Spoiler alert! At the end of Cinderella, the lowly housekeeper becomes a princess. In 101 Dalmatians, the wealthy socialite Cruella ends up in the cold without her coveted puppy-fur coat. Moral to the stories: be like Cinderella, not Cruella. What makes your app development beautiful and desirable, while avoiding ugliness and near-criminal uselessness? Here’s your guide.
Dress it for the Ball
It’s not a matter of choosing between beautiful and useful. It has to be both.
It might seem frivolous or contrary to the utilitarian nature of apps, but a great app is simply attractive. The fact is users have a lot of options now and when faced with a beautiful app versus a plain or ugly one, the good-looking one wins. Don’t handicap what might be a useful, popular app with an unattractive interface.
Study what colors are compatible and what visuals users are most drawn to. Look at attractive fonts — but make sure that the nice-looking font is still easy to read. Never work with reverse type (white or light lettering on a black or dark background) because it’s too hard on the eyes. Even apps with horror themes like zombies and aliens can be made appealing to the eyes.
Teach it Some Slick Moves
Does anyone think Cinderella would have made such a hit at the ball without a few nice dance moves? It’s unlikely. Your app needs to be easy to navigate. What are most users looking for immediately upon opening the app? Make that the first thing they see, and make it clear where to go to get what information or features.
Take the app AccuWeather, for example. It consistently rates among the tip-top weather apps, competing with big names like Yahoo! and The Weather Channel. What makes AccuWeather a top pick? Upon opening the app, the main things people want to know about the weather are instantly available — current temperature, current conditions, and what to expect in the coming minutes and hours. Give your app some slick moves to endear your users.
Equip it to be Home by Midnight
The clock is ticking; your app had better be too.
When the clock strikes 12, will your app be back in the pumpkin carriage? Mobile users are working with short attention spans, small time frames, and varying data quality. Make your app lightweight so that your users get a great experience even when bandwidth is slow and they only have a few seconds to check the app before catching a train or turning their attention to important work. Fast, responsive apps are better received than slow, unresponsive ones, even if the slow one offers better information and features.
Make it Look the Same at Home as in the Ballroom
It would have been a heck of a lot easier on the prince and Cinderella, and everyone else if the prince could have recognized her back home. Do your users have a drastically different experience on your mobile app than on your desktop website? The two should be so similar that there is no doubt when they open your app that they’re dealing with the company they know and trust.
Give it a One-of-a-Kind Tierra
In a kingdom filled with millions of apps, why would your users choose yours? A successful app sets itself apart from the rest — like Cinderella set herself apart at the ball. Find a specific niche that has yet been untapped (or at least largely ignored) and establish your app within that niche. This gives you a better chance of standing out to be noticed. For example, there are already hundreds of gaming apps, banking apps, and shopping apps — what makes yours different? Give your users a twist that isn’t already covered by a hundred other developers.
Think Sensible Shoes, Not Elaborate Stilettos
Keep it simple, silly. Cinderella nearly blew everything with those cumbersome glass slippers. An escape to safety would have been much easier in a manageable pair of flats. Apps are like this, too. The more bells and whistles there are, the slower things run and the more things can go wrong (such as bugs and glitches). A sleeker, simpler, more sensible app offers everything users want and need without the extra chance of something getting screwed up. Not having one nifty little feature probably won’t ward off your users — but crashing every time they try to use it certainly will.