Mobile apps are worth 41.1 billion dollars worldwide; Google Play alone has 1.6 million apps (the App Store trails at 340K). As of 2016, there have been over 224,801 billion downloads – a number expected to almost reach 269 billion by 2017. Mobile apps have come to dominate the world, especially the world of business. Diverse businesses from healthcare to restaurants stand to gain a lot from a clever mobile app.
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But a lot of time people in these industries don’t have the knowledge or the time to develop apps for their business. Oft times what is needed is a middle man; someone who can come to them with an already designed and developed app designed to help grow their business.
These are the kind of apps that make money – think OpenTable or Grubhub. Instead of a single business building their own app, this is an entrepreneur providing a business to business (B2B) service. Of course this isn’t to say custom apps (or software) don’t make money – they do. But custom apps for business are often designed with different intentions:
• Streamlining workflows;
• Improving efficiencies;
• Reducing human error;
• Analyzing and reporting on Big Data; and
• Increasing growth and improving scalability.
In other words, custom apps are about increasing an already existing revenue stream; B2B service apps are about creating and sustaining a revenue. There is also a third possibility that is a hybridization of the two, where you build a custom app or software for yourself, but sell it to competitors – read more about that here.
So, how to create app designs that succeed and make money?
Let’s go over some quick tips:
1. The way design is approached is important. As Mobile app design and development company, we believe wholeheartedly that the best approach is User-Centered Design (UCD). Design theory has stated for years (long before mobile apps) that the best way to make a successful project is to study how an actual user will use your service. If we go back to our earlier example of OpenTable, this means figuring out how a design that meshes with both the restaurant worker’s process of creating reservation, as well as how diners themselves make a reservation.
2. Responsive Design is important!! The blogosphere hounds on this constantly, but with good reason. Responsive design for apps is basically the same as it is for web development; i.e. using CSS, Media Queries and other coding techniques to create an app that responds to a user’s device. This is important because it improves the overall performance and User Experience. UX design for apps is a complicated process, but a good UX is necessary to keep users engaged. Keep in mind that a full quarter of all apps are only used once.
3. Wireframing and Prototyping are essential to good design. It allows designers to clearly establish the flow of all app screens to be used, while simultaneously providing valuable research as to how users may interact with each screen.
4. Iterative testing of a design is necessary. When designing an app, our experts begin testing an app at the wireframe stage and continues well past launch. Testing beyond launch is an important step to improve the app’s UX/UI with updates based off data from many users.
5. Work within known systems, using known and native features. Design is about showing a user something new but not completely new. Good design fits within a user’s established habits and flows from screen to screen in a manner that fits in with how people navigate apps. This means using gestures like swiping to change to the next screen and not using it to zoom. While revolutionary approaches can be successful, generally speaking known systems work better!
6. Accessibility is vital to keeping users engaged. But to what does accessibility really refer? It means several things, from content length, to font size, to button width & placement.
a. Content shouldn’t be so long that users get tired of scrolling or reading. Attempt to fit most of your content on a single screen. This can be exceptionally problematic in websites that aren’t designed for mobility, but is still an ongoing problem for many apps.
b. Don’t try to make long content appear shorter with miniscule font. Yes, Users can zoom to magnify the text, but no, they probably won’t. And even if they do, they probably won’t be likely to use your app again.
c. We navigate our devices with our fingers. That means any design for mobile apps needs to incorporate the size of a human finger (about 50 pixels, give a take a few). Apple recommends that all buttons are about 44 pixels; in actuality, that should be more of a minimum. Obviously, don’t make them so large nothing else fits, but keep in mind that the buttons need to be easily tappable with a fingertip. This also means determining the best placement of all your tappable elements – too close means users won’t be able to tap on a specific button. Too far and the design will be off-putting and disconcerting to users.
App Design takes a lot – it intertwines throughout the the lifecycle of an app and works hand in hand with actual programming. It takes a skilled UI Specialist working alongside a team of brilliant coders to make a design that is both striking and useful.