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12 mobile application tips -- and developers aren't good at any of them

This blog post is part of our Essential Guide: A guide to modern mobile application development strategies

Designed by engineers, comprehensible only by engineers. You’ve no doubt heard some variation of that old maxim. Let an engineer design a software or hardware product, and the average person will have a tough time figuring out how to use it, because the user interface is arcane, convoluted, circuitous, dense, indescribable, inexplicable — or worse.

What made me think of this is a new paper, published online today by Adobe, called “12 Tips for Mobile Design.” It’s a good read, and I suggest that developers, architects, and anyone else who touches the mobile app universe in any way invest some time. Building a beautiful-looking app that is a joy to use is a vastly different exercise than building efficient, error-free code. After all, as we move from DevOps into BizDevOps, which brings developers deeper into the business side — and closer to customers — than ever before, understanding design concepts (or at least being able to talk a good game) is useful.

Adobe says we need mobile apps that are not just “useful,” but “intuitive” as well.

And there’s the rub. Developers (we used to call them programmers) are good at developing. Good at thinking serially. In loops. In if-this-then-that (IFTTT) case structures. In writing tight, API-driven, containerized-as-microservices code. In stark contrast, interface designers — and it truly is a special discipline combining art and psychology — are good at UI/UX, designing the user interface and user experience, neither of which are logic structures. They can’t write a lick of code. I’m simply suggesting that a little cross-pollination is a good thing for everyone.

What are the 12 tips, you ask? Here’s the list. It’s up to you to do some deeper reading. Read the paper to dive into each one.

  • De-clutter the user interface
  • Design for interruption
  • Make navigation self-evident
  • Make a great first impression
  • Align with device conventions
  • Design finger-friendly tap-targets
  • Design controls based on hand position
  • Create a seamless experience
  • Use subtle animation and micro-interactions
  • Focus on readability
  • Don’t interrupt users
  • Refine the design based on testing

None of these have anything to do with platforms, infrastructures, or anything else “as a service.” It’s not about AWS vs. Azure vs. Google vs. Bluemix. It’s about you. Sure, you’re a great code jockey, but, what about your interface, navigation, experience, color-palette, and typography skills? Where do you fit in? Share your thoughts, we’d like to hear from you.

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