Contributed by: Mayuri Khinvasara (Senior Developer, Clarice Technologies)
Mayuri is currently working as a Senior Android Developer with Clarice for the past 1.5 years. She’s majorly worked on multiple Android projects such as Android apps and Android platform modules. Prior to joining Clarice, she worked with Oracle Corporation for 2 years on their Enterprise applications and Fusion middle-ware, majorly on High availability. She also has an IEEE published research paper to her credit. She tweets a whole lot in her free time.
Mobile is where the growth is today. Mobile products today enjoy a huge worldwide customer base . The ever evolving technology advancements, OS versions and enormous app options make it ‘the thing in the market’. I still vividly remember Android 2.0 just a couple of years back, in those days Google was taking a lot of flack for an uninspired and quirky user interface design which was difficult to use for the average user, Google took this very seriously and got its act together. It went on to hire Matias Duarte (Head of User Interface design for Palm) and focus on the general usability and look and feel of Android. Fast forward to today, Android has evolved into a very beautiful and usable OS. Apple’s iPhone which has phenomenal and innovative design, has been a constant source of conversation, speculation and writing. And mobile platforms just keep evolving. That’s the power of technology and innovation. According to ‘World Mobile Applications Market (2010 – 2015)’ report, the total global mobile applications market is expected to be worth $25 billion by 2015 (a huge 27% increase from 2010). This presents both great opportunity and great challenges.
The mobile applications store has evolved and matured a lot providing so many choices. I am sure all of us face the same dilemma, of choosing just the one right app from the million options available. Ever wondered, what would make the user love a particular app, make it a habit and keep expecting more and more from it.
Steve Jobs said one of Apple’s strengths was discipline, he was as proud of the things that Apple hasn’t done as he was of the things it has done. He added, “Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.” Successful mobile apps need to do just one thing absolutely well, to strike that cord with the users.
Below are some of the really “cool” innovative features which can add that edge to a new or even an existing mobile product. Including even a few of the below features (suitable to your category and targeted market), can make your app significantly stand out from the other million apps on the applications store.
1. Make it a Behavior
In the traditional approach, button based behavior were directly translated to touch screen phones. The real power of touch screen interfaces lies with adding gestures and animations. Back in 2007 when the 1st ever iPhone was launched, the 2 finger zoom in/zoom out on a photo/browser was spectacular and very well implemented. I remember playing with it for hours and it soon became a comfortable behavioral pattern. I started looking for the same zoom action in others apps too.
Almost all platforms today expose API functionalities for Gestures, swipes, multi-touch events and animations. That’s the need of the hour. Samsung Android phone’s contact app has this “swipe right” to message and “swipe left” to call, which make the actions super quick and fun. Incorporating gestures in your app design, takes usability of your app to a different level altogether.
2. Give Navigations a Real Feel
Navigations are transitions in our application, from one screen to another or from one view at other, or simply change of content. When animations are used as a part of navigation, it quickly registers within the user’s mind without quizzing him as if something has just appeared out of nowhere. Even very trivial animations of fade-in/fade out or transition from left/right to register a pattern, are very effective and give the user a real, plausible occurrence.
The award winning, magazine style news reader app, “Flipboard”, uses amazing animations as its USP, to given the user a feel that he is reading through a real book magazine. And yes, it is very much successful in its purpose; I literally feel that it’s my paper magazine that I am reading, with loads of customizable content.
3. Keep Information in the Front and Center
Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer said about windows phone that,, “Your information is right in front and center, not a sea of icons.” Windows phone has amazing tiles format which are simple, quick moving yet convey the message very clearly.
Home screen widgets in android, are one of its kind. They give the users a power to customize, re-size and a quick glance over the rich information. Works best for a weather/calendar/to-do/battery stats/network switch/clocks /etc. type of apps.
4. Engage the User / Give them the Power to Connect
98% of the online population today uses Social Media sites and worldwide 6 out of every 10 people use social networks and forums. So yes, pretty much everybody uses Social Media and if you want to reach out to new audiences and marketplaces there is no other platform that compares.
Sharing a message on Facebook / Twitter, etc. would make the app a lot more interactive and thus substantially increase the average time your users spend with your app. Moreover you can build endless lists of followers and post as much or as little information as you like. So it’s a win-win deal both for the user and for your own business.
In order to keep the user always engaged more thoroughly , it’s a great practice to give user notifications on new messages and updates . But be sure you give them a setting to enable/disable notifications. While some users love regular updates, some just get too annoyed.
Providing a cloud sync option can give excellent freedom to user on the go and they are relieved from frequent backups. Syncing option increases future engagement and using your app both from mobile and web. “Evernote” is top rated note taking app which gives excellent sync features on most mobile platforms plus the web. In such a case, the user would keep coming back to you if he ever looses the app from his mobile and hence losing the user is very rare.
5. Be Intelligent
Our favorite search engine, Google’s auto suggest feature is pretty innovative and intelligent. It just doesn’t do a dictionary or a grammatical auto-complete, but gives contextual searches. If mobile apps incorporate these features like auto complete and auto suggest, although these seem like trivial features they go a long way in enhancing the usability of the app, making life that much easier for the user. For instance, The top rated app To-do App “ Any.Do” gives you intelligent relevant suggestions rather than a just a dictionary or a grammatical auto complete. It comes across as such a simple and exactly what you need application.
6. Communicate Negative Messages Effectively
You might think this is very trivial, but we all know the power of effective communication. The way you convey unfavorable conditions in your app, talks a lot about your business’s integrity. For instance, if its taking a longer time to load, network/data is not available currently. A direct clichéd message can compel the user to leave the app and just go to something else. Whereas giving the user, some visuals or emoticons with text, makes a closer connect with the them.
Smart developers and designers today can make successful apps by building simple yet elegant solutions and not from variegated features with fancy solutions. Touch screen phones today have enormous capabilities with the kind of hardware they support. Its waiting out there to get designed implemented to its maximum abilities. Mobile apps are more about making that one innovative thing “just too good” .
Look forward to your thoughts…
What other features do you think are really “awesome“and definitely need a mention?