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An App Entrepreneur’s Guide to Mobile UX and UI Design

A User Interface is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it’s not that good. 

Looking to create a successful mobile app? If so, then creating a great mobile user experience should be your number one priority.

When it comes to implementing a great user experience, it’s often difficult to grasp the difference in the User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) design processes involved.

The concepts are often used interchangeably as they work closely together. But when it comes to the design disciplines involved, they refer to very different specialties in mobile app development.

Related: Here’s a Quick Way to Design Your Very First Mobile App

In this article, we look at the importance and differences of UX and UI design for your mobile app.

 

Melbourne App Developers

The diagram above is a great starting point for defining the high-level differences between UX and UI design. Source: Medium

 

What is User Experience Design?

At Launchpad App Development, our User Experience Designers outline the end-to-end experience that users engage with when using a mobile application or website. As the Product Manager for an array of mobile apps, I’ve come to notice that the UX process is a science.

How information is laid out from screen-to-screen and how end users interact with it is ultimately the result of the UX Designer working closely with entrepreneurs and businesses. They collaborate to define and plan business goals that make sense for the consumers who will ultimately use the specific app features.

As effective UX Designer is mainly focused on an app user being able to complete a certain task. Through research, wireframing, prototyping and user testing, the UX process ensures the user can ‘do a certain thing’ established through certain business goals in an intuitive and seamless manner.

By the time an app’s user experience has been created, the UX design process has included countless hours defining the business goals, prototyping the mobile experience and fitting it in the operating system (E.g. iPhone and iPad Apps) so that the experience is built and integrated with existing navigational flows.

They know the best practices that will lead to the most seamless experience for a user from how to layout an entire screen (big picture) to the intricate details (small picture). An example of this may be when to use a dropdown box rather than a text input field, segmenting button types (primary, secondary and tertiary), the app onboarding experience, and much more.

Related: What do Successful Apps have in common? These 7 Essential Onboarding Strategies!

As such, a UX Designer needs to ensure that an app logically flows from step-to-step. In other words, their core responsibility is to build an experience that feels intuitive and right for the user. An app is intuitive when the user can go through screens without have to think about what they are doing.

Like a scientist, the shared set of known basic UX Design principles have been established through trial and error when producing a desired outcome. Therefore, a UX Designer needs to find the solution to a problem as quickly as possible from a list of potential paths that lead to the same result. A UX Designer is like a doctor – he or she can prescribe a number of different types of medicine to cure your cold, but based on their knowledge about you, they choose which one most suitable to reach a desired outcome for you.

 

What is User Interface Design?

As previously noted, User Interface Design involves taking the output from the User Experience Design and turning it into an art. The UX process defines what a user does on a page or within the navigational flow of an app. On the other hand, the UI process defines how that page/flow looks and feels.

UI Design is an art form because it focuses on all the aspects that make a mobile app beautiful and fun to use: graphics, colours, animation, typography, button styling, gesture-based navigation tools etc. The UI components on any given screen come together to provide the overall aesthetic feel for any given mobile app.

App Development Australia

The iPhone’s gesture-based navigation tools. Source: The 4 Characteristics of Successful App Startups

 

In an article about the distinctions between UX and UI design, Dain Miller captures the essence of great UI Designers. They design for emotion.

A UI Designer takes wireframes and prototypes to a completely new level by making sure that users feel in their element when navigating a mobile app. It’s not just a mix of flat and material designs coupled with some pretty pictures. The UI Designer is building a state of mind where the user feels 100% comfortable and confident with the mobile app.

For example, the UX Designer may outline that tapping a button directs a user to another page. The UI Designer takes this information to create a visual signal to the user that they are being directed to another page. This happens through the button changing colour to signal the next page is loading.

This is why we consider UI to be an art form. It’s not just about building overall visuals that put mobile users at ease when using an app. A great UI Designer considers every single interaction to provide those small, yet critical cues that visually signal a very simple and pleasant message to the user: “You’re doing great, you’re on the right track, keep going.”

 iPhone App Development

UX Designer vs UI Designer. Source: UX Motel

 

The Difference Between UX and UI Design

The image below presents the most common difference in the outputs of UX and UI Designers. The one to the left is part of a UX wireframe done on Lucidchart. It’s predominantly black and white with a simple layout of the elements to be featured on the screen. On the right side is a Photoshop version of the Life Pulse Android Wear App produced by the designer.

Android App Development

 

In Career Foundry’s guide to UX and UI designers, the expected deliverables for each role were summarised as follows:

Australian App Developer

 

One of the deliverables to note from the list above is the wireframe. The wireframe creation includes a variety of conditions that are triggered by different elements throughout the app. In my experience, creating wireframes often feature a long list of conditions the developers must follow during the coding process. For instance, tapping on the X button directs me to the Y page. The UX Designer is responsible for calling out all these specific details.

When it comes to the UI Designer, they are responsible for redlining each app screen they create. Each redline provides intricate detail into the typography, padding, graphics etc. it refers to. Essentially, all elements on an app screen are specified by pixels to ensure the front end is implemented correctly.

So why do great UI Designers undertake such a time-consuming task when creating a mobile user experience? Well, as the late Steve Jobs so succinctly put it: “Details matter, it’s worth waiting to get it right.”

 

Key Takeaways

We focused on the main differences between UX and UI Design when it comes to mobile apps. While both processes cover different areas of expertise with many sub-specialties, there is a great degree of fluidity between them.

A mobile app that looks great but is difficult to use is an example of good UI and poor UX. But an app that is usable but looks horrible has a great UX process and not-so-great UI.

The right UX and UI processes should be your first priority to create market-leading user experience for your mobile app.

What do you think makes a great mobile user experience? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Ready to design a successful mobile app? Contact us for a free 1-hour discovery session and take the next step today.

 

Australian App Developers

 

 

5 Reasons App Development Should Be Your #1 Business Strategy

Are you caught up in the thought that only corporations with an abundance of financial backing need to create an app? Think again. In this post, we outline five reasons why all businesses, big and small, should make Mobile App Development a top priority in 2016.

A 2008 study by Deloitte Mobile Consumer Survey found that 69% of users only used their mobiles for voice calling and SMS. In 2014, the same survey found that 7% of users only made use of their mobile for voice calling and SMS. Why is there a huge change in just six years?

Thanks to the rise of the smartphone we can now be connected to the Internet at all times. The way we make use of this connection on our phones is through mobile apps.

81% of Australians now own a smartphone with mobile apps playing a key role in how we go about our daily lives. Mobile apps can help us do chores and order food all with a few clicks on my phone.

But it’s not just smartphone users who can benefit from apps. Businesses can too.

Many businesses still prioritise the desktop/laptop experience for customers over mobile. However, mobile Internet access has overtaken desktop in 2014. with 21% of users now only accessing the net via their mobile devices.

That’s where the benefit lies for businesses. Having a mobile app that is beneficial for customers and a potential revenue generator must become a top priority for any business to consider, from local start-ups to multinational corporations.

Here are five reasons why your business must have a Mobile App Development strategy.

 

1. Internet use is occurring more on Mobile than Desktop – You need a mobile strategy to not miss out on this audience.

Desktop is dead! Long live mobile! While it might not be quite that bleak, it’s not far away from being reality. Mobile is now king when it comes to how users make use of the Internet.

Your customers are waking up to social media notifications on their mobile, looking at their emails over breakfast and making use weather apps to check if they need an umbrella – all just a few moments before leaving for work. You’re probably even reading this blog on your mobile right now.

Take a moment to look around at your fellow commuters the next time you walk onto a train. I’m betting you’ll see that their eyes are glued to their phones. Soon your eyes will be entrenched on your phone too. The point is, people spend a tonne of time on their mobile phones and they are now truly intrinsic to our everyday lives.

But what does that mean for your business?

Firstly, there is a large audience out there, whose daily Internet use is done largely through mobile apps, which your business is missing out on. And let’s not forget that 21% of users who exclusively access the Internet via their mobile.

Secondly, having a web presence is simply no longer good enough for small to medium size businesses. Many businesses are still creating and relying on websites, without the knowledge that developing a mobile app would be far more efficient and effective at targeting a mobile app-driven market.

Thirdly, and most importantly, it means that there is now an opportunity. Opportunity for your business to develop a mobile strategy that will help market your product to a large audience that is yet to be reached by your competitors and will only become more mobile-focused for years to come.

Long live mobile apps!

 

2. Mobile notifications allow you to connect with customers 24/7, 365 days a year.

Does your business struggle to bring in new customers or reconnect with old ones? This is a problem for businesses worldwide as traditional forms of advertising are becoming less effective.

But with strategic mobile notifications, connecting with customers is easier and more effective than ever before.

Before mobile, traditional forms of customer engagement included flyers, catalogues and emails. They are still used today, but the fact is that mobile notifications are the most efficient method of connecting with customers. Mobile notifications are also more effective at capturing and engaging users too.

Customers can so easily put down a catalogue or just delete an email. Not to mention the fact that you constantly have to produce new and engaging content for these forms of advertising.

How about that email marketing campaign you’re running? According to Smart Insights, it’s only getting a click thru rate of 3% to your website from recipients. In comparison, check out the infographic below to see how effective mobile notifications are.

Melbourne App Development

Your eyes are not deceiving you – mobile app notifications really do get an incredible 6% Click Thru Rate across all industries. Source: Accengage

Mobile app notifications have a click thru rate of 6%. That’s twice as effective as that email marketing campaign you’re spending so much time and money on.

With mobile notifications, there are constant alerts and interaction between your business and its customers in real time – 24/7, 365 days a year.

You can nudge your customers to do something, remind them of an upcoming service or even provide offers exclusive to mobile users. The options are endless when it comes to using mobile notifications.

Mobile notifications are here, they’re effective and are ready to be used on your potential app. So what are you waiting for?

 

3. Apps have customer’s full attention and improve customer engagement.

15.3 million Australians own a smartphone, but just how engaged are we with them? I called out my fellow commuters for being engrossed in their phones but I have the evidence to back it up.

Below is a table displaying how much time a month users are spending on their mobiles and how they use them. You might be surprised by the amount.

App Development Australia

Source: Nielsen

That’s 36 hours a month spent on smartphones, with users spending 33 hours of that time on mobile apps.

Further analysis by Deloitte found that Australians look at their smartphone more than 30 times a day on average, with all our daily views combined making a total of 440 million views a day.

What if Australians were spending some of those 33 hours or 440 million views on your business’s mobile app? With the right app, this possibility can easily become a reality.

While it’s clear that mobile apps have our attention, it’s important to understand why certain apps have our attention and how they improve customer engagement.

The great thing about an app is that your customer is locked into your app while using it. They can’t just open up another tab or look up something else, like they can on a desktop or laptop.

Once customers are using an app, the best ones keep them engaged enough to understand the value of the app, without the desire to search for an alternative.

You can keep users engaged with your app in a number of ways.

Apps that provide value to customers are always the biggest engagement winners. Whether it’s having a mobile store that provides a streamlined shopping experience or a loyalty system that incentivises ongoing purchases, provide value to app users will keep them returning for that same value again and again.

Remember that dinner reservation I mentioned before? It was done in a few easy clicks and without that loud, tedious phone call to the busy restaurant. Now that’s value right there.

Mobile notifications keep your customers engaged and help to reconnect with users. They are attention grabbing and remind customers of your products/services in a more personalised and strategic manner.

My personal favourite are in-app rewards. The offer of a small reward, eg. 10% off for ordering through an app, is another highly effective method to keep customers engaged.

At the end of it all, creating more interesting and sophisticated apps that provide the customer with real value will command the attention of users, keep them using your app and generate revenue for your business.

 

4. Mobile apps can be personalised for each user, creating a better user experience.

No two people are the same. So why give everybody the same experience? With apps, you can personalise the customer experience, generate a loyal user base and, ultimately, provide a better performing app.

Again, we bring it back to making the customers life better or easier. If the app is more tailored to the user, then it’s easier for them to perceive the benefits it provides.

A major hurdle in personalisation is the log in process. Customers have to log into a website every time they come back to use it. If you’re anything like me, you’ve got better things to do than continuously log back into websites.

With a mobile app, your customers only need to log in once to access their account and make use of the app. The best form of log in is through a social network (E.g. Facebook) as this provides your app with rich user data to aid the personalisation process.

A personalised app can use data to understand details about your customer. You can find out likes/dislikes, where they are using your app and time spent in the app.  Additionally, you can gain personal information, such as birthdays and gender. Your app continuously responds to this information and creates a constant personalised experience for the user.

There are no limits for how personalised an app can be to each user.

You can even use personalisation as a marketing engagement tool. Mobile notifications can be personalised to each user to increase click thru rate and create cost-effective mobile marketing campaigns.

When investing in a mobile app for your business, make sure your app provides a personalised user experience.

 

5. Stand out from the competition.

Mobile app development gives your business the opportunity to stand out in your industry and gain the competitive edge.

More small business owners are recognising the response digital media advertising garners from consumers and are keen on making use of that strong response. Instagram advertising is being embraced by small businesses, but soon too will mobile app development.

Mobile apps at small business level are still rare, but by being the first to adopt a mobile app strategy, your business can stand out from the competition and validate your brand to its customers.

A great app also helps businesses differentiate themselves from competitors. If your business offers a great service and an enticing app that provides real value, then customers will flock to your business in droves.

Ultimately, having your own app means that your business will be a step ahead of its competitors and be perceived as a forward-thinking business in your industry. That’s the power great mobile apps have.

Look at Netflix. The DVD-by-mail business was failing badly in 2011 and looked in dire straits. However, the company embraced mobile apps, which led them to be an iconic company. They have also dominated the DVD and online video industry, which made Blockbuster go bankrupt.

Mobile App Developers

Netflix subscription rates have increased significantly since the introduction of its mobile apps. Source: Daily Tech

I’m not saying that you need an app to bankrupt your competitors, but I’m sure that you would like a way for your business to one-up the competition.

This is all possible with your own app. Embrace the idea and be ready to stand out.

 

Key Takeaways

Mobile apps are the future of how we use the Internet and connect with customers in the online world.

There should always be a place for desktop in business strategy, but with mobile apps taking on greater relevance in our lives, your business must have a mobile app strategy to remain relevant in today’s ever connected digital world.

Being an early adopter of a mobile app strategy helps your business stand out competition and open up opportunities.

Remember – there’s nothing holding back your competitors from developing an app of their own. Nothing should be holding you back either.

Do you have any other reasons why businesses should adopt a mobile app strategy? Feel free to leave us a comment below.

12 Effective Channels for Marketing Your Mobile App

An effective app marketing strategy requires a blend of traditional and new channels to attract users and generate revenue. In this post, we share the 12 best marketing channels to optimise your app’s user acquisition and retention strategies.

In 2008, the Apple App Store was launched with only 500 apps. With the App Store came a new marketplace to create mobile experiences that transcended entrepreneurship, industry and international distribution boundaries.

In the eight years since then, the pursuit of app store supremacy has led businesses and entrepreneurs towards a variety of mobile app marketing and distribution channels that continue to be shaken up by the latest technological innovations and social trends.

Related: The Biggest Mobile App Trends You Can Expect In 2017

In my role as a Product Manager since 2012, I’ve seen mobile app marketing change a lot, but one thing has remained constant all these years: To the victor go the spoils.

Taking advantage of the marketing channels available to you is the key to increasing the performance, popularity and profitability of your mobile app. To help your app thrive in the evolving business of mobile marketing, these are the 12 most effective marketing channels to use when launching a new mobile app.

 

1. App Store Optimisation

App Store Optimisation (ASO) is the process of increasing a mobile app’s ranking in an app store’s search results. The purpose of ASO is to drive more traffic to your app’s page on the App Store or Google Play, so browsers can discover and download your app.

With 63% of apps being discovered through app store searches, you need to be well versed in the various elements that influence an app’s ranking, including the use of keywords and a high-converting sequence of screenshots.

However, there is more to ASO than just the content on your app’s landing page. To maximise your conversion rates for the lowest user acquisition cost possible, you should also be measuring the page ratings and reviews your app receives from consumers.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to App Store Optimisation

 

2. Ratings & Reviews

At the core of mobile app marketing are the app store ratings and reviews provided by potential customers that directly influence your app’s assurance of quality. As Zomato reviews can make or break a local restaurant, a slight change in your app’s rating can have a dramatic effect on it’s app store ranking and, in turn, the downloads and revenue it generates.

A 2015 Consumer Survey on App Store ratings found that increasing the average rating of your app by just one star (E.g. from a 3.0 to a 4.0) can nearly double your expected downloads. Reviews are just as vital with approximately one-third of browsers reading at least seven reviews before purchasing a paid app.

App Developers Australia

In a survey of 350 smartphone users in the US, approximately 60% of respondents said that they check ratings before downloading an app.

 

3. Engaging Content

If ratings and reviews are at the core of app marketing, in-app content is the key ingredient to the growth and sustainability of your app. This channel is one of the few listed here that affects every tier in an app’s growth funnel.

Benefiting user acquisition and retention in particular, engaging content is essential to your app’s long-term viability. With 60% of mobile customers getting bored with an app after using it for a month, it’s vital that you offer something original and fresh every time they open your app.

Related: 7 Onboarding Strategies to Increase Your App’s Retention Rate by 50%

Furthermore, new content via frequent app updates plays a crucial role in user acquisition. Recent updates communicate quality assurance and continued developer maintenance to your customers, while trends over time (E.g. An increased app rating following a content update) directly influence an app’s boost in store ranks.

 

4. Paid Advertising

Similar to search engine marketing (E.g. Pay-Per-Click advertising via Google Adwords), paid advertising of your mobile app is a way to quickly reach a targeted audience and secure app downloads.

There is a variety marketing channels available for paid app marketing, from the app stores, to social media and even within other apps. While this marketing strategy is commonplace in digital marketing, incentivised Cost Per Install (CPI) and retargeting is still unique in the app marketplace.

Incentivised CPI relies more so on the strategic partnership between two apps rather than the app stores as an intermediary. In this shared monetisation model, one app ‘incentivises’ users to download the other publisher’s app (E.g. A mobile game may offer in-app currency if the user downloads a specified app). In return, the publisher who receives the download pays a small commission to the referring publisher.

App retargeting is a strategy to increase user retention by targeting your ads towards users who have already downloaded these apps. These ads provide a non-intrusive method to alerting current users of newly available updates and features, or simply reminding fleeting users of your app offering.

 

5. Loyalty Programs

The purpose of an app loyalty program is to convert casual users into highly active and profitable advocates. In the app marketplace, these programs are often implemented as:

  • Reward systems – E.g. A discount offer on a customer’s next purchase following a recent transaction.
  • Gaming achievements – E.g. Unlocking a new level after sharing your gameplay on Facebook.
  • A mix of mobile and traditional marketing channels where customers can earn loyalty rewards to obtain in-app incentives.

In 2015, coffee chain Starbucks saw a 7% jump in global store sales thanks in part to the My Starbucks Rewards program. Starbucks CEO and mobile loyalty innovator Howard Schultz said the growth of the company’s loyalty program “continues to be our most important business driver as new members contribute not only short-term increases in revenue and profit, but also to long-term loyalty for years to come.”

 Mobile App Development Melbourne

The My Starbucks Rewards program gives customers free drink or food rewards based on the number of stars earned. There are three levels —welcome, green and gold—with increasingly greater rewards.

 

6. Usability & Visual Design

A continuous collaborative effort between an app’s designers, developers and marketers, this channel is all about the interaction between your app and it’s users. As we covered in a previous post, providing a useful app product that’s simple and intuitive to use is essential to a business’s long-term success. Your aim should be to reduce the learning curve for the users and make navigation more intuitive.

This marketing channel is particularly important for user retention. A Search Engine Watch survey found that 71% of users delete apps after they crash. Furthermore, a survey conducted by Appiterate found that:

  • 71% of users will delete apps after they crash.
  • 42% of people uninstall an app due to a bad user interface.
  • 68% of users delete an app because of a poorly designed registration process.

To alleviate these threats to user retention, an understanding of both design principles and user behaviour is integral to an app’s market sustainability. Remember, success is by design, not by chance.

 

7. Personalised Messaging

App personalisation, the ability to automate a unique experience for every user based on their preferences and behaviour, is the ultimate goal for app marketers. The logic here is simple: personalised experiences = better experiences = valuable and loyal users.

Personailised messaging is a form of one-to-one marketing where we can integrate everything we know about a user’s likes and dislikes into the mobile app experience. As part of our Rocketfuel Workshop, we user persona models and user stories to design a product strategy that drives customer adoption and retention.

Do you know the birthdays of your app users? Send them personalised messages with in-app incentives via push notifications.

As push messages become one of the primary entry points for users interacting with an app, being able to seamlessly transition from a text message to a relevant, personalised page provides a tailored in-app experience for each individual end user.

 

8. Word of Mouth

Having already touched on two methods of Word of Mouth (WOM) marketing in previous listed channels – app store ratings and reviews, and reward program incentives – we’ll add another to the list: Making your app easy to share.

To do so, build in social sharing functionality (E.g. ‘Share to Facebook’) and social integration (E.g. The ability to access a device’s address book to send an automated SMS message with an app store link) to your app offering. Ultimately, however, referrals come down to creating an app that users not only love, but also love to talk about.

 

9. Social Media

Social media is an essential marketing channel to facilitate two-way communicating between you and your app users. The social media platforms available for app marketing allow for varying degrees of discoverability. This is influenced by how much the user experience or app product favours recency or permanence, which can be visualised by the following Social Longevity Spectrum.

iPhone App Development Melbourne

Social Longevity Spectrum. Source: Honigman Media

Where platforms like Twitter and Instagram place much more of an emphasis on being up to the minute, content posted on Pinterest and Google+ have more potential to be discovered long after they have been shared.

You can promote your app on any of these social media platforms in the same way you would a website or business with one important exception: mobile-specified paid promotion. Facebook’s App Install Ads, Twitter’s App Cards and Pinterest’s App Pins are all geared towards mobile advertising. If your budget allows, these paid promotion channels provide are a great way to reach your target audience.

 

10. Blogs & Multimedia

When it comes to marketing your app, content marketing through blog writing is one of the most effective methods to position yourself as an industry expert and spread the word about your app. Adding a blogging strategy to your marketing mix will allow you to reach new audiences and boost organic traffic through search engine optimisation.

Another highly recommended medium for app marketing is video. A well-produced promotional video or app demo will help to communicate the value of your app and it’s unique features using basic audio and animations.  It will convert visitors of your app’s website and social media pages into users by visually showcasing the app and letting viewers make a buying decision in seconds.

 

11. Internet Forums & Social Bookmarking

We commented earlier on the effectiveness of social media advertising to get your app in front of a specified target audience. Internet forums and virtual communities are just as effective for the very same reason. As a no-cost alternative to paid advertising, online forums allow you to communicate directly with your target market.

Whether you’re creating a social network app or the next mobile gaming sensation, there’s bound to be a community out there full of potential app users.

Just be sure to follow the community’s code of conduct or recognised rules to avoid having your marketing efforts appear spammy or overly promotional, both of which may do more harm than good for your app.

 

12. Press and Influencer Outreach

To ‘go viral’ means that your online content resonates so much that it ends up being the latest big thing across the Internet. It is when your content gets liked, commented, retweeted, and talked about from the streets of Melbourne to Silicon Valley.

When it comes to apps, look no further than ride-sharing juggernaut Uber for an example of top-notch viral marketing. The enormously popular #UberIceCream PR campaign is where the company uses its fleet of cars to provide an on-demand ice cream delivery service in major metropolitan areas across 57 countries. The campaign led to coverage by major media outlets around the world and a frenzy of social media activity.

 Melbourne App Developers

The Uber-effective #UberIceCream campaign.

Unfortunately, we don’t all have Uber’s resources, but that doesn’t mean you can’t generate buzz for your app. To influentially announce yourself and grab the attention of potential users, take a grassroots approach to going viral. Reach out to your connections, key influencers, bloggers, and social media personalities in your app’s category to leverage their personal brands to promote your app.

When it comes to app press, there’s no bigger channel for distribution than being featured by Apple or Google in the respective app stores. Both companies frequently review apps and prominently display their top endorsements in their app stores—a feat that instantly and dramatically drives downloads for these lucky apps. Apple and Google want to show off what app entrepreneurs can do with their operating systems, so to improve your app’s chances of being featured, focus on the app’s design, usability and performance.

 

Before marketing your app…

And there you have it—the 12 best app marketing channels to help you drive market awareness and user adoption of your app towards a superior and sustainable market position

With the right research methodologies and strategies to map every step in the user’s journey, mobile app marketing should be seen as something all businesses and entrepreneurs can get behind: A measurable, results-driven extension to the traditional ways of promoting a product or service.

What other marketing channels should we consider for promoting an app? Let us know in the comments section below.

If you’re ready to launch a successful app startup, get in touch for a free 1-hour discovery session with one of our App Experts to help you take the next step with your app.

 

Australian App Developers

 

The Blueprint to Designing Your App Icon

As the visual anchor for your app, you need to nail the icon design at the beginning. In this post, we discuss the best practices to creating a memorable and unique icon that entices app store browsers to download your app.

Uber may only be 6 years old, but that didn’t stop the $85 billion company from recently rolling out a redesign for its entire brand. In doing so, Uber completely changed its highly recognisable monochrome U-shaped icon into something that looks like:

a) A backwards ‘C’

b) An evil Pac-Man

c) It’s forever updating

d) All of the above

So what was Uber’s rationale for the new icon design?

The square is meant to represent the bit — a nod to Uber’s technology. The colours and patterns being introduced to the branding represent the atom — the people and things that Uber transports and the places where it operates.” 

Travis Kalanik, CEO of Uber

That sounds kind of cool and interesting, but Uber’s previous icon had imprinted itself in the minds of budget-conscious travellers everywhere. So why would the transport unicorn completely drop its familiar ‘U’ for a non-distinct shape?

Armin Vit opines for Brand New: “Let’s assume that it’s a matter of being used to poking an app icon for the last six years and that we just need to get used to poking at this new one. Even then, it seems like this is an icon for something else altogether.”

Uber App Icon

Uber’s new icon eating it’s way through the transportation industry.

An app icon is the one, singular piece of graphic design that users will interact with first each time they see your product. A great app icon becomes synonymous with what the app enables users to do and how it makes them feel.

So you’ve validated your app concept and now need to design an identifiable and unique app icon. But what exactly makes a great app icon?

We’ve put together an essential guide to designing an app icon that screams ‘Install ME!’… Without the unnecessary redesign 6 years later.

Scalability – Big or Small, the Icon Needs to Look Good

Your icon is going to be shown on a variety of screens, and in a variety of sizes, so it’s important your creation maintains legibility. It needs to look good on the App Store, on Retina devices and even as a favicon for the app’s promotional website.

One Minute Closer App Icon

An app icon needs to work at multiple resolutions retaining the legibility of the concept across the range of sizes. Source: One Minute Closer

When designing your app icon, consider the following scaling tips from App Icon Template:

  • Design and test the icon in multiple contexts and sizes.
  • Think simple and focus on a single shape or element.
  • Your icon should retain its recognisability when scaled.

As for software applications that let you design with this scalability, we recommend the use of Adobe Photoshop. If this is your first attempt at creating an icon, working with a free Photoshop template from AppIconTemplate.com is probably the best approach.

Simplicity – Clearly Convey What Your App Does

You have a confined 57×57 pixel space for your app icon. This is the first thing that browsers see when searching on the Apple App Store and Google Play. Do these potential users a favour by having your icon clearly convey what your app does.

You can’t always rely on users tapping your app to view it’s optimised screenshots on the preview page. Your icon should stand on it’s own.

App Analytics company App Annie provide the following rules of thumb to keeping your icon simple:

  • The most effective icons have a simple design and clear message.
  • Make sure the icon represents the core brand values of your app. This could be the app’s primary function, such as Gmail’s use of a letter or a gaming app using the main character.
  • The colours used in the icon should pop while still reflecting the in-app colour scheme.

Applying these rules of thumb will greatly assist in highlighting your app’s unique selling point.

Uniqueness – Stand Out in the Crowd

Let’s consider a user who downloads your app, closes their iPhone and then opens their menu screen later on. On a smartphone that’s already filled with apps, what is it about yours that is going to grab the user’s attention and stand out from the crowd? It’s an app icon that’s instantly recognisable and unique.

App Store Productivity Apps

It seems that uniqueness doesn’t enter the design process for Productivity apps. Source: idApostle

When attempting to create a unique icon, focus on a shape or object that stands out. Consider Snapchat’s ghost. The icon both sticks out and highlights the app’s unique selling point of ‘poof-it’s gone’ snaps.

Also consider choosing colours that contrast and pop, as this is often an overlooked way of positioning an app. Spotify does this well by pairing green with a starkly contrasting black. When a user browses the App Store for a music streaming service, these colour choices are what help Spotify stand out from competing apps.

Avoid Text – The App’s Name Often Accompanies the Icon

Words and images are separate representational tools. Combining them in what is supposed to be a visual representation often leads to a cluttered and unfocused experience that is difficult to decode. As such, you should avoid using copy or text in your app icon.

‘But this blog started with a Kanye-like rant about how Uber’s rebranding from a ‘U’ text icon to an unrecognisable shape was a mistake’, I hear you say.

Well first of all, I think we can all agree that this blog’s introduction made more sense than any rambling tweet from Kanye West.

Secondly, if you’re using a singe letter and validate it as a suitable fit, then the letter avoids being ‘wordy’ and becomes iconic by itself. However, this is more often the exception than the rule.

Your app’s name will be written next to the icon on the app stores and smartphone menu screens. Therefore, using text – especially if it’s your app’s name – is redundant.

Before designing your app icon…

An app’s icon is highly influential for standing out on the app store and engaging potential users with your product. Make sure that it’s scalable, simple, unique and visually conveys the app’s core value.

Along with the product strategy you plan to implement, nailing the icon design will put you on the right path towards a successful launch into the market.

Do you have any tools and tips for designing an app icon? We’d love to hear about them.

An App Entrepreneur’s Guide to Instagram Advertising

Instagram reached two important milestones in 2015. Neither of them had anything to do with Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber. Firstly, Instagram surpassed Twitter to become the second biggest social media platform in the world, after its parent company Facebook. Secondly, and most importantly for this blog topic, Instagram activated its advertising API for marketers to use in their advertising collateral. Read on to find out how Instagram ads can help get your app more downloads in 2016.

As we have stated in one of our previous blogs, businesses are moving away from traditional advertising channels and taking advantage of social media’s powerful influence on society. Instagram is following Facebook’s lead on advertising and now allowing small businesses, as well as large companies, to advertise within the app. We have seen the benefits of Facebook advertising for small businesses but can Instagram Advertising have the same effect?

According to eMarketer, Instagram’s global mobile ad revenues will reach $2.81 billion by 2017. This will account for over 10% of parent company Facebook’s global ad revenues, surpassing Twitter and Google’s ad revenues altogether. This indicates that Instagram will quickly become a leading platform for advertising. As a rsult, early adopting businesses will reap the rewards of using the Instagram app for mobile marketing.

Instagram Mobile Marketing

Instagram’s Ad revenue is set to surpass Google and Twitter by 2017. Source: eMarketer

But how will Instagram ads be different from what’s in our feed’s now?

Previously, Instagram ads were targeted based on country, gender and age. Now Instagram will use an algorithm, which incorporates data from users Facebook profiles and Facebook ad buys, to make their advertisements more relevant but without a huge increase of ads on the average feed. This means that advertisements are going to be more effective as the relevant people are going to be reached.

So you’re an app entrepreneur that wants to make use of Instagram advertising, but want to understand the science behind what makes an Instagram ad effective. Here’s our top 5 tips and tools to creating adverts that are #instagood.

1. Learn About The Different Forms of Advertisements On Instagram.

Instagram advertising has evolved quickly in the past year. There is now an array of options that you can apply for your Instagram advertising campaign. Lets look at them below:

Photo Ads

Photo ads are what users see the most in their Instagram feeds. They use high quality visual imagery to deliver your message and engage viewers. They are simple but extremely effective in reaching target markets and creating brand awareness. All these ads have a small ‘Sponsored’ icon in the top right corner to distinguish themselves from regular Instagram posts.

Video Ads

Video ads allow up to 30 seconds of creative video, including sound, to entice your viewer. The use of short video advertisements is rising and the benefits of video advertising are there for all marketers to see. However, it’s important to use engaging visual imagery to capture the viewer’s attention and not rely solely on sound to deliver your message, as the ad must be clicked on to for sound to be heard.

Carousel Ads

Carousel ads are Instagram’s newest advertisement feature. You can advertise your app using a number of different images in the same advertisement. Swipe right and the viewer see’s another image, with a different message or call to action. Swipe right again and they see another image. Carousel ads are strong performing and flexible, allowing you to use a number of different images and call to actions.

Instagrams Advertisements

The three Instagram advertising formats. Source: Instagram Business.

 

2. Get Your Advertisement Design Right.

The design element of your advertisement is crucial to the overall success of your advertisement. Unfortunately, just posting up an image of your product that hasn’t been given much thought will not get the desired response you are after. I’ve outlined some key steps to follow when designing your advertisements.

  1. Create a focal point in your image, which will engage the viewer and capture their attention.
  2. Make use of the rule of thirds and symmetry in your advertisements. Rarely place your focal point in the centre of the image.
  3. Use your logo subtly, not as the focal point, as it becomes a distraction and takes away from the content of your advertisement.
  4. When using text, utilise it to compliment the focal point and make the same fonts, one or two max, consistent across all of your posts. Only 20% of your image can be made up of text.
  5. The use of colour and contrast is key to creating a strong image. Use a plain background to help your focal point colour shine and make the image pop. When using a coloured background, contrast this with a white coloured focal point or text.
  6. Be consistent with your brand advertisement look. Your different advertisements should have a consistent look, whether it is similar compositions, use of fonts and colours or place of logo. This makes your brand recognisable and distinguishable to customers from other content.

3. Make Your Advertisements Look Native.

Making your advertisement look native doesn’t mean you need to have images of people from the depths of the African jungle in your ad. What I mean by native is making your advertisement blend in so it appears as though it isn’t even an advertisement.

You want your advertisement to look like any other Instagram post that might pop up on the average newsfeed. This means that you are not ruining the users overall Instagram feed by spamming them with obvious advertisements, much to the chagrin of many users (myself included!) and creating negativity around your app.

Instagram Ad Post

The Sprint ‘post’ to the left is clearly an ad, while the post to the right looks like a normal Instagram post. Source: The Verge

 

4. Use calls-to-action

Before Instagram allowed advertising, the only way to create traffic to your website was through putting a link to your website in your bio. Instagram was great for promoting brand awareness, but for directing users to a buy now page or prompting them to download your app? Not so much.

With the new advertising API release, Instagram has created Calls-to-Action buttons for use in advertisements. You can use these calls-to-action including, Install Now, Shop Now, Sign Up, Download and Learn More.

Instagram Ads Call To Action

These calls-to-actions can do a number of different things, such as opening a shop inside of Instagram or linking the user directly to their respective App Store for download of your app. Calls-to-action are making Instagram a far more effective marketing tool and all strong app marketing campaigns going forward will make use of them.

5. Make use of relevant hashtags.

Hashtags are critical to brand promotion, audience engagement and can be used across a number of platforms. Using hashtags comes easy for most of us on Instagram, but for advertising, you need to use them strategically. When used correctly, hashtags can reward brands with a larger audience and engagement outside of their local area. There are three different forms of hashtags that businesses can make use of.

Content Hashtags

Content hashtags, such as lifestyle, event or location hashtags, can get you views and click throughs from people who are searching for or using these hashtags. Hashtags such as #mondays, #coffeefix or #melbourne are all great examples of content hashtags that can be used to great effect in advertising.

Trending Hashtags

Making use of trending hashtags allows you to potentially promote your brand out to a large-scale audience, without the need to create the hashtag yourself. Businesses use trending hashtags such as #AFLGrandFinal or #fitness to effectively promote their brand and engage with a wider audience.

Custom Brand Hashtags

You can create a hashtag for your marketing campaign and promotions. Some of the top brands across the globe use their own hashtags in their posts, which become recognisable to their brand and can then be used by other users to create a community of followers and content around the brand’s hashtag.

They can be difficult to create and maintain, but if your custom hashtag becomes popular, the brand awareness can be immense.

A great example is KitKat’s marketing campaign featuring the hashtag #mybreak. KitKat utilises the hashtag across their social media pages and many other Instagram users upload photos of their own KitKat’s along with the hashtag, creating a community of KitKat fans and a growing audience.

Your Instagram Advertising Campaign Starts Now

Instagram advertising looks pretty straightforward. But without following these key steps, you won’t get the most out of the potential it can offer.

First, decide on what ad format you will use. Next, get your advertisement design looking on point. Your advertisement shouldn’t blatantly look like an advertisement – make it look native to the Instagram newsfeed. Use relevant hash tags to promote your brand and advertisements. And don’t forget to make use of calls-to-action!

Using those tools and tips above will help you design strong advertisements on Instagram and contribute more to the overall advertising of your app.

Do you have any other tools or tips to use for advertising on Instagram? Let us know in the comments below.