Today, the average smartphone user is spoiled for choice. There are over 700,000 apps from which to choose at the Apple App Store, and around the same at the Google Play Store for Android — with several more in the pipeline. The mobile app development market is booming, and every developer wants a piece of the pie. Here are some tips you can keep in mind if you are a developer planning to design an app.
Design for Multiple Platforms
The success rate of an app is directly proportional to the number of users having access to it. If you design an app exclusively for a single platform such as iOS or Android, you are limiting its reach. Designing an app for multiple platforms and possibly releasing it simultaneously enhances the possibility of success. However, the multi-platform development environments are still too immature and require lots of extra testing. Programmers often describe them as “write once, test many” platforms. It’s often the choice of ease to build vs. reach, but in the long run, you will benefit greatly from cross-platform designing.
Choose the Right Business Model
In the early days of smartphone apps, the premium model — wherein $. 99 or more was charged per app download — was the most popular. This model is still popular on the Apple App Store, whereas Android users generally prefer freemium apps. Freemium is the practice of giving your app or game away for free and making money via in-app purchases (IAP). Another lucrative model developers can adopt is the ad-supported app, where you make your money through ads. You can also choose a hybrid of any of the above models (e.g, freemium with ad-support). It’s important to decide in advance what model you want to adopt, taking into consideration the type of app you want to develop, and your current standing in the market.
Address a Problem and Solve It
Keep in mind that your app must deliver necessary functionality, provide entertainment, save time or money, or offer a unique service. The really successful mobile apps are the ones that deliver benefits to the users. Rather than build your app based on a vague objective, be very clear about what you want your app to deliver. Start only when you have a rock-solid idea.
Don’t Complicate It
There is a much to be learned from the success of the smartphone. People like things simple, intuitive, and fun. With no shortage of apps from which to choose, the average smartphone user will not spend time trying to understand the intricacies of your app when he has dozens of alternatives. Try and design the app in a way that makes the end user feel at home from the first time he tries it. Design the UI (user interface) simple and make it easy to maneuver.
Well-written code greatly reduces testing and maintenance efforts. Since the testing and maintenance costs of software are much higher than the coding costs, the goal of coding should be to reduce the testing and maintenance effort. The main focus during the coding phase should be developing programs that are easy to write. Simplicity and clarity are required.
Strive for Minimal Loading Time
Let’s face it: nobody has the time or the patience to wait 25-30 seconds after clicking on an app for it to open. A longer loading time means a risk of users losing interest. Even if you want your app to contain intricate graphics or an overdose of content, design it so that it’s faster and cuts to the chase.
Make It Interactive
Nothing drains a user like a cumbersome app. Developers need to remember that user involvement in the app must take center stage during the development process. Design your app in a way that encourages user participation and feedback and rewards them for it. For example, some game apps give out free gaming currency for posting feedback.
Whether you are developing your own app or outsourcing it to vendors, the process followed remains the same: requirement, analysis, planning, prototype, design, coding, testing, and deployment. Although there are various facets to consider in each of these steps, the underlying message is to stay within budget. The entire process from beginning to end can take up to several months. Set daily or weekly targets and try to make sure you achieve them. If you are outsourcing, make sure that every expenditure is accounted for.
Test, Test, and Then Test Some More
Often, the amount of time that goes into building an app leaves precious little for testing, which reduces the chance of identifying and correcting bugs before they dilute the user experience. Make sure you emphasize an allocation of sufficient time for mobile application testing into the app’s lifecycle. If you don’t test it, you certainly aren’t going to be able to fix it.
Designing an app is no walk in the park. It’s a long, arduous, and often nerve-wracking process. Trust me, though, when I say that nothing beats that warm, happy, fuzzy feeling you get when you see your app in the App Store or Google Play Store for the first time. It’s a high that can only be duplicated by building your next great app.
So what are you waiting for? Get started, people!
Devina Thamman is the co-founder of Bitmantra and a technology consultant for enterprise and startups across the US, UK, Middle East, and India.
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