Best Practices for App Development: 10 Key Concepts

Designing an app is much more than simply calling a developer, describing your idea and hoping for the best. There’s a tremendous amount of planning and forethought which are necessary, as well as a deep understanding of the potential audience, intended experience and expected outcome.

Renderyard_thmbRenderyard_thmbRenderyard_thmb Renderyard 2AWe were privileged to be nominated for a Tabby Award this year for a video streaming app we created in partnership with Renderyard Film Network. (Get app here.) The app currently serves up video to an international audience.

We’ve boiled our Best Practices, practices we put in use down to the following 10 concepts:

1. Know Your Audience — If you’re conceptualizing or designing an app, think about what your user base wants, why they’re using your app and what benefits or advantages they expect to get out of it. People e apps which solve a problem for them. It’s your job to figure out what that problem is and find a way to solve it in the easiest and simplest way.

2. Be A Designer, A Developer, but most imporatntly, a User — Put yourself in the users’ place and experience your concept and your design from their POV. Arbitrary ‘best practice’ or ‘cool design’ don’t matter if the user experience is lacking.  Think about  how your audience is going to come to the app experience — what obstacles and challenges that they will experience — and adjust your approach accordingly.

3. Organize — With good organization and design, many features can be incorporated into an app, yet still leave the app feeling simple and easy-to-use.

4. Create a ‘Home’ — More nuanced than just creating a ‘home screen’ for your app, your design should provide a touchstone for users to orient themselves, both conceptually and throughout the app itself.

5. Communicate with Visual Literacy — Make good use of both text and non-textual ways of communicating — color and form, for example.

6. Avoid Overload — Don’t try to do everything at once. Your opening screen doesn’t need to have every setting, choice and option. Use interface hierarchies to organize your experience.  See Rule 3.

7. Tell One Story At A Time — While Swiss army knives are great knives, they’re merely adequate as a screwdriver or awl. An app that tries to do everything runs the risk of doing none of them well. Focus.

8. Avoid Contradiction — Your app should behave the same way through out. The internal rules which guide user interaction shouldn’t change.er or an awl. An app that tries to do everything runs the risk of doing none of them well. Focus.Renderyard 4

9. For Every Ounce of Treatment, Provide a Ton Of Fun — The best way to get people to come back to your app is to keep it fun. Part of that can be found in good design and part in user experience. Don’t make your app hard to use just to make it feel authentic or ‘hip’. Be inclusive, not exclusive in features, terminology and design.

10. Keep It Up — Continue to think about new features and future iterations with these rules in mind. Your goal is a superlative user experience.

Adapted from Walt Disney’s ten rules of design, which he originally developed for theme park design, but which, clearly, have a great relevancy elsewhere as well.

 

(A previous version of this post appeared in March, 2014.)