Must-Have Features of Good App Design
Often, businesses feel the need to create a mobile application for their product or service, simply because their competitors have one, or their CEO decides it's needed. However, without a clear strategy, careful planning, and realistic investment and a compelling reason to undertake an app development project, many businesses will fail to fully realise the potential that a well-implemented mobile app can bring.
In this article, we want to highlight some of the mobile app features that can help to create a compelling user experience, a winning product strategy, and a successful return on development.
What is the difference between an "app" and a "web app"
First things first, it's worth noting that there is more than one form of mobile application.
When someone says "app", many people will assume that they mean an application purchased through the Apple App Store or Google Play Stores. But there's another type of mobile application, and some of the best designed apps are not apps at all. These "web apps" are simply websites that have been designed and optimised for a mobile-first experience and that have the features of mobile design that deliver an "app-like" feel.
When considering whether to create your own app, you should talk to experts at an app development agency about what's right for you.
What makes a great mobile app?
A mobile app should be designed with users in mind. There are some obvious features of mobile phones that can guide the design best practices.
Design for smaller devices
A mobile app will by definition be running on a mobile phone or tablet. It's important to design your user interface with these devices in mind. With less space, every inch becomes valuable, and you need to consider the following during the design process.
The correct information hierarchy so that users can find the right information quickly. This might mean arranging content in ways that you wouldn't think about on a typical desktop website. e.g. to allow users to view different content in landscape or portrait mode
How users will interact with your app. Make sure that the typography stands out on a mobile screen, and choose a colour palette that gives a good visual contrast. Make sure buttons and other touch targets are large enough to tap with a clumsy thumb, and remember that features such as "hover" don't necessarily work on a mobile device.
Design for limited or no Internet access
Some of the best mobile apps work equally well online and offline. This doesn't always work with "web apps", but new technology like Progressive Web Apps and Workers, it's possible. Using these tools you can build web apps that can pre-load and store information so that as far as the user is concerned, they can view a website equally well whether connected to the internet or not!
If you can't support the user with no Internet access, make sure your app or website gracefully deals with the situation when it arises. A calming "We'll be back when you have a connection" is better than an alarming "Error! 404 not found!"
Locally optimised mobile design
Mobile phones are mobile, and you can use this information to make your app much more relevant to your users. Why not make use of the phone's built in GPS signal to locate the user and show them a nearby service? We have developed an electric vehicle charging app, for instance, which locates the user and guides them to their nearest EV charging station. No more battery anxiety for them!
Make use of the features of modern devices
Modern phones are super-powerful computers, with loads of features that you can make use of in your app. GPS for location-finding, accelerometers for checking movement speed and direction, high-performance GPUs for gaming, and recently augmented reality (AR) chips that let you virtually bring your user into a 3D space you create.
See the IKEA Place app for a brilliant example of using AR to great effect, and obviously sites like TikTok and Facebook are doing pretty well with the built-in cameras and GPS-based services.
How much does it cost to create an app?
Software development is expensive, and the cost of app development will vary significantly depending on whether they are a simple content-based app, or have bespoke functionality in them. If the app integrates with other 3rd-party systems then this can also increase the cost.
When creating an app, you also need to remember that there are costs associated with listing it on the Apple and Android stores. Apple charges a small annual fee to allow you to submit apps, and both platforms will demand time and effort from your developers to undertake a somewhat complicated submission process.
Below are key factors to consider when it comes to mobile app development:
Building a native iphone app or android app can be expensive, both to develop and to maintain. You should be ready to budget more than £10,000 for a simple custom app, and depending on your needs, and the feedback from your users, you might want to spend 25-50% again each year maintaining and expanding it.
Whilst there are tools available that claim to make building an app as easy as "Drag and Drop", they tend to be generic and will lack polish. They're typically restricted to "content" apps where pages and images are simply loaded from your website or RSS feed.
The right skills
Building a nativeapp requires different skills from building a website. Make sure you either have the right skills in-house, or have a developer or development company that you trust. If your app is successful, you'll be working with them for some time, so vet them carefully and make sure you're confident of their skills and longevity!
Can you use a "web app" instead?
As we say above, a web app can be as simple as a mobile-optimised version of your website. If your primary aim is to make it easier for your customers to interact with you via their mobile phone, you should consider this option. By using a mobile optimised website, you can maintain both your desktop and mobile website at the same time, and with one team. This can reduce cost and accelerate projects significantly.
The next steps
Is developing a mobile app the next step for you? Talk to an app development agency about the next steps for you and your business. Contact us today and open up a conversation with one of the team at Versantus, and see what we can offer you.