Think you have designed the perfect app, be sure you haven’t fallen into the trap of these common app mistakes:
The best apps embrace consistency. They use the same button styles, keep the buttons in the same position throughout the app (imagine if your keypad changed where the numbers were every two screens).
Not only is it important to keep the interface consistent between screens, but also between earlier versions. Think of the stink that Facebook users throw up when the site changes – yes they eventually get used to it, but if you can, keep things consistent.
“Users experience an app as a collection of screens, most of which appear sequentially.”
Why keep consistent? Inconsistency increases the time a user takes to use and learn an app, and increased time results in frustration, which gives the user a bad experience. Bad experiences result in lower use, deleting, poor reviews and plenty of word of mouth negativity.
Needless Over Designing
The loudest argument for over design is often that it is a waste of money. Yes, there are app types that desire and benefit from custom UI, but these tend to be immersive games where the whole experience is to be different to the conventional phone interface.
“People appreciate iOS apps that feel as thought they were designed expressly for the device. For example, when an app fits well on the device screen and responds to gestures that people know, it provides much of the experience people are looking for.”
If you make up your own gestures and interface that are not as intuitive, you again increase the time it takes for a user to learn how to use your app. Why not benefit from the time and research the phone’s platform has invested in standard controls and just augment them a little?
That said, even Apple suggests “all apps need at least some custom artwork…. You still need to provide a beautiful, custom app icon that people will enjoy seeing in the App Store and on their Home Screens.”
Rein in your designer a little; be sure that they and the developer work together to achieve the best user interface.
“An app that enables a productive task generally keeps decorative elements subtle and in the background, while giving prominence to the task by providing standard controls and behaviours…” suggest Apple “… Such an app gives users a clear, unified message about its purpose and its identity. If on the other hand, the app enables the productive task within a user interface that seems whimsical or frivolous, people might not know how to interpret these contradictory signals.” Less is often more.
Lack of Optimisation
Loading 50%… yawn. If your app is heavy to load, or does not consider that the app may be used in areas with poor or no 3G signal, then you will lose a sector of your market who find your app loads like a snail. Keep file sizes and data transfer as low as possible, and make use of every form of optimisation possible. The faster your app is to load, the happier the users are.
Far Too Wordy
Apple has some sound advice on this area:
“Mobile users have neither the time nor the desire to read through a lot of help content before they can benefit from the application. What’s more, help content takes up valuable space to store and display.”
If you require your app audience to read War and Peace before they use your app, you’ll lose them almost immediately. Remember that mobile use is done in short bursts of activity due to the context of their use and the location. Attention span is particularly short, and you cannot expect your users to read all the lengthy info.
Thinking laterally, why do you have so much text? Is the app that complicated? If it is, then you need to go back to the design stage.
Native Interactions Forgotten
Handset owners are used to using various gestures, taps, rotations and other interactions with their phone on a regular basis to make calls, take photos, send text and browse the web. Naturally, they’ll want to apply those native gestures to your app, so don’t forget. This may mean you have to consider each platform in turn to ensure you are catering for the gestures, but it is time worth spent. If a user can naturally zoom in with a gesture, then that’s part of the learning curve already saved.
Using Only Sound for Feedback
How often do you get irritated by someone else’s phone bleeting? Do you keep yours on silent, or switch off the sounds on an app because its driving you mad? How often do you struggle to hear your message tone in a noisy place?
By only using sound as a form of feedback, you will increase frustration and confusion. If the sounds are off, you have no feedback, if it’s too noisy to hear, you have no feedback. Use a combination of feedback to ensure your app users know when something has been set, saved, adjusted etc. Don’t rely on sound alone.
Lack of Attention to Detail
Spelling mistakes, inconsistency of terminology, images not quite fitting or low quality. Make sure everything in your app is perfect. The polish you apply to an app with good design and functionality will help transform your app from good to noteworthy.