by Bill French on 02/02/11 at 5:00 am
If you look back at the numerous apps you've purchased and continue to use for your iPhone on a daily basis, you'll see a pattern – they all share one common trait – good design.
iPhone, because of its elegant design, inspires us to expect app experiences that are equally elegant. However, many apps leave us unfulfilled. Some are wonderfully functional but are missing that certain design essence that cause us to adopt them and more importantly, recommend them to others.
iOS Inspirations, a design site with many successful iPhone apps, is easy on the eyes and a great source of ideas and useful for UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) innovation. Inspiredology is another site that covers the pathology of successful designs. Anyone who can write about 26 ways to use orange in a user interface, has certainly
thought carefully about the importance of color in a good design.
iPhone UX Reviews founder and author, Suzanna Ginsburg, covers the topic of iPhone user experience with the finesses of a truly innovative mobile design. Her book, Designing the iPhone UX, is a gem and recommended reading for anyone or any team charged with creating an iPhone app. Chapter 7, Prototyping App Concepts, demonstrates how deep this book really goes.
Where Should Design Begin?
Stephen Martin believes good design begins with non-technical solutions including pencil and paper, but not just any paper. Stephen has designed SketchBook for iOS app designers.
After being asked to design some iPhone® applications, I started to search around for design tips and information. There were PSD files, stencils and other paper prototyping tools available, but I’ve always sketched my ideas first.
After printing out wireframe templates on sheets of paper (and ultimately losing my sketches), I decided to design my own sketchbook.
App Sketchbooks are available for both iPhone and iPad for about $12 each.
Faster App Prototyping
One way to get your design off the ground quickly is to start with a leg up on graphics. Jen Gordon, creator of The Mobile Design Starter Kit, provides this guidance,
Have you ever looked at your app’s design and thought “Wow this could use an overhaul”? What is your next thought? Where can I find a designer that has experience in “mobile design” and is willing to work on the cheap. I have this conversation with businesses and developers on a weekly basis. A great idea and development are all lined up… and design is an afterthought.
Describing any part of your app design as an afterthought is a good indicator that your app’s success will be constrained. While the bar for app design is low right now, failing to hire a good user interface designer does nothing to increase your chances of attracting passionate users. It’s not difficult to find crappy iPhone UIs, but it’s very difficult to find blockbuster apps that are poorly designed.
Jen Gordon continues by pointing out early mover advantages are typically not sufficient to attract and sustain your app audience.
Maybe you're lucky enough to be the “first”. Even if your idea is completely unique, sooner than later there will be a copycat. And your design has to be better than anyone else that comes after.
This is why I created the Mobile Design Starter Kit. After designing apps for three years, I found that I could serve more developers better and for less cost by creating design elements that can be used in a variety of apps.
The kit includes hand-drawn app icons that can be customized to fit your own app theme, over 200 in-app icons, badges, buttons, and backgrounds. It’s a foundation of hundreds of proven design files representing thousands of dollars worth of design effort for less than a dozen trips to Starbucks. There are also how-to videos included for both beginner and intermediate level designers.