July 31, 2011
Guest post by Sanjay Paul, Mobile Tech Consultant
Tech Crunch held an event on Friday, July 29th, focusing solely on the mobile industry called “Mobile First CrunchUp” with a diverse panel of engineers, developers, founders and venture capitalists focusing on all issues mobile. Below are the key takeaways:
1) Apps are not going anywhere. There has been a lot of discussion in the industry as to whether apps will eventually be a relic of the past with the strong advances in technology of HTML 5. Joe Hewitt, former app developer for the Facebook iOS app was the first to point out that apps are not going anywhere as users continue to download and utilize them. If anything, Hewitt predicts the industry is moving towards an ecosystem where apps and mobile sites will co-exist and complement each other.
2) Developers should ideally plan for both Apps and Mobile Web sites. Hewitt was also quick to point out that developers should ideally not choose between developing an app and a mobile web site, but rather do both. The reasons for this being the development of web technology through HMTL 5 will result in some user interface quality being on par with apps or better than apps , depending on the product.
3) Are iOS apps better quality than Android Apps? One of the discussions highlighted a concern that iOS apps tend to have better pixel quality and a better user experience than Android apps. The panelists (mostly iOS biased) opined several reasons for this, with the general consensus that iOS had the head-start in getting the app ecosystem started and a result, they have largely had more developers and more time to dedicate to the iOS experience. With the growth of Android however, the playing field is likely to be leveled in the near future. Developers therefore should focus on capturing not just the iOS app store, but also the Android app store and be prepared for the technology to flatten.
4) Designing Experience Differs for Android and iOS. Developers also noted that that when designing apps for both iOS and Android, developers should keep in mind key differences. Both mobile operating systems have different API’s, different navigation and menu buttons. In addition, iOS tends to be more pixel perfect, and Android has to be designed for multiple screens and requires different sizes.
5) Design with Simplicity & Add Powerful Shortcuts: The panelists also stated that users were more interested in apps with simplicity and ease of use. When designing an app, a minimalist approach is likely to fare the best with users because of the size limitations of a mobile device. In addition, Jake Mintz, co-founder of Bump, pointed out that developers face a catch-22 when designing an app: A first-time user wants simplicity in an app, but a power user wants short-cuts. Therefore the trick is to strike the right balance between designing a simple app for first-time users with the ability to run powerfully for experienced users.
6) Design with Context in Mind for Mobile Apps: Matías Duarte, Director of User Experience for Android also pointed out that when designing an app for mobile, developers should not focus on the limitations or capabilities of mobile devices or offer the same experience as a PC or desktop because that is a “trap.” Instead, Duarte encouraged developers to focus on the “mobile contexts.” For example, Duarte pointed out that a personal finance desktop app and mobile app should be designed with context in mind because a user is not likely to choose their retirement plan over the mobile device, but they are likely to check their spending ability and account balance on the mobile device. Therefore context should be considered and dedicated as a priority when designing an app.
7) Apps That Co-Exist with each Other thrive. One of the points brought up at the round table discussion was that Apps should focus on building a long term online community & should interact & co-exist with each other. Apps that do the following will gain higher user engagement and likely battle “app-fatigue.” Examples of building an online community include having a dedicated twitter account for an app where users can comment on and receive instant feedback and feel that they are part of a community.
Did you attend or watch coverage of the event? What did you think? Let us know!