User Experience is Integral to Winning App Design
Each time that I download a new app on my iPhone, I expect it to make my life simpler, solve my problems efficiently and make it easier for me to get through my day.
Ninety percent of the time I'm disappointed, for the simple reason that many developers ignore the fundamentals of user-experience design.
Simply put, if the app has to tell me how to navigate from one screen to another or what each button means and does, it's lost me completely. I now have to remember how to use this app each time I launch it. That doesn't make my life any easier!
What is user experience, or more popularly referenced as UX? Let me tell you what it is not. It does not mean UI (user interface) or graphic design in simpler terms. It's not about technology and certainly not the role of just one person.
So how do you deliver a great user experience for the app that you're building? Here are some guidelines to get you started.
1. Choose the right features. User experience starts right at the planning stage. At the time when you're dreaming up your first set of features for the app. It's very easy to fall into the feature-rut where the feeling is the more features in an app, the more value it will have for the customer.
One of the toughest parts of building an app is deciding what to keep in the first version. Keeping it simple and building an app that offers the core value proposition will help your users to navigate through the app easily. Once they're hooked, you can study their behavior and then build additional features.
Provide features that are relevant to the mobile platform. For instance, a banking app that lets you quickly check your balance and perform transactions on the go. Or an airline app that lets you check-in, gives you flight status and offers a boarding card.
2. Easy flow and navigation. Once you've decided on the first set of features you want to build into the app, it's imperative that you make it easy for the user to flow from one screen to another, or from one feature to another.
Think how you can make the navigation and flow so simple that a 3 year old could use the app without parental guidance.
Your aim should be to reduce the learning curve for the users and make navigation more intuitive.
3. Understand your customer. a big part of delivering a great user experience is knowing the user of your app. What is the profile of your typical customer -- age group, gender, culture, their behavior with technology, etc.
The navigation, feature access (such as button size, easy tap instead of swipes), will differ from a 3 year old versus a 45 year old.
4. Utilize the platform. Each platform, iOS or Android, offers various gesture-based navigation tools. Swipes (left, right, top and bottom) can remove or add a record, bring a new screen and remove another. Pinch (zoom in and out) can zoom into the content that a user is reading or move out of the current screen as well.
Depending on the nature of your application and its purpose, use gestures offered by the platform well to provide an intuitive navigation. The Clear app is one that is based solely on gestures and doesn't have any buttons for navigation.
5. Building trust. Users shouldn't have to worry about privacy issues or spam. Do not collect any more information than necessary for the user's experience. If you can just get by with a name and email address, then do not ask for any more details.
Similarly, do not upload any content from their device onto your server without their permission. There have been apps that were barred from going live because they uploaded a user's contact list without their knowledge.
Do not unnecessarily spam the user with frequent emails or push notifications unless otherwise absolutely necessary for the user to get a great experience.
6. Optimize push notifications. Push notifications can really be irritating. On the other hand, they can really help your business push forward.
Be mindful when setting triggers for notifications so that they do not become intrusive. Remember, the user should always have the option to completely stop all notifications.
7. Build a feedback loop. You need feedback from your customers to understand what the shortfalls are in your app or what features they love so you can evolve the product to suit their growing needs.
From the user's point of view, if they're using your app and find something they need to report, make it easy for them to get in touch with you or your support team. Make sure you respond to your customers within 24 hours of receiving the feedback. Customer service can help build a fantastic experience and you could win the customer for the lifecycle of your app.
Treat user experience as not just a part of design, but as an integral part of your product strategy. Remember, success is by design, not by chance.
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