When an app really gets it right, the difference can be worth millions to the developer. It’s no surprise, then, that so many people continue to put out apps. The payoff can be monstrous!
But there are a lot of pitfalls. A lot of them...
Handily for this guide, those pitfalls divide up rather nicely into four areas: visual, development, UX and marketing.
So, what are the key app development mistakes, and how can you avoid them?
Not focusing on first impressions
App users are simply merciless. If they load up your app and get any sense that it’s less than stellar, they’ll delete it and never look at it again.
You need to make a great first impression. No exceptions.
So how should you do this?
- Ensure the home screen loads quickly. In 2017, users don’t have time to waste.
- Ensure your design looks great. No getting around this one; nothing less than a stunning design will do.
- Ensure the app is intuitive. If someone looks at your homepage and doesn’t know what to do next, you’re in real trouble.
Look great, right away. You’re a salesman making a pitch: make sure the suit you’re wearing looks great!
Overdoing an intro
We get it: you want to show off a bit. A bit of flash animation never hurt anyone, right?
Well, yes and no.
The trouble with intro animations is that however good they look first time out, users will have to watch them every single time they load the app up in future.
So, when you’re considering just how swanky you want your app animation to look, you’ll need to ask yourself whether – when loading your app up for the 300th time – the user isn’t going to simply think:
‘Oh, hurry up!!’
In the end, users love apps that help them. And flashy intros aren’t actually that useful.
Over-cluttering the design
Simplify. Simplify. Simplify. Overdoing it is one of the major app development mistakes.
Remember, even when on a tablet, apps have a finite amount of screen space, and even less of it on a smartphone. So, don’t try to fill up your design with five different features!
A strangely effective example of this can be found in a lot betting apps. Most big betting companies have a LOT of things to cover in their apps:
- Different sports
- Different types of bet
- User information
And so on.
Despite this complexity, though, you’ll see that usually, the home screen for most betting apps focus on one particular thing: usually the three or four most popular sports in the demographic.
You can dig in as deeply as you want, but when you first load the app up, the design’s goal is obvious: to make placing bets on your favorite sports quick and easy.
Obviously this is a unique market, but you can emulate it. Display the most useful options for your user, and ONLY those options.
You’ll end up with a clean, effective design that gives users everything they need, and nothing they don’t.
Stay on brand at all costs, especially if your app is part of a larger business.
Make no mistake, users will notice any differences in:
- Border widths
- Photo sizes
And so on. Every visual element should match the rest of your company’s branding.
It’s a simple tip, but you’d be amazed how many people don’t follow it, and lose users as a result.
Which visual elements you use are, of course, up to you. But once you’ve chosen, make sure you stick to them!
Overdoing the features
Once you’re ready to start the build, you need to ensure you set out a list of features and – more importantly – that you stick to those features.
In theoretical terms, overdoing features is more a UX matter. However, it does affect the building process.
When you set out with a firm structure in mind, you can ensure the design is air tight. You can work out the most efficient, simple way to meet that structure.
It’s never a good idea to start adding additional features to an app that’s already half-done. Unless it’s a vital feature – as in, one that’ll stop the app working if it’s not included – you should wait until your next major update before adding it. Not doing so will often mean rushing the feature, and this nearly always results in bugs.
Not sufficiently planning for each OS
We’ve covered the different app publishing platforms before, and one of the biggest build mistakes developers make is not accounting for each platform’s unique quirks and pitfalls.
Some form of cross-platform development is possible, of course. (You don’t have to do a complete new build for each app store.) However, you can’t expect to only develop an app once and then send it out to every platform without making changes. The reality is somewhere between the two.
You WILL need to include time in your development schedule for individual platform development and bug-fixing. If you don’t, you’ll have issues.
Speaking of which…
Not testing enough (or at all)
This is vital. Testing is a huge part of successful app development. We’ve actually covered this – to a certain extent – in our guide on updates. However, we’ll discuss it again here.
It’s important to thoroughly test both:
- The functionality of the app (to ensure everything works)
- The UX/UI experience (to ensure users will be happy)
Wherever possible, you want your app to be tested both by those responsible for building it (because they’ll won’t miss out any features) and genuine users of the product (who’ll be able to come to the app with fresh eyes.)
As we’ve discussed before, it’s almost impossible for an app to be completely bug-free on first launch. However, as we said further up the page, first impressions matter, and the more issues you iron out in advance the better.
Re-using old code
This is a bit of a geeky app development mistake to make, but it’s worth highlighting here.
Wherever possible, avoid using old code.
The idea of saving time (and, as a result, money) is obviously appealing. But it’s a risky approach.
Using old code can actually end up adding time to a project, rather than taking it away. Why? Because there’s no guarantee that:
- The code will still work as well, especially if updates have taken place
- The code was designed to be re-used in the first place
You’ll often find that the bug-fixing alone leaves you spending more time on old code than you would have spent just building from scratch!
Tiny touch elements
This might seem like a minor issue, but you’d be surprised how much of a change it can make.
Put simply, some app users have chunky fingers, and it’s a mistake to include any elements that are simply too small to click on for those people!
This can be the case with:
- Video or audio time bars
- Social media sharing buttons
You can have an otherwise KILLER video player app, but if people with bigger fingers can’t rewind without accidentally going back a screen, you’re going to lose users – fast!
Not using the ‘standard’ icons
There’s no need to re-invent the wheel when it comes to icons.
If you’re implementing social media share buttons or links to well-known features – videos, photos, and so forth – then use the icons users will associate with them.
- Facebook is a blue F
- Twitter is a small bird
- ‘Buy’ is a shopping cart
If you don’t follow the traditional associations people have, you won’t seem forward-thinking – you’ll just confuse everyone!
Overdoing the features
So, you knew this was coming, right?
A great way to think about planning your features is to work according to the 80:20 principle. The idea that 80 per cent of your results come from 20 per cent of your activities.
So, let’s say you’ve got 20 features planned: which four will give you nearly all the results?
The simple fact is that more features does not automatically equal more value for users. Indeed, it often just means more hassle and a worse user interface.
Stick in too many features and you’ll lose users.
Enforcing a login
Now, before we get started, we should state the following:
There are benefits to having a user sign in.
However, you shouldn’t ask for a login unless you absolutely have to, simple because being asked to login before using the app at all is a real pain point for many users.
The truth is that most people’s thought process when confronted with an unnecessary login request is:
And you’d better have a good answer to that question if you don’t want to lose users!
It’s usually acceptable to have a login if you’re running an e-commerce app, of course, because users will want a record of past purchases. But unless you really need to, avoid any unnecessary login features.
eBay is a good example of this. You can still browse the store and search for what you might want, but you don’t have to hand over any information until you’re actually ready to buy.
Overloading permission settings right away
This is another biggie, and one that a lot of apps are guilty of.
Customization is, of course, a big plus. Users want a unique experience that’s tailored to what they value.
However, that doesn’t mean you should bombard them with messages asking for permission as soon as they’ve loaded the app up.
Users hate feeling pressured, but there are a number of apps out there that load up and immediately ask for access to:
And so on. Now, it might be that your app really does need to access those features to deliver a great experience, but you can be sure that such a barrage of requests will put a lot of people off.
A good way to combat this is to delay asking for permission until the user loads up a particular feature.
So, for instance, a social network could wait until a user actually wants to upload a picture before asking for permission to use their camera. Or an app making use of GPS could wait until a user loads up the map feature before asking to use location settings, and so on.
It’s unlikely that any app will need to access all these things at once, so waiting until you need them before asking permission is a good way of not freaking your users out!
(This also shows that you’re focused on benefiting USERS, rather than yourself.)
Not investing in high quality design
As with all aspects of marketing: visuals matter.
Having a great-looking website in place to promote your app will make you look more professional. That’s a fact.
Remember, there is a huge amount of competition out there, with as many as 60,000 apps being added each month.
You need to do everything you can to set yourself apart from the hundreds of identikit developers churning out re-skinned apps. A good website can do this.
Not exploring different options
In our comprehensive guide to app marketing, we covered all the main options:
- Organic search
- Social media
And you should do the same. The simple fact is that different demographics use different channels, and you’re unlikely to get optimum results if you haven’t thoroughly tested every one.
Many app developers focus on the marketing channel they like – or have gotten their best prior results with – despite their new app being marketed to a different audience. Then they wonder why they get poor results.
If, for instance, your last project was an e-commerce app focused on selling and managing pension plans, you aren’t going to be able to ‘copy and paste’ a successful marketing approach if your new app’s a Reddit reader aimed at college students!
Not using data effectively
The key to marketing success is always in the data.
Despite this, many app designers and developers don’t use analytics to measure their results.
Don’t be one of those people! App analytics can help you improve every aspect of your app’s performance, as well as the effectiveness of your app campaign. It’ll allow you to measure:
- Which features are most popular
- Which features are the least popular
- How long users are staying on your app
- Where users are coming from
- Which marketing channels are getting the best results
- How much money your app is making
And so on. Every statistic you can measure, you can improve. And you should do so!
(It’s worth noting that you should focus on both Google’s Analytics platform and the various mobile app performance platforms. This way, you’ll get a balanced, overall view of your performance.)
Not accepting – and using – feedback
Many people won’t see feedback as a ‘promotional’ tool, but they’re wrong.
Word of mouth is still an incredibly effective marketing strategy. If your app’s great, your user base will tell their friends and family.
So, it pays to keep your user base happy. To give them what they want.
And how do you do this? You’ve got it: fix any issues they have!
We covered this in a previous guide with good reason: if you take user feedback and use it to improve user experience, customers will remain loyal.
As we’ve noted before, no app is perfect first time out, but customers will notice if you’re the sort of developer that takes feedback and uses it to improve your app over the long-term.
You can use feedback to:
- Improve how easy your app is to use
- Remove features users hate
- Add features users really want
- Remove major bugs
And so forth.
It can be tough admitting to mistakes, but if you’re open and honest and – most importantly – show that you both value and want feedback, you’re likely to get great responses from your user base. You’ll be able to build a valuable, long-term customer base.
A LOT of things go into building a great app, and there are hundreds of pitfalls we’ve not even been able to cover here.
If you want to sidestep the competition and release an app that you know will get results, give Iconic Solutions a call. We can help.