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Designing your first mobile app

Are you designing your first mobile app? Here are some quick tips to make sure you plan, design and implement it right first time.

Why?

Do: Consider ‘why mobile?’ and also ‘what’s the need?’, ‘what’s the strategic benefit?’, ‘what does success look like?’ Have a written set of strategic outcomes so you can discuss if you hit them on route.

Don’t: Make one because ‘they’ have one. It’s great sometimes when someone else takes the R&D hit to show the way, but are you really sure it is what you need? How can you use mobile to your advantage to innovate in your organisation?

Mobile app design

Map

“Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
Do: Make a plan of your app and decide how you feel about it as a user, then test that plan on paper or in an interactive mind map in front of people you trust to engage and give positive feedback. Ask open ended questions such as ‘how does this feel as a feature?’, ‘where do you think you would go now?’ Don’t spoon-feed them features then ask them yes/no questions like: ‘was that clear?’

Don’t: Rush into content creation. Simply adding content into pages fails to consider how you want users to interact.

Prototype

Do: If you can’t make interactive prototypes, make some simple art mock ups and then view them in the photo browser on the target device. Flick through some pencil sketches on your iPad, thumb through some mock ups on your Android and really get the feel of what you are creating. You can photograph your sketches and mock ups with your smartphone or tablet to do this. Show others and ask for their honest feedback.

Don’t: Go directly to high quality graphics. That’s missing the point. Finding out how your design flows when tested with real people is not changed by the quality of the artwork. Great design comes later, and yes, it stills needs to look the best it can at that stage.

Fingers

Do: Design for fingers and thumbs. Remember that people can either use your app with one hand or they have to switch to two hands. An example would be what happens when you pop up an onscreen keyboard, how do the user interactions change?

Don’t: Make buttons and over complex interactions rely on tiny hit points. Users will get annoyed and simply avoid using the app.

people use a mobile app

Density

Do: Think about the different quality of graphics on high-resolution displays. Clearly, just using generic graphics is not good enough. Think carefully about how you need users to focus on the content or function of a certain screen.

Don’t: Simply pack screens full of content because you can. Lots of things going on at once can look visually exciting but, for users, it is usually bewildering.

Testing

Do: Get early honest feedback in a way that benefits the design. Get out of your comfort zone, don’t assume your design is right and get real people to ‘have a go’. You might uncover an amazing feature you had never considered.

Don’t: Just add QA testing to the end of a project. That’s very necessary, but it isn’t the whole picture when it comes to testing.

Loading…

Do: Consider how your assets will get loaded into your app. The first scenario is that it all ships with the app, the second that it loads via a web connection into a shell app. There are different usage and security scenarios for both. Where are users physically? Are they with clients? What are their web access conditions? When do you need impact (i.e. will users need the app to be up and running as soon as they download)? What are your security requirements?

Don’t: Put 5GB of video into an app and expect users to download it on a 3G connection on the move.

Web content

Do: Consider putting certain content into web pages within your app. Data capture forms and other simple web pages may well work ‘out of the box’ within an app – subject to testing. If you have designed and built a platform for CRM, an online diagnostic, an online gallery or a timesheeting page, you might well be able to augment the usefulness of your app by showing these web pages within an app.

Don’t: Forget that data needs somewhere to go. What’s your process once the web page has been used? Don’t create a web page that’s useless within a useful, slick app. Also, consider the user and make the web page open within the app. Don’t send them off to a browser, they may never come back.

As well as producing award winning mobile learning products, LINE also offers you the capability to create, manage and distribute mobile content across your organisation with our LINE Mobile Enterprise Platform.

This post first appeared on the LINE blog on 18th April 2012.