We’ve all come across web pages or apps that just didn’t perform quite right on a mobile device. Maybe the download time took way too long or the buttons were incredibly small making it difficult to click to the next function. The software could have been designed for an iPhone but you own a Samsung Galaxy (or vise versa) so the formatting was off. If you are creating an app for your workforce to use, chances are your employees have different brands of smartphones along with various models to complicate things. Here are some tips to help your app look professional while functioning properly regardless of what device it’s used on.
Simplicity is Key…In Both Design and Function
It is better to have three separate apps on your phone that each complete a specific task rather than cramming in various operations into one app that makes it slow, requires multiple click throughs to get to the right page, or has cluttered actions that you don’t really use. For example, if you’re an ecommerce store, you could have separate apps for sales reports, inventory lists, and product catalogs.
And speaking of product catalogs…simplicity of design is also a critical factor. Regardless if you are using an iPad or smartphone, those screens are quite small so the product pictures should be taken and uploaded using high resolution settings, photographed individually (as opposed to taking a picture of an item in multiple colors in one shot), and on a simple background. Jason Lawrence of Practical Ecommerce states, “I like to shoot products in front of a continuous background — often white or neutral grey. It’s a simple and professional look that is often used by major online retailers.” Additionally, consider shooting by a large window for natural lighting. “Avoid harsh backlighting and other setups that cast shadows on the surface of the object. Keep the lights on the same side of the object as your camera, or slightly off to one side,” suggests Lawrence.
For good and bad examples, grab your smartphone and randomly search through items on eBay, Pinterest, or Etsy. You’ll get tons of ideas plus see what stands out and what looks amateur.
Minimize Text Input
While most teenagers have the freakishly amazing skill to text a hundred words a minute, it’s likely that many of your employees lack this unique skill. The less that has to be entered, the better…not only for the sanity of your employees, but for faster progress onsite. Let’s imagine that you have a construction company and you are sending a worker on location to complete a field survey. Consider creating your spreadsheet app with a form addressing the vital information needed. A simple checklist requiring a “Y” or “N” answer can ensure that the job is thoroughly completed in an efficient way with minimal unique entries.
“On most phones and tablets it's perfectly possible to type out a few sentences or paragraphs with relative ease, but it's not exactly a fun experience. It's also a pretty interruptive process on modern touch-screen devices as the virtual keyboard pops up over the web content,” explains design company Creative Bloq. “To reduce user frustration, aim to minimise the amount of text input you require in web forms, and where it's really necessary make sure that you consider the practicalities.”
Test It Out for Functionality and Formatting
While this may seem extremely obvious, the last thing you want your employees to do is go out in the field only to have your app not working properly. Here is a brief checklist that you might consider adopting with suggestions from Ministry of Testing:
❑ What mobile devices will you use to test the app on?
❑ Does the app accommodate all sizes of text?
❑ Does the full list of touch device options work?
❑ How large can on-screen buttons and navigation be?
❑ Is it worth considering audible, visible and vibrating alerts?
❑ Can I update the app when there are multiple updates available? What happens if I don’t update?
❑ Is the UI appropriate for the form factor? For example, phone versus tablet, screen size, resolution, and existence of hardware buttons or keyboard.
❑ Will the app perform the designed tasks?
❑ What happens when it can’t sync or update because the device is...
❑ Connected but with no Internet connectivity
❑ Connecting through a paywall and haven’t yet authenticated (Wi-Fi in Starbucks, an airport, or a local pub)
❑ Change the device settings around. What do you notice?
❑ Test camera, if applicable.
Creating your own app can help you to construct an invaluable tool for both you and your employees. When it works properly and is easy to use, you’ll start to wonder what type of app you should make next.