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Thinking of creating an app?

by Satellite Creative on 12th May 2014

At Satellite Creative we are seeing more and more clients enquire about the possibility of having an app created for their company. So what is the process?

mad maths appYou have a vision, some inspiration and maybe even a name that you know will be perfect. So… now what?

First step is to design the structure, flow and features that will combine to form your finished mobile app. However this may sound simple but performing these tasks isn’t easy — there are tons of moving parts and project management aspects to keep in mind during development. Developing a functioning and enjoyable mobile app requires discipline and practicality.

1. Begin with a flow map, which can quickly be adapted into wireframes or designs
Even simple applications should have a well-considered flowmap in place to help ensure a logical and reasonable navigational structure.

2. Make sure you have a development budget
Everything a designer creates will have to go through a developer in order to bring those designs to life. Sometimes very simple design changes can make the difference between a feature that takes a few hours to build and one that takes a few days. So be aware of over-defining functionality in the design.

In other words, the design should not dictate the functionality. For example, an app might have been planned to have a search box, one that the designer envisions with a type-ahead search that generates live results as the user types. But this can be a significant developmental undertaking to properly implement, so deciding which key features are important and easy to implement is critical.

3. Start with high resolutions images and graphics
You need to always design for retina, high-res, pixel-dense screens first, then scale down. This means that we need to have access to high res images and graphics, this may seem obvious but always worth being aware of.

4. Ensure the hit area is not undersized
Remember that most users’ index fingers are 1.6 to 2 cm wide. Take into account the width of a finger, plus the fact that users are moving quickly and aren’t able to reliably tap a tiny area of the screen. It’s all too easy to pack lots of buttons and functionality into a screen, but you need to be sure buttons are big enough — and spaced enough — to be easily tapped by users.

5. We all love animations but not at the expense of going slow
Those fun little animations when an app first opens can be really nice, but it’s important not to go overboard with them. Too many clever animations can actually delay the user from accessing the app. If you’re going to use one, make it quick, subtle and appealing enough to be worth the extra second or so that the user has to wait.

As an app loads, a still image should display, which then transitions into an animation. Our job is to make sure the transition is seamless, if your designer is not good at implementing, this can result in having a jump or glitch as the app transitions from the still loading image to the intro animation.

6. Make sure you don’t leave users hanging
Leaving the user out of the loop when the app is loading or processing could cause users to think the app is malfunctioning. It’s also just a poor experience.

We make sure that the apps we design don’t keep your users waiting on a blank screen while the app is loading content from the web, by using loading indicators and animations to give users a heads up that the app is working, but it’s just waiting on the phone or the network.

7. We don’t overstuff pixel-dense screens which lead to clutter
When designing for high PPI (pixel per inch) displays, there can be a temptation to fit more into an interface because you have more pixels to play with. This is especially true if you review your design on an 27-inch high-res display, where even the most busy interfaces will have plenty of room to breathe.

Overstuffing an interface can result in an app that’s cluttered and difficult to navigate. In the worst cases, critical parts of the interface may be impossible to see.

8. Don’t assume everyone will use your app the same way you do
Usability testing is a must, no matter how good you think your app looks. We make sure that we test your app with a small group of trusted people (including a few experienced designers), update the interface and communicate back to you before releasing the app to the public.

Equally it is worth targeting students who would be willing to come in and play around with a pre-release app in exchange for a £’s.

Conclusion
If there’s a single unifying element to great apps it’s that the best designs are carefully considered. Really think through what your users are trying to achieve and let that inform your designs and approach. We encourage our clients not to cut corners, we don’t skip testing and we don’t create designs that you wouldn’t be proud of and are a success for your business.

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Satellite CreativeThinking of creating an app?