As the freedom and capabilities of app developers continues to grow, the prospect of developing an app today can be as daunting as it is exciting. These seven tips should help get app makers moving in the right direction.
Even if you know exactly what you want your mobile app to do, there are thousands of tiny decisions you need to make as a developer as you start to actually create it. All those choices can be anxiety-inducing — if you’re inexperienced, each step you take towards your eventual product may have you doubting yourself. But as with all things, a little trial and error is necessary for success. Keep a few basic rules in mind and your first experiment is bound to end with success.
For aspiring mobile app makers, here are a few important pieces of advice to consider before beginning the development process:
1. Be Different: With the plethora of apps available to consumers today, developers first and foremost need to be certain that their app provides mobile users with something new. Along the same lines, developers need to have a very targeted vision of what they want their app to be and make sure their organization has a set of clearly-defined goals for the app.
Robert Boyle, a digital media strategist/EIR with Squeaky Wheel Media (a digital communication agency in NYC), tells the Huffington Post that developers need to “Be specific when defining (their) goal. Have everything in the app focused on making this happen.” With all of the questions to answer and possible paths to choose from in the development process, having a clear picture of what you want to achieve helps simplify things tremendously.
2. Do Your Homework: Once you’ve defined a clear goal, you should find out what others in the industry are up to. Defining your app objectives in advance allows you to be more targeted about your research. Research includes not only studying your competitors to find out what they’re offering (and what they’re not) but also, as David Tucker writes for Mashable, working to understand your app’s target audience and the current needs of consumers.
3. Consider Your Platforms Wisely: Bryn Adler of Localytics and others encourage developers to choose to launch on either Android or iOS first, basing the OS on the characteristics of their specific app. By contrast, Justin Lau at Infinite Monkeys and Cliff Fauteux at TechWyse encourage app makers to launch a product with immediate cross-platform functionality to maximize accessibility. It should be noted, however, that launching on multiple platforms at once also means a longer development time and higher costs. As Boyle notes, doing research can help you and your team better make this platform decision: “You’ll be able to see where your competitors are...and where they’re not.”
4. Make it Aesthetically Appealing: One thing all can agree on is that to be successful, an app needs to look nice. If an app is poorly designed, that reflects poorly on the business as a whole. Andrea Schiller at MicroStrategy has a host of suggestions about how to optimize your app’s appearance, including selecting one or two professional, easily readable fonts (this means Helvetica or Arial, not Comic Sans) and employing them consistently throughout the app at between eight and 32 points. She also suggests choosing a color scheme that’s both “sleek and professional,” noting that there’s been a trend towards lighter-colored backgrounds in recent years.
Making use of universally recognizable icons is another important tip. Ryan Matzner of Mashable encourages developers to design for high-resolution devices first and then scale down from there to ensure the best possible appearance.
5. Keep it Simple: Along with aesthetics, simplicity and ease-of-navigation are also necessities of app design. Matzner suggests keeping buttons big and spread out easy navigation, and reminds that the average finger is 1.6 to 2 cm in width. Lau suggests that if your app is selling something, the purchasing process should be as seamless as possible, and users should be able to check out whenever they want to. The app should also store user details so that they don’t have to repeatedly input billing and shipping information.
6. Be Sure to Beta Test: Another essentiality in the app-development process is testing your product before you release it to the market. As Adler explains, research helps you hone in on your ideal customers — then, in the beta testing process you can invite these customers to be early users of your app. Beta testing allows you to receive feedback, identify glitches, and make necessary adjustments. Apps like TestFlight can help you find beta testers for your product.
7. Get the Word Out: Once you’ve resolved the glitches and are ready to release your app to the world, the next question is: how do you let the world know? Social media, mobile ads, and company websites are all means to inform the public about your product. Forums and online communities are another possible promotional avenue. The blog Devsaran recommends starting to market at least two or three weeks ahead of the launch.
While the list of things to think about when developing an app might at times seem inexhaustible, these seven points should at least help app makers get a bit more focused. Find out how to turn your mobile app vision into a reality with a do-it-yourself platform like AppMakr, the original way to #makeanapp.
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