Mobile apps are being created faster than ever before, and it’s not surprising; over half of all web traffic now comes from mobile devices. Having a dedicated app that users can go to helps to keep their mobile experience seamless when they are away from their desktop. Unfortunately, many inexperienced app designers make some pretty big mistakes, with devastating results, and an app that flops. Here are some of the most common mistakes you can make, and what to do to avoid them:
Starting Without a Clear Plan
Begin with a written plan. What the purpose and the goals are, and then a basic flow chart of how users are going to need to move through the app. Just like you wouldn’t build a home without a blueprint, or write a novel without an outline, you want to have the basic structure penned out before you begin building. This will help you when you begin designing and building your framework.
Building a Cross-Platform App
Prior to even designing your app, you should have done your research on your target audience. You should know how old they are, how much education they have, and whether they live in the suburbs or the city. You should also know whether they prefer Android or iOS, and you should build natively for that platform. There are many reasons for this, but the primary reason is because you want to design a great app that works well. Cross-platform apps are usually poorly functioning across the board, and may require more coding than simply writing for each platform individually. An added bonus is that you can release for the first platform as soon as it’s ready, and get some real-use feedback from your customers, that you can then use to help improve the versions you design for other platforms before they are released.
Ignoring the Developer’s Concerns
You may think you’ve got a fantastic idea for a new design function that will help you create a top-notch app that will sell itself. The developer may tell you that there just isn’t enough processing power in most mobile devices to do what you want it to, or that it will use too much of the average user’s data plan to make it worth using. If you ignore this kind of advice, you’re going to wind up with a poor product that crashes and freezes, or a bunch of angry customers who rack up excessive data charges and then delete your app. While the designer may be right about the groundbreaking new idea, reality may keep it from being implemented — for now. If it’s really that ingenious, go ahead and see if you can patent the idea, so that when the technology becomes available, you can run with the idea.
Trying to Turn It Into a Desktop Site
It may be tempting to pack the full functionality of a website into a mobile app, but it’s not practical — and in some cases, nearly impossible. It’s also not what your users are looking for. If they want to browse the web, they’ll find a computer. Mobile apps are usually designed for quick and easy tasks and functions, with almost instantaneous results. Users don’t want to spend time trying to navigate through a bulky site to do what they came here for.
Forgetting the Size of a Mobile Screen
You’ll be doing most of your developing work on a much larger screen than your app will be used on. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not scaling things properly. When you try to fit too much functionality or text onto a page, you risk making it too small to see. A cluttered screen with small buttons isn’t useful to many users.
Using All of a Device’s Capabilities
A huge mistake that has been made for years with computers, servers, and now with mobile devices, is to create software with very high minimum requirements. Remember that while the device is being used for your app, it is also running all of the background services, and possibly several other processes that the user feels is necessary. Creating and app that will technically run on a cell phone, but winds up crashing the device because of the excessive system requirements is a great way to lose customers.
Forgetting to Integrate With the Operating System
This isn’t just about functionality. Android and iOS have very different styles, layouts, and navigation. Try to match these to the operating system you are building for, and your users will be happier. Android users and iPhone users have very different expectations for design and functionality, and an app designed for an iPhone won’t make sense to an Android user. It doesn’t need to match the design pixel-for-pixel, but it does need to look — and work — like it was designed for the OS.
Skimping on the Beta Testing
Just like the writing rule that you should never proofread your own work, you should never try to beta test your app yourself. Anyone who participated in the development or design of the app is going to overlook problems because they inherently know what they are looking for and how to get there. You want people testing the app that:
- Are part of the target market – if it’s a game for teenagers, you need to have teenagers test it, not developers.
- Haven’t worked on developing it – even if the app is targeted to people like you and your team, you need to find fresh eyes
- Will give you honest feedback - don’t hire your mom or your sister.
Losing Sight of the End Goal
It’s easy when you’re in the process of developing something to turn in an entirely new direction based on a great idea here, or a really cool design idea there. But you need to make sure that the end product is what you set out to make in the first place. If you’re designing for someone else, your client likely had some specific needs in mind, and straying too far from the initial idea may leave you with a dissatisfied client. If you think you’ve come up with a really fantastic change, make sure you discuss it and get approval before moving ahead. Any great ideas you have that your client doesn’t like can be tabled for future use, but you need to ensure that the product you create meets the design and functionality needs that were intended.
Avoiding these mistakes won’t guarantee a successful app, but making them will almost certainly guarantee a failure!