Entrepreneurs are now going well beyond building mobile-friendly versions of their websites to create apps that actually add to their bottom line — but doing it well is easier said than done. And a big part of why an app does or doesn’t take off is its usability, plain and simple.
That’s why I recently asked a panel of 11 successful young entrepreneurs the following question:
What are some app design best practices that entrepreneurs (and their dev teams) should not ignore?
“The most awesome stage”
Last year, Facebook's VP of Design thought the TNW Conference main stage was the best she'd ever been on.
Below is their best advice — some of which can be hashed out early in the development phase, and a few tips on details to polish just before release:
2. Go Deep With Your Users
Your users’ motivations matter more than your own. You need to understand the motivations of your users at a very deep level and place triggers in their path accordingly. If you live this concept, you have a solid foundation to do user experience well. If you don’t, then your conversion attempts and growth tactic experiments are likely just a crapshoot.
– Danny Boice, Speek
3. Plan for the Offline Experience
Some of the hottest app designs are lauded for their usability when the consumer is not actually online. Apps like WorkFlowy and Evernote work seamlessly even when the consumer is not connected to WiFi or another signal. This is a design practice that entrepreneurs and their development teams should think about as they plan their apps. Think ahead about how the app works in the offline mode.
– Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.
4. Design With Ease of Use
Even though almost half of all Americans now own smartphones, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re adept at using them. For that reason, the mobile app should be so simple that even a newbie mobile user can navigate it effectively.
– Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance
5. Make It Stupid Simple
Once you have a rough design ready, take the most non-technical friend or family member you have and watch them work the app. Is it intuitive? Are there big, easy-to-read buttons? Do you write in tech-speak? Take extensive notes, and pay attention to the places where they get stuck — new users will drop off quickly if you don’t make your design intuitive and easy-to-use.
– Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems
6. Tailor Your Design
7. Use Grids
Using a grid in your design is helpful in that it keeps everything consistent as you move from page to page throughout your app. Grids are an important design concept that enable designers to maintain consistency, create visual connections and keep the design unified across the app.
– Jesse Pujji, Ampush
8. Cover as Many Platforms as Possible
Every day users access apps across multiple devices and platforms — desktop, Web, smartphone and tablet — often covering all platforms in one day. Entrepreneurs need to make sure their app is available, functional and attractive across as many devices and platforms as possible.
– Clay Hebert, Spindows
9. Don’t Forget the Importance of Convenience
With any mobile app or mobile website, the sole concern should be, “Am I making the end user’s life more convenient?” Human-centered design, a common process in the development of physical products, is often left out of the digital space. Don’t design from a cubicle. Design with your end user by seeking input at every step of the way and putting yourself in their shoes.
– Matthew Manos, verynice
10. Emulate the Real World
The key to designing a fantastic app that delivers a rich user experience is to create a design for your app that emulates the real life, subject or category that your app represents. For instance, if you’re building a productivity app, study how people are behaving using physical products, and design an app that enhances the usability and experience.
– Rahul Varshneya, Arkenea
11. Pick One Thing and Nail It
The biggest design mistake app developers make is trying to fit too many features onto one small screen. Your app should have ONE primary purpose. Be crystal clear in your mind about what that is, and then hit your user over the head with it. Don’t present the user with options and hope she’ll pick the right one. Instead, guide her through the exactly ONE experience you want her to have.
– Prerna Gupta, Smule
Image credit: Thinkstock