As of writing this I have created four mobile applications for the iOS platform: CodeHub, CodeBucket, Gistacular, and AppreciateUI. As I released each one of them I learned something new about the process and how to really make an effective release and make sure your users are pleased with the experience. Here are five tips that I believe are the most important to keep in mind when creating mobile applications.
1. Give Your Users a Voice
If your app is free, and even more so if your app is paid, your users will most likely want something out of you to feel like their purchase was worthwhile. This is huge. If you have a userbase that wants to give you feature requests and tells you about issues in your apps then you're on the right track. These are your loyal fans and you need to give them a way to speak to you. For example, almost each one of my applications utilizes UserVoice. UserVoice is a great platform for giving your users a way to suggest features, file issue tickets, and for you to put your knowledge base. There are plenty other services out there like UserVoice but the point is to use one of them. Even more, make sure you put a link - some way to file requests - right from your app. Don't make them jump through hoops! Again, UserVoice is great because it gives you a component to plug into your apps so users can do everything right from your app. Don't underestimate this! Your user's voice is the most important gift they give you, even more than their money, and if you acknowledge them you'll be paid back in kind.
2. Get A Twitter Account
I cannot stress this one enough. Every application you create should have a twitter account! Why Twitter and not Facebook or any other social media network? Twitter is perfect for quickly connecting with users and allowing you to blast out updates about your application - it's really what it was made for. Twitter is the primary social network I use. I don't even bother with Facebook. I make sure to put a 'Follow' tag in my app, on the app iTunes page, and any other page related to my application. Once your following kicks up people will die waiting to hear about new features you're planning. Twitter is great for this kind of stuff. It becomes even better when your users begin to retweet what you've said to their audience. One thing to make sure, since it's so easy to respond, make sure you do it immediately. People will recognize that and acknowledge you for your quick response times.
3. Go Free First, then Paid
I've read a lot about pricing applications and many suggest pricing the application for what you believe its worth - which is definitely true. However, I like to approach my fair price in a different way. Go free first. Make sure your app is presentable and put it on the App Store for free - for perhaps a few weeks. User's love free things. When an application pops up on the store that's remotely like what they're searching for and it's free it's almost an assured download. The nice thing about offering your app for free is that you've basically opened up your market to include the entire audience: people who pay and those who don't. What you're really trying to achieve with this is making a big splash and gaining a following quickly. If your app has apparent problems make sure you solve them in this time while the app is free. Users who pay for a fauly product are often going to go right to the reviews. However, a free product means nothing lost so users tend to me more lienent when it comes to bashing you. Once you've ironed out all the bugs and you've got users who believe in the app start marking up the price to where you believe is fair.
4. Make Your App Visually Appealing
Users who have Apple devices typically have them because they enjoy the attention to detail of the product - which includes the software on it. One of my biggest gripes about Android is that many of the apps are designed without being visually appealing. Regardless, make sure your app looks good! I never stick with the default theme of an iOS device. It's lazy and blends in with the other visually lackluster apps. Come up with a color theme, change the navbar, grab some custom buttons, anything to make your app stand out from the rest. If you're going up against compeditors in your market make sure yours looks the best. The App Store is all visual, make sure your app stands out! It will give you a much needed edge especially if you're late to the market. In addition, with iOS7, ignore the urge to go with a flat design if your app doesn't call for it. It makes no sense that apps bend to the design will of the parent OS. If your design calls for gradients put gradients in. If it calls for shadows, use shadows! Losing your apps identity is worse than not fitting in with the iOS7 look.
5. Make Sure Your Root and Branches Work
The title to this may make no sense at first glance but think of this: Users start your app at the root, the first page, they do something, maybe login, maybe create an account, whatever, but then they move on and are typically given a lot more things to do. Create items, delete things, go here, there, something. Users eventually drill down enough in one area to where they can no longer go forward and begin to use the back button. This is a user flow. It looks a lot like a tree with a root, branches, and leafs. The root is where your user first lands when they open the app. The branches are typically things that come next for the user to do and so on. If your app crashes when users are in the root. Game over. It looks real bad because it doesn't look like you even bothered to test. If users crash or get hung up on the branches, then it's not good, but not terrible becaues they're in the app and could maybe go to another branch. If users crash or get stuck on a leaf then it's almost ok. The point is that follow the 80/20 rule on this. Focus your time testing on the 80%: the root and the branches. Users can forgive you if something small on a leaf doesnt work quite right. Take the Twitter app as an example. If the app responded poorly when you tried to login how mad would you be? If the app didn't go to the "Discover" tab, but everything else worked, how would you feel then? How about if you couldn't mail a tweet? Focus on the 80% when testing and make sure that is solid. User's can typically wait for the next verison of the app for a fix in the 20%.