trying out different schemes is the best way to test your color scheme. You definitely want to make sure that your colors aren’t clashing and that your text is visible over your background. Experienced app designers will tell you, less is more when it comes to colors.
Testing is vital
So your idea is stellar, your design is beautiful, the colors are perfectly coordinated and the text is the perfect font and size- now what? You want to make sure that your app is built for an actual person to use is what. Testing out your app on devices that the app will be used on is incredibly important to ensure that the user will receive maximum enjoyment and productivity from your design.
The details mattered in the design and they matter now. Can you reach all the keypads with one hand? Good. But are you blocking important information with your other hand while you type?
And, just as importantly, will the app still look great on an older or inferior model than the device that you are using to test your prototype on. Making sure that all of your users can experience the full grandeur of your app is a key component in being successful.
Now that you know all the basics of designing mobile apps, go and make your masterpiece! The mobile app platform is a fantastic one to design in, with so many options and opportunities.
As a parting tip, working closely with the developer of your app is always a good idea. You want to make sure that your app is exactly how you envisioned it, in all its splendor and glory.
Working for months on an app just to have the developer flip your project on its head is never fun. So although this final part of the process may be tedious, it is the smartest way to achieve the perfect final product.
So, how do you design an app? Send me a tweet and I’ll be happy to update the post and credit you for a good insight.