By Jeff Kontur
It's amazing how many companies get mobile wrong. Even very large, otherwise sophisticated companies.
There are a handful of things that companies regularly get wrong when designing mobile apps:
1. Too Much Information
It's vitally important to really consider how your mobile app will be used in the real world. Users will try to use it while walking down the street. Despite the stupidity of it (and laws against it), some will try to use it while driving. Even barring these, users are reading off a small screen.
Pare down the information you present to only that which is absolutely vital. To keep it interesting and readable, hire a copywriter who excels in writing that is highly accessible, simple and interesting.
2. Too Many Steps
Hand-in-hand with too much information, many companies try to cram in far too much functionality. In the process, they create too many steps to get any one thing done.
People don't want to climb the stairs. They want you to build them an escalator. Or better yet, a private elevator with a butler and someone to massage their feet and feed them grapes during their ride to the top.
How many is too many? Six steps may not seem like a lot, but it's unquestionably too many in the world of apps. In fact, four is about the limit and you'd do far better sticking to three or less.
That's why it's so important to carefully plan what you want your app to do and get design input from both a copywriter and a designer. Or save yourself some money and hire someone who does both.
3. Hard to Navigate
If your app requires a user manual of any kind -- even if they're as simple as the assembly instructions for Ikea furniture -- it is far too complex.
The most inexperienced user should be able to pick it up and make it do something useful with zero instruction.
4. Not Compelling
Even if your product or service interests me, if all your app does is rehash and present information that's easily obtainable from other sources, what is its purpose?
Even insurance companies, an industry known for being boring, make popular apps by adding utility to them. They let users keep policy information, offer checklists of things to do in an accident, give reminders... all sorts of helpful functions.
5. Resource Hog
Loads of video, huge pictures (remember, cell phone screens are small), the need to constantly be connected, large file or database sizes... all add to the "weight" of an app. You want your app to be a dainty preschool teacher, not a sumo wrestler.
If being connected to the internet is mandatory, you've just reduced the utility of the app considerably. If it takes up a lot of space or if it runs slowly because it requires so much memory or other resources, users will hate it and tell everyone how terrible it is.
6. Poor User Interface
Look at your fingertip. Notice how large it is, relative to the size of your cell phone screen. If you make menu items too small or too close together, users will forever be clicking the wrong things.
Remember the game Operation? Try playing that while holding the operating table in one hand and while walking down the hallway. If the guy's nose lights up your whole company just lost the game.
Likewise if you include elements that are not resizable.