Essential: 10 key tips for developers of smartphone and tablet apps

February 27, 2013

In a recent interview with TabTimes, the non-profit App Quality Alliance, backed by the likes of AT&T and Samsung, shared its plans to help developers. In the second part of our coverage, AQuA offers up ten tips developers should consider when making smartphone and tablet apps. 

Make the user interface consistent and easy to use

An ever-changing user interface risks confusing and annoying the user to the point where they’re not sure how to use the application.

To get around this, AQuA chairman Martin Wrigley says developers should make sure menu options, button labels, ‘soft keys’, menus and other parts of the UI are “consistent and clear”.

Graphics and text should be clear for the user

It sounds obvious, but Wrigley stresses that all text in an app should be “readable, clear and not cut off by the edge of the screen or overlapping other screen items”.

App navigation must be fluid

The AQuA stresses that developers must ensure app navigation is easy or risk losing users to competitive solutions that get the job done more efficiently.

“Navigation through the app is obvious if you’ve been working on it for weeks or months, but not everyone else may find it so clear,” says Wrigley.

Use a dictionary to avoid spelling mistakes and other language problems

It’s fair to say that most grievances with app performance lies with apps' crashing or freezing, but another problem, according to the AQuA, can be common spelling errors and other language issues. 

“If you support multiple languages, make sure that it is consistent and that you don’t have the odd label in English hidden away. And use a spell checker.”

Get your app’s privacy watertight

In the age of Facebook, Google and now Twitter’s Vine, personal security has become a hot topic in every walk of life, both for consumers and businesses.

And with these same users increasingly wary of apps that pass on personal information or even sell their photos (I'm looking at you Instagram), the App Quality Alliance says an app privacy policy is essential.

“You must always have a privacy policy in the app. This is becoming a really hot topic now,” says Wrigley.

Don’t leave any hidden features

Have you used an app extensively, only to discover some pretty cool features that you didn’t know of months later? At the time it can be pleasantly surprising or sometimes annoying to the user, but either way it works out as a missed opportunity for the developer.

The AQuA says that hiding app features is never a good thing. “Doing stuff behind the scenes without letting the user know will never win you any favors, even if your intentions are good.”

Control the mother of all app problems: App crashing

App crashing is the single most annoying thing to the end user, and often results in users writing some pretty frank reviews and app downloads dwindling to nothing.

Such problems may be hard to avoid, but the AQuA says that developers should be looking at some of the “simple things” which can lead to their app crashing.

“You would be surprised how many apps can be made to crash when even some simple things happen on the device. Memory cards, attachments and keyboards are some of the common causes.”

Help out troubled users…and quickly

Some market research has shown that app users really like to have help at hand when things go wrong, and this is something which Wrigley believes is imperative.

“While it is obvious to some, other people like to read help information and so providing help is a must,” says the AQuA director.

Developers must test apps when they lose a network connection

The AQuA chairman says that developers often fail to test their apps when they lose their network connection, with this often leading to the app dying and users having to re-boot their device. The group says that this issue will become a “hot topic” going forward.

Look out for image problems when changing orientation

Switching your iPad or Android tablet from landscape to portrait can sometimes take longer than expected, but such a simple gesture can also have big repercussions for developers.

Indeed, Wrigley says that developers struggling with device orientation often face distorted images and other problems.

“Surely everyone checks this one?” says Wrigley. “Sadly not. Changing from portrait to landscape and vice-versa still manages to hit our top ten simple errors that let apps down.”


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