This article was published on May 16, 2010

5 things that every new app should do.

5 things that every new app should do.
Brad McCarty
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Brad McCarty

A music and tech junkie who calls Nashville home, Brad is the Director TNW Academy. You can follow him on Twitter @BradMcCarty. A music and tech junkie who calls Nashville home, Brad is the Director TNW Academy. You can follow him on Twitter @BradMcCarty.

It’s only been a couple of days since I’ve been editing here at TNW’s Apps Channel, but I am seeing a trend already.  We get a lot of application review requests…and I do mean a lot.  Sadly, it seems that many of them are clones or simply don’t fill enough of an existing need.

So with that in mind, here’s a quick list of 5 things that every application should do, and hopefully do well.

1 – Fill a Void

Why would you open a URL shortening service, right now, unless it were specific to your site?  There are already tons of them, and a few are widely accepted as standard.  This is the problem that I see more often than not.   Unless you’re changing the game, stay on the sidelines.  Adding features to an application that already exists doesn’t mean it needs to be a new application.

2 – Do it Better

If you’re developing an alternative to something, it should be better than the original.  This goes along somewhat with point #1, but is deserving of a talk all its own.

When Opera Mini got accepted into the app store, there was a load of excitement.  People flocked to try an established browser, other than the iPhone’s built in Safari clone.  Then, a few days went by, and people stopped using it as much.  Why?  Because it simply wasn’t better than what already existed.

Opera made the same mistake that many other developers and companies make.  You can’t rely on your name or reputation to carry your lagging application to the victory stand.  If it’s not truly innovative, or has too many bugs and gremlins to work correctly, then either fix it or scrap it.

3 – Be Easy

Nothing tweaks me more than a brilliant application with a crummy UI.  If we look at Facebook as an application, the UI is wonderful…unless you need to make changes to your account.  Getting lost inside of a thousand menus is no fun for anyone.

Want a sure-fire way to win hearts?  Do one thing and do it very, very well.  The same philosophy applies to so many things: just be easy to use.  If you hand your application over to your friend and they look confused, then you’re doing it wrong.

Need an example of this?  It’s a gigantic pain in the tail to sign into my bank’s website.  But if I pick up their iPhone app, all I have to do is enter 4 numbers on a pad.  So, guess what I use to check my balance.

4 – Listen to the Noise

The #1 thing that I hear back, in comments, when we talk about apps is very simple: this doesn’t do what I want it to do.  Let’s face it, there are very few original ideas left.  So in order to make an application shine, you need to listen to what people are grumbling about with the current offerings.

A lot of times developers (and writers and artists and…) will take a line of “artistic integrity” when it comes to what they’re making.  They have it so stuck into their head that their application will do “X”, and it will do it in this exact way.  So often, though, all people want is for something to be done a bit differently.

Again, go to the friend pool before going public.  Have your best friend’s mom use your application. See what she has to say about it.  If it’s confusing to her, or she’d like it to work differently, take that into consideration.

5 – Learn About Us

Sure, some people think it’s a privacy invasion. Others think it’s just creepy. But really, there’s nothing more impressive to me than adaptive software. If I spend some time in your application and you find that I do only one thing, then why not make it easier for me to do that one thing?

It really comes down to a matter of form versus function anyway. All of your main functions should be simply laid out. If they are, then I don’t have to worry about it anyway. But if they’re not, and you find that I’m using a function that’s buried deep inside of a menu, why not find a way to allow me to access it faster?

Windows (I know, I’m putting on the flame suit) does this very well with the Start Bar. When I press the Start button, I see an easily accessible lists of my most recently used applications. Of course, this is easier to do in a dynamic piece of software such as Windows, but it should still be workable in others.

So that’s it. Take these 5 things and run with them. The first developer to implement these and then send me an app to review, I will highly praise.