Expectations for a good user experience in mobile apps is higher than ever. Apple has set the bar high with their built-in apps on the iPhone and iPad, and many independent developers have followed suit to deliver the best user experience possible. The astronomical download numbers of these apps are poof positive that good UX is a main ingredient in App Store success.
Great user experiences doesn’t just happen by opening up Xcode and dragging some design builder elements over. It takes a conscious effort throughout every stage of the design and development process to get it right.
Here’s a few tips you can try that will help you achieve a great user experience in your app:
Design your app’s flow BEFORE you open Photoshop, Xcode, or your text editor of choice
Sketch out how your app will flow from point A to point B, and include all the “what-if” scenarios. Doing this up front will allow you to realize and fix your design mistakes by copying, pasting, and deleting. Having an “oh crap” moment too late in the game could cost you a lot of time re-coding, or a lot of downloads because you settled for less. Have those “oh crap” moments early.
Don’t be afraid to iterate. Ask yourself: “Is there another way this could be done?” Sketch them all out and choose the best.
To give you an idea, here’s an example of a flow for a simple movie ticket app that I made using Illustrator and an iPhone Fireworks stencil:
Minimize learning curve
Every time you stray from these guidelines, you pile on additional learning curve (aka, frustration) to your app. Only stray from the guidelines if doing so pays off in exceptional gains of time or productivity. Just know that you’re selling a piece of your app’s soul for it.
Less learning curve = better user experience.
Better user experience = more word of mouth.
More word of mouth = more exposure and downloads.
Watch people use your app
Watch them get frustrated, observe how they overcome problems. Are they getting stuck but quickly figuring it out, or do they just give up? Once you watch a few people use your app, you’ll see patterns and the solution will become clear.
Doing this exercise will humble you and prove your assumptions wrong. Once people can use your app to accomplish their goal quickly with minimal issues, you’re well on your way to a great user experience.