7 Ways To Improve Your App’s User Experience
Having A Great App Idea Is Just The Beginning
Ok, so you’ve got a great app idea — maybe even a beta version or a first release up and running. Way to go! You are now one of the small percentage of people who’ve taken a really strong idea and seen it through to the point it’s not just a notion but an actual working thing.
But whether you’re in the planning phase or already out to the public, the real progress comes from fine tuning and improving your app idea or the app itself.
(You didn’t think you were done yet, did you?)
The first working version of your app is like a first draft. It gives you a chance to take the idea for a test drive, a couple trips around the block to see how it handles, if it works — if it delivers on its promise.
The good news is, it probably doesn’t. No, you didn’t misread that, we really did call that good news, not bad. You’re not the kind of person who is really satisfied with a first draft, and being able to see the flaws in your attempt at something means you have the drive to go from okay to good and from good to great.
We’d be hard pressed to think of a successful app designer who got everything right the first time. Sure, some get closer than others, but they all find things that can be improved, or that have to change in response to outside factors, or think of new features after using the app for a while.
This is an ongoing process, and in that sense, no app is ever really “done.” But since the app you’re noodling with right now is probably the first or second you’ve ever attempted, we’re here to offer some advice on how to move from the appropriate feelings of pride you have right now and into a zone of healthy self-critiquing.
Okay, let’s get ready to improve your app.
What’s in a name? Everything, in app design
Okay, not really everything, but it’s definitely very important!
If you’re developing a new ride share system, calling it “Schmuber” might be a bad choice. It checks off the “funny” box, but it really says “trying too hard.” Even if your app is better than the original, you’ll either be perceived as a knockoff, or people will accidentally end up back with the real thing.
On the other hand, if you are developing a weightlifting app, using some variation of “Lift” (Lifts, Powerlift, Lift-ability) is probably fine, and might even get you noticed by app store users in passing while looking for “Lyft.” It’s not ideal to be found for the wrong thing, but a simple, high-exposure name in a different industry is less likely to be confused.
Plus, people who aren’t looking for a ridesharing app but are looking for weightlifting advice will know that “Lifting” is exactly the app for them at first glance.
Think of your app name from every angle:
- User intent (does your app name tell people who are searching for something like your app that they’ve found what they were looking for?)
- Simplicity (whether the name is long or short, can users remember your app, spell it, and tell others about it?)
- Originality (does your app get easily confused with others in the same industry?)
Who are your users?
If you’ve come up with a “use case” (the two or three sentences you keep repeating to anyone who will listen about what your app does and why), you’re already a long way towards understanding who your users are. This will make improving your app a lot more straightforward.
Sit down and really ask yourself, “Who is using this app?” Describe a typical user to yourself. Then spend some time looking for websites and apps aimed at that audience. (Hey, if someone has spent a lot of money understanding what appeals to your potential users, who are you to turn down free research?)
For example, suppose you are developing an app to help older people who live alone. You’re probably not going to want to use small font sizes, or grey-on-white color schemes that are hard to read without glasses. On the other hand, if your app is going to appeal to college students, you might want fast access to the emoji keyboard built into every screen.
Once you have a beta version (or even just mockups printed on paper), find someone you know who matches your average user and get them to play with the app in front of you. You can learn a lot from a focus group of one (as long as you don’t take their criticisms personally). Ask a lot of questions and do your best to listen without defending.
If your beta version is already launched on an app store, depending on your size/budget, you can also consider using a third-party app like Appsee which will give you lots and lots of data on how your customers actually use your app in real life.
Focus on the user experience
It’s easy, with a great idea like yours, to get so caught up in what it’s supposed to do that you miss out on how using your app feels for your customers. That’s the user experience, or UX, in a nutshell — not so much what the app does, but how it does it in the eyes of the user.
This is where we share the down and dirty things you must consider for user experience in your app.
1. iOS or Android?
It’s never too early to start thinking about one important category of the user experience: Whether your app users will be on Android or Apple.
While you’ve got some time before you have to understand the nuts and bolts of those two environments, it’s a good idea to know where you want to start —and it probably starts with what phone is in your pocket.
There are some simple items that can help narrow down devices. International audiences use fewer Apple phones and more Android devices than Americans, but Apple has the best ability to guarantee that devices will support the peripherals for your app (camera, speakers, microphone, GPS, potentiometer, touch screen, etc.) For example, if your app has voice commands and uses the camera, you might opt for Apple as your first platform.
2. The icon
Once a person has decided to download your app, the first thing they are going to experience every single time they use it is the App icon. You don’t need to be a designer to have an idea for this, but make sure you keep an eye out for really good icons. Be comfortable with your choice before you finalize it. Blowing up an established icon can have a big backlash — just ask Instagram.
The easiest thing to do is come up with the pictures and/or letters that will go in your icon and the colors they will probably be. Then,
- Make sure that your icon is recognizable
- Check that your icon doesn’t also look like something you wouldn’t want it to be mistaken for
- Try to make sure your icon doesn’t look identical to another company’s (it’s impossible to look at every existing app icon, but try to change it if you know it’s a close match for one you’ve seen)
3. Sign up time
Once users have downloaded your app, they can have a really good or really bad sign in/sign up screen experience. Make it painless.
Sign in options to consider:
- What will be your username and password requirements? The more secure they are, the harder it will be to sign in, but security is important to keeping users.
- Will you use existing apps like Facebook or Google as user sign in options? If you know your target audience uses a particular app that offers it, it’s probably a good alternative signup method.
- Will you require a password for sign in from time to time, or will login be automatic after the first signup?
Do you have the right features? Think about banking apps you almost definitely use. Not long ago, they were convenient ways to check balances and see if a debit card transaction had cleared. But now, be honest: when was the last time you went to an ATM to deposit a check, let alone a teller? The basic features got you in the door (“Did my direct deposit arrive?” There’s an app for that!), but the add-ons keep you coming back.
You’re not only going to think about the features you’ll add initially, but also the features you’ll wait to add. So, this might seem counterintuitive, but: hold back some useful features. Not only will this give you good options for updates, but it will also let you be really good at a few things first, without risking being so-so at everything. Users will want to stick with you if they like your initial features and also see regular additions and improvements to the app.
Plus, if your app starts for free, these new features can become the basis for a freemium enhancement, increasing your bottom line. It’s much more difficult to offer something for free, only to later place it behind a paywall.
5. Graphics, fonts, colors
The garish oranges and avocado greens from the 1970s are all the rage with certain people today, but are those people your customers?
Remember our hypothetical app for older folks living alone? Yeah, you probably don’t want microscopic type in that app — think Large Print Books instead. The idea here isn’t that you have to be an expert in design (In fact, we have experts on staff to help you.) The idea is that you do need to think not just about what you like, but what will make using your app more enjoyable for the customer. For your customers to want to get to know you, you need to show that you know them.
But don’t worry: changing this stuff in design is one of the easiest ways to update and refresh your app, and it’s much lower risk than the icon issue we talked about above. A “refresh” can actually bring in new users. Sure, there’s some risk of annoying old users, but if they are already committed, they’ll stick with it. (How many times have you told a friend, “I hate what they did to the Bowling app,” but still continued to play it?)
Do you want menus? Will you have too many? Not enough? Either way, put the most important items/features/outcomes up front. If your customers will use the mobile check deposit feature on your banking app more than anything else, don’t make them click through three menus to get to it. At the same time, don’t try to put everything everywhere. Declutter and look for ways to create blank space on the screen. No one likes to feel crowded, in person or on an app.
Here are some easy questions to ask yourself so you can declutter:
- Are your most important features easier to find than everything else?
- Are your least important features given lower priority?
- Does your navigation make sense to a total stranger?
- Is there anything in your app that could go away without taking away from the app?
One easy way to test your decluttering is to simply hand your app to someone new and ask them to find a tool or a bit of information, or accomplish a task in the app. Don’t help them do it. Just observe and ask questions. It’s called user testing, and it works!
7. Study similar and “adjacent” apps
If you’re thinking about making a banking app, download banking apps for every bank you do business with. Use them in ways you never have. Find out everything they can do.
But don’t limit yourself to just banks. Look at related apps, like the one for your IRA or 401(k) account, or your student loan management company. Think about the other end of the chain, and download Paypal and Venmo. All of them are adjacent to your idea: they deal with money. And all of them have things they do well and things they do poorly.
7 1/2. Don’t limit yourself to related apps, either
Study the apps you use every day. It doesn’t matter that you are developing an app for pets to walk themselves. Look at your banking app anyway. And Uber. And iMessage. And Instagram. And and and. (If you’re not sure, follow these instructions for your iPhone, or these for your Android, to find out which apps are using the most battery. Those are probably the ones you use more than you realized.)
What makes you use these mobile apps regularly? What makes you annoyed, even though you still use them? Has the app changed since you started using it? How? Are there features you would like to see added? Things they took away that you miss?
Once you get yourself into the mode of evaluating the apps you already use, you’ll find it easier to look objectively at your own idea. You’ll be maker a better app in no time.
You don’t have to improve your user experience alone
The Appineers is here for you. We have a dedicated team of designers, developers, artists and UX professionals ready to help you through this process. When you call The Appineers, there’s no obligation, and you can learn a lot about the potential of your app without having to try building it yourself.
Call us now at (877) 534-1301!