Slid into your trouser pocket, hidden in your coat, placed on your desk or plugged into the wall by your bed distracting you late into the night is a portal into a near limitless supply of micro experiences. Your mobile phone, through apps, can quite easily replace your need for a TV, a computer, a life and even friends. But instead of something that users fear, many are now happily reliant on apps for communicating with those around them, completing menial tasks, finding love and providing entertainment on tiresome journeys.
The original Apple App Store held a modest 500 apps on launch a number which is hugely dwarfed by recent figures which report that there are now well in excess of a million. As businesses, game developers and entrepreneurs get trigger ‘appy and continue to turn apps into profitable points of sale and engagement platforms, what can we learn from the mistakes of the past and what does the perfect app look like?
All video-game fans who lived through the 90’s will be aware of a now infamous character named ‘Navi’ from the ‘Zelda’ video-game series. For those lucky enough to miss out on this gaming angst, let me explain the reasons behind the infamy of this pixelated fairy. Navi, throughout the game, would command the player to ‘HEY! Listen’; incessantly so. Even if you listened, it would command you to listen again. Have you ever been woken up in bed by a notification from an app telling you that your friend has recently uploaded a new picture?
First rule of making your app great is the simplest, do not irritate your user base. It seems simple, but many apps struggle to achieve the balance between friendly prompt and Navi-esque irritation inducing distraction. In short, keep the user experience casual.
The next rule is equally simple, Although many people clock up many more hours on their phone than they realise, this does not mean that they want to spend extraordinary amounts of time achieving something through your app. Great apps offer users a gratifying experience each time that they engage and reward users who return frequently, even if for short bursts. Ensuring your app is satiating the users need to feel progress is another great way to make it successful. Great apps make users feel like they have achieved something every time they engage with them.
Designing a responsive and intuitive UI is also extremely important. Good apps simplify user experiences and allow users to achieve the necessary task with ease. Great apps have an interface that allows users to achieve the task almost effortlessly and are clear, simple to use and concise in their messaging. A great app will also often make the process rewarding.
In short, when it comes to app design simplicity is key. The simpler an app is to use, the less a user has to think and the more the experience can seamlessly slide into their everyday existence. Equally, developers who create apps that are rewarding to use will always gain better momentum. Everyone likes to be rewarded. Finally, it is crucial that your app notifications are not irritating. Much like a friend who won’t leave you alone, apps that constantly distract users may get initial responses but will ultimately get too frustrating and get removed from the picture entirely.
(Photo – Eli Woodbine, Ontario, 2015)