DESIGNING APPS FOR DELIGHT AND USABILITY
“WE NEED AN IPHONE APP.” You’ve almost certainly heard that one at the office. Or in a conversation with chums. Maybe even around your own kitchen table. Since you’re reading this book, you’ve probably even said it yourself.
You’re right: you do need an iPhone app. Apple’s glossy gadget touched off a whole new kind of computing—personal, intimate, and convenient—that has become both passion and habit for millions of regular folks. That’s not going away; looking ahead, we’re not going to spend less time with our phones, our tablets, our on-the-go internet devices. More and more, getting in front of people means getting on mobile devices, starting with the iPhone. It’s a device with the following and technology to get your stuff out there with a rare combination of volume and style.
But First . . . Breathe
An iPhone app isn’t an end in itself. It’s not something to be hustled through, just so you can check it off your list. There’s a whiff in the air of the go-go website panic of the 1990s, when everyone rushed to cobble together some HTML just to have a website, any website, with little consideration of either usefulness or usability. It was at once a period of heady innovation and herd-following mediocrity. The same holds for iPhone apps today. There are mind-bending creations to be found in the App Store, but the store is also chockablock with time-wasting duds. You can do better.
Set your app apart with elegant design. This means something more than pretty pixels. Design is what your app does, how it works, how it presents itself to your audience. Tapworthy apps draw people in with both efficiency and charm. They cope with small screens and fleeting user attention to make every pixel count, every tap rewarding. That means great app design has to embrace a carefully honed concept, a restrained feature set, efficient usability, and a healthy dollop of personality. All of this takes time, thought, and talent, but perhaps most of all, it takes a little common sense. This book distills observation of real people using real apps into plain-spoken principles for designing exceptional interfaces for the iPhone and iPod Touch. (Most of the advice in this book applies equally to iPhone and iPod Touch—and often to other smart phones, too. To keep things simple, though, I refer to iPhone throughout. It’s okay with me if you mentally add “and iPhone Touch” after each mention. The iPad gets passing attention, too, but the size and context of its use make the iPad a whole different animal. This book focuses on designing for the small screen, leaving iPad design for another day.)
No Geek Credentials Required
This book teaches you how to “think iPhone.” It isn’t a programming book. It’s not a marketing book. It’s about the design and psychology and culture and usability and ergonomics of the iPhone and its apps. From idea to polished pixel, this book explains how to create something awesome: an iPhone app that delights. You’ll learn how to conceive and refine your app’s design in tune with the needs of a mobile audience—and their fingers and thumbs. Designing a handheld device that works by touch is entirely different from designing any other kind of software interface. Experienced designers and newcomers alike will uncover the shifts in mindset and technique required to craft a great app.
You’ll still dive deep into the nitty-gritty of iPhone interface elements. This book explains the hows and whys of every button, toolbar, and gee-whiz gizmo. But it does so from the human perspective of what people want, expect, and need from your app. Throughout, you’ll find design concepts explained in the context of familiar physical objects and real-world examples. Humane explanations for creating humane software.
All of this means that this book isn’t (only) for geeks. It’s for everyone involved in the app design process—designers, programmers, managers, marketers, clients—as well as smitten iPhone enthusiasts who are just curious about what makes this thing tick. Equip yourself to ask the right questions (and find the right answers) to make aesthetic, technical, and usability decisions that will make your app a pleasure to use. The book’s aim is to establish a common vocabulary that helps geeks and civilians speak in the same tongue about the goals and mechanics of great apps. This mission is simple enough: when everyone around the table understands the ingredients of tapworthy apps, more apps will be tapworthy.
Advice from the Real World
Great apps seem effortless, and the best make it seem as if the design process came fast and easy. That’s rarely true. No matter how sensational the designer or developer, designing a great app takes hard work and careful consideration. Throughout this book, you’ll find interviews with iPhone superstars who each share their process, breakthroughs, and misfires. You’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at the making of popular apps including Facebook, Twitterrific, USA Today, Things, and others. Early sketches and design mockups show how these apps evolved from concept to polished design—and not always in a straight line.
Looking over the shoulders of the best in the industry cemented the principles described in this book. These apps show how careful attention to both style and substance yields interfaces that are functional and easy to use, sure, but also creates user experiences that are in some way intimately personal. When did anyone ever say that about software? We are in a new era of the oh-so-personal computer, and that means we all have to think about software differently.
“We need an iPhone app.” Yes, you do, but more specifically, you need a tapworthy app. Designing one begins with understanding exactly how and why people use their iPhones in the first place. That’s where this book begins, too.