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How (not) to design an app

How do I create what's in my mind on the iPad?

Well, if the title wasn’t enough, I learned the hard way about app design.  When the idea first came to me about designing an app, I knew exactly what I wanted it to do and how it should work.  After many hours working out diagrams on faxed papers and too many hours on Word making layouts, I finally had the exact app I wanted.  However, once it was launched, I realized that what I wanted wasn’t exactly the app everyone else wanted.

1. Listen to your designers and programmers

There is a big difference between a creator, designer, and programmer.  Basically my programmers said “Yes” or “OK” to everything I wanted.  The disconnect was in what I wanted and how I wanted it to look.  By being too involved with the design of the app, I didn’t allow the creativity of the actual designers to shine.  Instead of getting ideas and other insights, I got what I wanted.

2. Ask the intended users what they want

I still remember an actual conversation with my development team and it went something like this:

Them – You know Kevin, you really should allow the users to type in the app.  Some might want to type instead of just hand writing their notes.

Me – “No. This is a note taking app and when I think of note taking I think of handwriting. I don’t want to mess with typing.”

Them – “It’s not a problem to do typing.”

Me – “No. Maybe on some other app.”

Needless to say, as soon as I started getting feedback on my app my beta testers were saying, “what about typing?” Then my actual users were saying, “Good app.  Where’s the typing?”  When I started designing 2.0, I created a survey with many features and sent it out to a variety of iPad users including experts, students, lawyers, reporters, and business people.  Instead of me telling them what they want in an app, I started to listen.

3. Realize that at some point, you need to launch.

Don’t wait until you have the perfect app- it doesn’t exist. Instead, work on getting a quality product available to the public and then collect their feedback.  Let the end users tell you how they use your app.  They might start using it in ways you never even conceived. (I know a teacher that ties in a very hard lesson in physics with Angry Birds.  I’m sure that wasn’t the intended audience.”

I wish you nothing but success with your app. Hopefully you will listen and let the creative juices flow into the next “must have” app!

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