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In the USA, 21% of mobile apps downloaded were only used once in 2018. The competition is fierce today to create an app that users will want to use again and again. In addition to that, consumers are savvier than ever. They no longer will tolerate even the smallest of errors or problems within apps. Because of these trends, application developers need to develop new ways to not only quickly launch influential apps, but also retain their users.
In 2018 and beyond, it’s all about the user experience. It’s unlikely development companies will find an idea that veers into uncharted territory. However, they can build an experience that’s adaptable, limits the number of actions required to complete tasks, and becomes the new normal for user expectations. Here are the best practices and tips for app development today.
How do your users interact with an app? This isn’t always as straightforward as you might imagine. First, you need to understand the types of users that will likely be downloading your app. Are they experienced smartphone users, or is this not a common occurrence. Then, how will you lead them through their goals within the app?
The standard rule of thumb is to have as few actions as possible for users to complete in order to achieve their goal. You can do this by chunking big tasks and dividing it into smaller tasks. A great example of this is e-commerce apps. Research shows that the faster the checkout process is for users, the more likely they’ll complete the purchase. That means cutting down on unnecessary steps so the user can reach his or her goal of making a purchase faster.
Ultimately, you want to prioritize actions. One action per screen is the best way to make the infrastructure easy for all users. Work closely with designers to make these steps seamless and intuitive.
While it’s impossible to prevent 100% of problems, that doesn’t mean you can’t be preventative about the performance of your application. Logging and monitoring will help you anticipate potential problems before they occur. Not only is this a smart step, but you’ll also have accurate backups in case you need to restore an early version. Here’s a guide to logging for Heroku: Tail and View Heroku Logs by Papertrail.
Along with monitoring, you want to identify your key performance indicators (KPI). These are the metrics that will show you just how successful your app currently is. These can include things like load times, server usage, or even just the number of downloads. By monitoring these closely, you can see whether you need to deploy beneficial updates.
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Users of today have little patience for ineffective design. While developers of the past might have gotten away with putting design second on their list of priorities, that isn’t the case today. There are a few things to keep in mind when designing a mobile app that aren’t necessarily as important when designing desktop applications.
First, you need to design your app around finger taps. That means making sure targets are large enough for users to tap (usually between 7-10mm). You’ll also want to discuss the behavior of design elements. How will users know when something is meant to be interacted with? How can they anticipate interface elements? Finally, consider the “thumb zone.” This is the area of the screen that’s easiest to reach, and it’s where most of your interactive elements should be placed.
Your load time should be a priority, but sometimes you have to anticipate situations where that’s not the case. That’s why skeleton screens are so mainstream in popular apps today. If a user has a slow internet connection, you can still make the experience pleasant. Skeleton screens are just temporary information containers. They’re a blank version of pages where you can load your app information gradually.
If users see nothing but blank screens or error interfaces, they’ll just click away to something else. You need to focus user attention on their load progress rather than draw them away from the app. You’ll want to avoid things like loading spinners or any other indication that the app is taking a while to load. Skeleton screens are a smart safety net for small problems like load time.
As a developer, you need to strike a balance between design and the interface itself. Today, you can’t afford to let your user experience fall to the wayside when that’s quickly becoming the top indicator of success. Let’s face it: there’s a lot of competition. How can you make sure your app stands out?
While this list is only a starting point, take these tips to heart. Take the time to get to know your ideal user, and design an experience that speaks to them specifically. They’re the most likely to use your app again and again, so make it worth their while.