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How to create a great-looking app

How to create a great-looking app

Before the advent of the iPhone, and all the smartphones that followed it, if you’d asked someone what an app was, they simply wouldn’t have had a clue. But, ask the same question today and you’d get a long and involved response, probably including descriptions of their particular favourites.

The explosion of these mini-programs for our phones and other mobile devices has been nothing short of phenomenal. It’s estimated that there are around 1.85 million apps available for download from the iOS App Store and an even more incredible 2.56 million from the Google Play Store. These are both figures that are constantly on the rise and that means one thing for today’s app developers – to stand out from the crowd, their app is going to have to be something very special indeed.

It goes without saying that any new app has to be unique or fill a particular niche if it’s to succeed. It also has to be very easy to use intuitively.

This means that meticulous planning needs to be done long before the actual creation of the app starts, for example by using a program like Axure or Pidoco to create the wireframes that will show the basic structure of the app. 

While it’s a no-brainers that the finished product has to be perfectly programmed and be ready to use, there is another area than can sometimes be overlooked in the effort to create a functioning app – namely, how the app looks on the screen.

Looking good

Given that the average American is estimated to spend around five hours a day looking at their screen it’s important that what they see there is pleasing to them visually. So the use of programs like Photoshop from Adobe is going to be essential as the designs are put together. This not only lets a designer develop an idea of how a screen will look, it allows for all kinds of visual effects to the used to make it look as attractive as possible.

This is important for all apps but is even more essential when there is a great deal being displayed on screen, possibly with animations created with a program like Principle too. A good example of this is in the field of casino online games where any app needs to combine looking good, showing a considerable amount of animation and being easy and intuitive to use. For the leading online casinos, it can be taken as read that all the back-end programming has been checked and double checked to ensure it functions perfectly and the high quality screen design completes the picture.

Given that we are dealing with what is commonly known as a limited amount of “real-estate” on screen, it might seem slightly counterintuitive to say that leaving as much white space as possible is important. But by making the display on each page as uncluttered as possible it is going to greatly enhance the user experience. So, as in many areas, less really is more.

The right type

The next area to look at which will affect the look and feel of any app is the typography used. This will not only affect the legibility of the site, it can also support the branding too.

Apple and Google both recommend a minimum point size of 16 for the body text on any app. There is also the question of how the type will look against certain backgrounds and designs. Programs such as the Stark plug-in for Sketch can help to give the designer a good idea of  just how different options are going to look on screen.

In terms of which particular fonts to use there is some value in sticking to the standard San Francisco and New York typefaces for iOS apps and Roboto for Google ones. If the use of other typefaces is needed for branding or personalisation then there’s some flexibility in terms of the body text than can be used. But, as always, legibility must always be the main concern.

Colour counts

One aspect that many people find doesn’t receive quite enough attention is the use of colour when it comes to designing apps. This can be a major oversight as it can be vital for both creating the look and feel of the app and even affecting how users respond to it.

In the world of branding, it’s long been recognised that colours can be very powerful in both affecting the viewer’s mood as well as sending subliminal messages about what kind of company or product they are dealing with.

In terms of the aesthetic appeal of an app the combination of colours can also be important with various options available. These include the monochromatic in which the same base hue is used in various shades and intensities,  the analogous in which the colours are different but closely related to each other and the complementary in which very different ones are used but  which still work well together.

There are many tools available to the designer to choose and combine colours and one of the very best is Adobe Color CC. The beauty of this system is that it allows adjustments from the minute to the major on any of the shades that are selected.

Anyone designing an app also has to be mindful of the estimated 5% of the population who are colour blind. Often this takes the form of being unable to distinguish between red and green so when these colours are used, it has to be with care. There is a program called Sim Daltonism that can be used to view apps and web pages as a colour blind person would see them which can be a very useful tool.

To sum up

While this all may sound complex, when you break it down into its constituent parts creating a visually appealing app is a series of relatively steps. But it’s important to pay attention to them all if you really want to have an app that’s going to stand out and succeed in a very crowded marketplace indeed.

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