5 Tips for Making a Great Mobile App

Guest Post by Matt Cokeley

Tomorrow’s experts in mobile app design will be those with the early interest, energy and courage to experiment today, however, there is some trepidation in most areas of our design community on how to best approach this new beast without being bitten. As Creative Director for Mag+, I hear about these insecurities all the time. My goal is to provide people with enough guidance and information to take the leap and create mobile applications.

If you work with InDesign, you are already halfway to becoming a great mobile app designer. The additional tools required are free and only a few keystrokes away.  Here are 5 other tips to get you going once you’re plugged in.

1. Why Are You Doing This?

Know why you are moving into tablets. Too many teams rush in thinking this will be a viral hit and that their work will save the business. It won’t. It takes time to build recognition and extend your consumer base. Tablet readers are different than print and web consumers. You need to consider their use habits as you decide how to tackle your project.

2. Consider How Mobile Extends Your Brand  

As an extension of tip one, remember, this design is for the same brand, however, it is an entirely different product, and should be considered as such. You are competing against not just other apps similar to yours, but with Angry Birds, the Facebook app and numerous other distractions. Gauge your design and your business needs and what you can get your customers to do on mobile, and then commit, full-on to making that experience fantastic and immersive so that people keep coming back.

3. Start Simple

Bells and whistles are enticing when you first explore powerful software. Embrace the technology, but temper your design to evolve with the expansion of your consumer base. It takes time to adjust to the design dimensions of a tablet, and the interactivity. What used to be 8 pages in print will now be 12-15 pages in this digital world.  A great example of a fairly simple design that does quite well is the touchscreen edition of the K-Composite magazine, great readership, great response using the very basic Mag+ tools.

4. Be Consistent

Custom digital design requires human resources. Whether you’re adding staff or working with what you’ve got, it’s important to deliver on a schedule and within budget.  Even though I encourage you to be creative and nurture this new app, don’t be so overambitious that it becomes the project you delay, because you lose users all too easily. If you succeed at consistently delivering a smaller scope, manageable app on time, budgets to execute cooler more interactive things will grow too.

5. Analyze and Adjust

The great thing about tablet apps is that this type of design has direct response analytics built right in. What does this mean for you as the designer?  You get direct feedback on the performance of many of your design elements. You can see that your videos have been view 95 percent of the time, what features or content people simply don’t engage with and then ask yourself, “Why? Why did this element not perform as I hoped? Is it worth modifying? Or is another element performing so well, we can focus more effort on that?”

My recommendation is to plan to design two or three issues, analyze the data and your iTunes reviews and then adjust your design.

Go Create Some Mobile Apps Already!

That’s all for now.  Go forth and kill it. If you are designing mobile now, shoot me a link to your app. I’d love to see it. If you aren’t, let me know if I can offer any advice.

About the Author:

Matt began his journey designing for a small direct marketing firm in Princeton, New Jersey – but New York City was calling his name. His creative drive took him to Maxim magazine, Popular Science and the Bonnier Technology Group. After time, innovative lessons, and some boundaries pushed, Matt joined touchscreen publishing pioneer Mag+. He currently runs Mag+ Studios, the creative services division of Mag+, and performs client training and technical support for 1,000+ Mag+ apps worldwide.