Interview: The Importance of Non-Text Elements in Apps
We recently had a great conversation with the folks at Glance. We’re sharing that chat here for your enjoyment.
Think about your favourite app. Is it informative? More importantly, how is it informative? Is it bogged down with text, or does it offer visuals to help you understand what it does and what it’s about?
Gray Skinner and Levi Nunnink, the CEO and CTO at Droplr, say it’s the non-text elements that really leave an impression when it comes to apps.
Why are non-text elements important to apps?
Non-text elements are just as important to apps as they are in the real world. A picture is worth a thousand words. There is an essential economy of communication that happens when we can “show” users something instead of “telling” them. This has been very apparent as app interactions have evolved over the years. At first, everything was tapping text buttons; now, it’s swipe, pinch, 3D touch, etc. Innovation is only going to continue.
What other elements do you look for in app creation?
Adherence to conventions: One way that an app can rise above the glut of competing apps is to pay close attention to the standards of the platform. For small teams, this means not taking a “one-size-fits-all” approach to app development, but rather taking the time to truly understand how the best apps behave on each platform they’re developing for. Even big teams can fall prey to this approach. One of the reasons I hate Google’s apps is that they don’t feel like something that belongs on an iPhone; and they have unfamiliar conventions and interactions that make using them a frustrating experience.
Attention to competition and leaders: Download tons of apps. See what they’re accomplishing on the platform. See how they’re doing it. You’ll come away inspired.
User rewards: Don’t take them on a five-page feature tour. Don’t ask for their email before they know what your app does. Figure out a way to give them a quick taste of what your app can do for them before you ask for anything in return. The quicker you can give them something, the more likely they will stick around and get to know more about your service.
Know your distribution channel: One of the key factors in a successful app is that you know how to market. For example, if you’re building an app for the iOS App Store, you need to have beautiful, properly-formatted screenshots, good keywords, and a good description. Don’t build a great app that fails because you didn’t take the time to market it correctly.
How has the importance of user friendliness/ease of use increased over time?
This is something we live and breathe. No doubt, there is a competitive advantage to being first to market, but history has proven that the service that puts the user first wins. There’s always the pressure to be all things to all people and to continue adding on feature after feature. This is something we consciously resist. We’d rather be the best at one thing than mediocre at many things.
What is some of the best feedback you have received?
Some of our best feedback has been simply that we build great products. With a great and stable product, the business side of the equation is a lot easier. We pride ourselves on having built a best-in-class product that has become very popular and successful primarily on the strength of its ease of use, utility, and design.
Visit Glance’s blog for more excellent articles on app development and design.