What we’ve learnt as an App development agency

Building an application is not for the faint hearted. Whether it’s a web application or a native mobile application for iOS and Android, it’s easy to get bogged down with the inner workings and forget the overall picture. Focus on the wrong aspect and you’ll make decisions that consume huge amounts of time and money. To avoid this as an app development agency, we’ve spent time developing the right vehicle and most efficient route to navigate application development in a way that is manageable and successful, with minimal time wasted.

“Where are we going Dad?”

Before you set off on the road of developing applications, you need to know your destination, because in the back of the car sit pesky kids with competing needs. These kids are called Visual Design, User Experience, Platform Development and API Limitations. Oh, and did I mention Payment Gateways, the dog barking in the boot? Form a clear objective and we’ll all stay on track. This is a journey we’re in together and if you don’t know where we’re going, you’ll never truly be able to answer the question ‘Are we there yet?”

A dropped pin

We help you mark your destination point, or to be more accurate, we help locate your project objectives. For some this might be a purchase or sign up, for others, a percentage of daily returning users or an overall amount of interactions. Once we know about your business and where the application will sit within it, we can map out a collection of primary and secondary objectives that will drive all other decisions.

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Meet Barry

We’re fans of role play and are not afraid to say it. In order to develop a series of user cases for the web application, it’s important to speculate and get inside the user’s experience. Barry is 38 and has subscribed to an application that delivers localised coupons of special offers to his phone each morning. Barry loves coffee but has no interest in girl’s clothing and waxing treatments. We need to create a user experience that enables Barry to immediately see the offers for coffee, understand the offer and engage with it via a path of least resistance. Any unnecessary actions will see his best intentions sabotaged by his lively twin boys about to burst through the door and jump on his bed.

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Whose got the keys?

We’ll admit that user experience is a complex science, but having spent time with Barry and being well travelled on this road, we’ve identified a set of keys needed for any journey taken.

Make the experience transparent

The experience shouldn’t get in the way of the content. This is what the users really want to experience, not an obstacle course of confusing functionality.

Don’t rely on the user’s memory

If they need to revisit a different screen to find key information for the one they’re currently on, simply put, something is wrong.

Create multiple methods of achieving the key objective

If your key objective lies at the centre of the app, then don’t rely on one way to get there. As Yoda would (probably) say, there can be many paths that lead to the ultimate goal.

Make an experience that’s conversational

A web application or native app is not a static object to be stared at; it’s an interactive experience. The user should want to engage and dialog with the application, and the app should listen and respond.

Don’t be irritating

Seems obvious doesn’t it, but anything that causes friction for the user, anything unnecessary, redundant or repetitive, should be ditched. No arguments.

Ooh, what pretty colours

Once the user experiences have been mapped out, we can start making the bit that everyone loves. Visual design is all about creating a look and feel that frames the experience and provides an interface that feels natural and smooth to use. The challenge is to balance creativity and flare with the limitations of the system and the expectations of the user.

To scroll or not to scroll

Within the app development process it can be a challenge to design for certain screen sizes. We need to consider that a single page on an application needs to achieve multiple goals, and has multiple exit points. Designing vertically has it’s own challenges too. Large amounts of pixels are replaced with the ability to scroll and swipe. Clever use of this can give you infinite space to work with. It’s also important to use imagery that users can easily interpret. For example, a plus sign leads to more information, three horizontal lines provide navigation to the main menu. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

What’s new pussycat?

Would it be blasphemous for a Mobile App development agency based in Manchester to say that originality is overrated? OK, we don’t actually mean that, but it’s makes the point that although we think we want something completely original, what we really want is a fresh expression of something familiar. The average DJ likes to have a creative edge and if they’re any good, will vary their set every time, but imagine if a DJ played only new, original tunes that no-one had ever heard before. You’ve guessed it – you would have an empty dance floor! Anyone sensible would push them out the way, select ‘Jump’ by Kriss Kross and watch the crowd go wild. The same concept applies to visual design. If the system is completely unique there is no way for the user to connect with the application in front of them. It needs to feel familiar, as if they’ve been there before and know what they’re doing. But make it 100% familiar and you’re in the realms of lazy, boring and clichéd design. It’s the crafty combination of original visual flare with the feeling of the familiar that will hook in your user. Now, pull out your Kriss Kross vs. Clean Bandit mash up and you’re on to a real winner.