I recently got an iPhone and am addicted to checking out the app store for the latest and greatest. I have been thinking a lot about how businesses go about creating an iPhone app for their business. Check out this great article on DesignSponge with a clear explanation of the process. Below is an excerpt:
First things first—come up with a solid idea.
It’s probably best to do a bit of research to find out what Apple will and will not allow in the App Store. Then do some keyword searching—with 150,000+ apps out there, chances are someone else already had your great idea. That being said, if there’s a chance for improvement it could be worth a try.
When we created the Virtual Zippo Lighter App at Moderati, we had the idea long before the iPhone even existed. We did a “rock lighter” wallpaper years prior, and had been in the works with licensing images from Zippo. When we were pitching the app idea to Zippo a couple other lighter apps had just launched. My boss said to me, the thing that’s going to make this one the best is the design. The strategic licensing effort on the part of the marketing department also certainly had something to do with the success of the app.
Okay, so you have a great idea, then what?
Just like any other multi-media design project, you’re going to want to start by making a list of features your app will have. Chances are your list might get a bit long, so remember that “less is more” can be applied to new design mediums. Group features into clusters that make sense, and remove things that don’t really enhance the user experience or add to the final product (just because the iPhone can do something, doesn’t mean your app has to).
With your features listed, next you’ll want to mock up your product and do a bit of UI design.
Taking all the features into consideration, you’ll have to figure out an elegant way for users to actually use the app. Either by sketching on paper or creating simple shapes on the computer, think about how it will function, what users will see first, and what users will click on most. Remember that people are impatient, so it’s best to minimize the number of clicks. When thinking about elements on a page, and the order of things, keep in mind that instinct and learned behavior play a part for the user (for example, “forward” is usually on the right, and “back” is usually on the left).
Then, it’s page-flow time. When setting up your design and how everything will be connected, instead of thinking of it as a website (open-ended, scrollable, kind of limit-less), think of it more like a DVD menu interface (limited set of features that get straight to the point). Unlike a website, your app isn’t going to have breadcrumbs or a URL at the top helping you find your way back, so be sure the user can figure out where they are at all times, with shortcuts to important features. Adding a “Home” button is much, much better than forcing the user to click “back” a good number of times (if it were me, at that point I’d just choose to hit “End”).