This article was generously submitted by Krista McLandress, Marketing Manager at AppsBuilder – a professional, yet easy to use mobile app development platform. In this guest post, Krista tackles a controversial subject and compares app design innovation vs templates and themes usage. If she thinks that hand coded apps will not disappear, she points out how time-consuming it can be to craft an entire new app design. App developers should sometimes focus more on their app business and marketing.
I’m about to say something rather controversial for mobile apps, so you’d best sit down to read this.
Innovation is overrated. Seriously.
When we’re talking about app design, innovation for innovation’s sake can lead your business down a rabbit hole of high costs, long development schedules and ultimately, an app that may be rejected from the stores or fails to resonate with users.
This is because app users, like all human beings, are creatures of familiarity. We generally don’t like things that are too outside our comfort zone or that require us to change our behavior.
That’s not to say that apps can’t be innovative. Many in fact are wildly successful due to the fact that they disrupted the norm with innovative design. Take the Tinder right/left swipe for example. But innovative design is more the exception than the norm.
So what is the norm?
While every business is different and mobile marketers should certainly strive to be unique in the content and experience they offer mobile users, a tried and true approach to app design can not only help you ensure usability, but can also save you tons of time and money.
To better illustrate this point, let’s travel back in time and look at the evolution of web design. The web has improved by leaps and bounds since its inception in the early 90s. Starting out as mostly text based, the web soon evolved to try to be memorable, with “advanced looking” graphics (animated text, clipart and gifs galore!). Soon after, Flash came on the scene and websites became a playground for testing out the most creative concepts. It’s interesting to note here that during this time a simple 5 page website might cost a business tens of thousands of dollars.
Web design has come a long way since its inception in the 90s (Lego in 1996 vs 2013)
With CSS and the separation of content and design, designers began to adopt common practices for navigation and page layouts based on incredible amounts of user testing data. An approach to design that favoured usability was born. Fast forward to 2015 and, as many of us have witnessed, responsive design and sites built specifically for mobile have become the standard for ensuring user experience across any device.
Evolving for the multi-device user: responsive websites to mobile sites to native apps (Lufthansa)
Today building a website has become an easy process for many businesses thanks to customizable design templates that stand up to what we’ve learnt about usability. While the mobile web has taught us a lot about what works and what doesn’t, designing for mobile apps requires additional know-how.
Simplifying app design (i.e. getting your app onto the stores quickly and easily)
App design goes beyond the mobile-friendly paradigm to include specific design consideration depending on the device & operating system (iOS, Android, Windows) including standard user interface (UI) elements and design principles. But that’s not to say it can’t be just as easy as launching a website is. In fact, tools that make app development easier can help you launch native apps relatively quickly because they regulate the following compliance details:
Adhering to iOS & Android style guidelines Apple’s iOS Human Interface Guidelines and Google’s Android Design Principles describe the basic principles for designing a user-friendly interface. To help ensure your app is built according to their standards for quality of design from their apps, app development tools like AppsBuilder provide you will templates and themes that follow all the rules around adaptivity, layout and aesthetics like color, font, icons and graphics.
Standardizing app navigation As Apple puts it in their guidelines: “People tend to be unaware of the navigation experience in an app unless it doesn’t meet their expectations.” App users expect to find and use certain UI elements in predictable ways, and will encounter confusion when those expectations aren’t met. Whether you choose hierarchical, flat or experience-driven navigation, building your app within a controlled framework will help ensure tapping on menus, buttons and links should follow obvious patterns and flows.
Great looking (flexible!) layouts When you’re building your app, your goal is to present content in the best way possible, leading users to complete specific actions. Whether your content goals are to promote, education, sell or increase loyalty, each screen in your app needs to assist in conversion. To mitigate this challenges, app builders provide multiple, customizable layout options to present your content in the most appealing way. The downside of templates, whether they be for mobile apps, websites or even emails, will always come down to flexibility and that’s when adding a custom coded screen can fulfill anyone’s requirements.
Fast and easy integration With prefabricated widgets, you can enable specific app functionality, including those that support specific OS technologies (like iOS Passbook for giftcards) as well as incorporating dynamic content from third parties, like social networks, eCommerce platforms and monetization platforms or other marketing automation tools.
Worry free privacy & security management App developers need to play by the rules when developing features and functionality that doesn’t adversely impact other applications, the operating system, or the user. This includes protecting user privacy and personal information (like access to email, photos saved on the device, etc.) App building software can help you stay within the limits thanks to pre-approved features and functionality that meet privacy and security controls, as well making it easy to declare and manage permissions for specific actions or views.
Will app builders replace hand coded apps?
The short answer? No way. Just as website templates haven’t replaced web designers, certain types of apps will always rely on hand coding. The Tinder’s, Uber’s and Candy Crush’s of the world require flexibility to be innovative. But the pressure to be innovative in mobile, can be counter-productive for some businesses, and the trade off of long development times and costs may not hold merit. Instead, what many businesses need to succeed in the app economy is a mobile app that is “tried, tested and true” and can be customized for their brand. That’s where standard templates and customizable features can really help a business. By eliminating technical or usability concerns, marketers can focus on their business and being competitive in a mobile-first world!
What about you? How did you design your app? Share your experience in the comment section below.