The User Experience

Here at Sliced Bread, we find it always helps to look back over projects and see what could be improved on, as well as expand on areas which have worked well for us. With regards to creating apps, that development process seems to have evolved considerably with each project we take on. Even though the apps on both the Apple App Store and Google Play are so incredibly varied, there are some key points that can prove useful to refining their look and functionality. I came across this article recently in VentureBeat, that really highlighted some issues that to some people may seem obvious, but are surprisingly overlooked.

From a user’s perspective, there’s nothing quite like downloading an app that does what it says on the tin, is a breeze to use, and is intuitive enough not to warrant a very detailed ‘how-to’ guide. Needless to say their creators will always strive for this ultimate goal. But what happens when you find out that a large number of your users aren’t actually progressing past the first screen?

In this article, VentureBeat goes into more detail as to what those main problems are:

  1. Forcing registration before demonstrating value
  2. Overly detailed tutorials
  3. Unusual interface elements or gesture controls
  4. Making you fill out lengthy forms

The above doesn’t always apply to each and every app released on the app stores, however it does emphasise how important it is to consider these potential turn-offs during development. Having been able to observe this development process closely I find it very interesting how easy it is to get wrapped up in the main content of the program and sometimes (accidentally) forget about the user’s perspective. Will they know how to do that? Do we really need that information from them? What’s it for? How will they get to this screen?

The one thing that isn’t exactly fleshed out in this article is the importance of design vs pragmatism. Its great when a design really gets a brand through to the user, however it can also stop a user in its tracks if it doesn’t allow them to move through the app easily. A good example would be the sizing of certain elements – buttons for starters. Nowadays there are so many different screen sizes developers and designers need to adapt to, but if a button isn’t big enough for a finger to press then it leaves those users quite stuck. That might leave him/her no option but to quit the app, and no one wants that!

Another interesting design issue is forms (this is briefly talked about above). If the form is a particularly lengthy one, then of course you will need to scroll down as you go through it. This being said, the user needs space to scroll, using a ‘scroll area’ if you will. If however the design of this form spans the entire width of the screen then it leaves very little space to use to scroll down. This makes it sticky to use and understandably quite frustrating especially if that app is already breaking rule number 1 above! (In other words – you just want to get past the registration to use the app!).

In the past it has proved a success to get further opinion and perspective by using tester groups. This way means we receive a fresh look at how the app is turning out and an authentic view of how it will be perceived by the public. Tester groups really help in fine-tuning the important parts as well as disregarding the unnecessary bits. As VentureBeat put it:

The important takeaways are to be mindful of best practices and to test, test, test your mobile designs with the people who use them in order to catch possible mistakes early.

Every app is different and the above won’t always relate to it, however it would help to see an example of a ‘good app’. Below I’ve put what I think are some nice examples of well thought-out apps that really make the user experience a joy!

YPlan

Yplan

It’s official tagline being: ‘Tonight’s going out app’ you’d expect this to inspire you with ideas and it really does! With a choice of viewing events either Today, Tomorrow or Later, YPlan provides a nice sample of various types of events you may be interested in. A very simply design showcasing what’s on, you’re not required to sign up, but once you’ve found an event you want to go to, you do need to enter your card details to buy the tickets. All very nicely integrated, this app then shows what you have on in your in-built calendar. Overall it’s a sinch to use and I find it makes you more spontaneous as a result!

Epicurious

Epicurious

A foodie app ‘for people who love to eat’. This app has a wealth of recipes and includes a handy shopping list facility to help you keep track of what you’re preparing. Built around all levels of cooking it is so simple to browse through and find what you want, whether by meal type, occasion or even food type. You also have the option to join their Epicurious community which boosts the experience by being able to share tips with other epicureans.

So what about you? We’d love to know what you feel are the better apps out there and why. Feel free to comment!