In part three of this guest blog for the Computer Weekly Developer Network, Sybase technical evangelist and mobile evangelist Ian Thain discusses the new mobile application landscape characterised by new and more beautiful user interfaces. Parts one and two can be found here.
There are a few mobile design guidelines that should never be far from your thoughts.
To take a few as examples :-
- The initial screen should be kept as clear as possible to act as a launch point, because first impressions count.
- Keep the main/primary controls in the thumb 'hot zones' at the edge of the screen and keep the most important content at the top, with controls at the bottom.
- Be generous with the space on the screen, do not crowd and avoid scrolling where you can.
- Stick to proven navigation models, which can be used in combination, use flat pages for simple applications, and if possible make use of a tab bar that switches between the app's main functions, and/or a tree structure for drilling down through a hierarchy of content.
Oh -- and utilise the power of standard visuals and consistent functionality, but also borrow interface metaphors from real world examples when you can, including cool graphics to add to the look and feel.
For enterprise mobile applications, you'll need to ensure compliance with the standard corporate branding and identity guidelines in your visual design, which also helps to build a consistent look and feel for the brand; a brand that will have cost a lot of money to develop!
NOTE: This will include standardised naming, icons, graphics, colour, logo and design schemes.
Finally, don't forget to test, review and refine in line with the common iterative development processes. With mobile applications this can be even more important as you get one chance to make a real impression on an app store before you risk sinking out of sight as your novelty expires.
Test it yourself, let your users test it and widen the test group as far as you can before launch to catch any issues which can sink your user satisfaction numbers. Is it intuitive to use, do you need special lighting conditions to see your navigation clearly, do users enjoy using the application?
The ABC Factor
Ultimately great mobile application design goes way beyond the technology, and involves a plethora of hidden factors which can make all the difference in building a hit product. At the end of the day your goal is to build something which incorporates the ABC factor - it's an application that's Amazing, Beautiful and Compelling.
Editorial disclosure: Adrian Bridgwater works in an editorial capacity for the International Sybase User Group, a completely independent association that represents thousands of users of Sybase products in more than sixty countries around the world. He is not an employee of Sybase but seeks to work with ISUG to support its work challenging and questioning Sybase product development and training.