6 Tips to Develop Usable Mobile Apps

Handy Tips to Develop More Usable Mobile Device Apps

The issue of usability of mobile phone apps still looms large. There are yet no clear developer guidelines on app usability. Also, the diversity among different handset models makes it difficult to define a “standard” for the usability factor.

Most (though not all) usability issues arise out of hardware problems. While some are impossible to solve, there are certain others that can be tackled by the software developer, provided they know how to deal with these issues.

Here, we address some of the major hardware problems faced by mobile phone app developers, giving solutions for each of these issues.

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Screen Resolution

Mobile App Icons
Shopping with iPhone" ( CC BY 2.0) by  Jason A. Howie

With the advent of so many new cell phones in the market, each coming with different features, display screens and resolutions, it is going to be impossible for you to assess the ideal resolution your app should have.

Putting in too many features on your app will only make the problem worse. The trick to tackle this issue, therefore, is to put as little information as possible on the display screen and then make it bigger.

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Colors and Contrast

The latest mobile phones with LCD screens come with amazing color and contrast capabilities. This tempts the programmer to use nuanced colors, without realizing that mobile phones are meant to be carried everywhere and used in all light conditions. Poor light conditions can make it difficult for the user to perceive these subtle colors, actually making it more difficult for them to read the info on the screen.

The most sensible thing for a developer to do here, is to use high contrast color schemes and differentiate widgets (as and when applicable) with blocks of solid color, not merely by using vaguely outlined or shaded boxes. Also, using simple graphics and getting rid of unnecessary extra frills will give your app more utility value.

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Button Functions

Most mobile phone users fail to make the most of their phones, as they do not quite understand all the button functions of their mobile device.

Make sure to see that your button indicators make good sense to your end-users. Include a detailed help section if necessary, citing each of these button functions, so that the user can run your application without any trouble.

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Font Size

Almost all cell phones contain fonts that are too small to be read with ease. The screens are small in size and therefore, the fonts need to be small-sized to fit in.

While you, as a developer, cannot do anything about the mobile phone’s default font size, you can definitely try and make the fonts as large as possible for your specific app. This will increase the usability quotient of your app.

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Mobile devices differ from computing devices such as desktops and laptops, in that they cannot be easily manipulated with cursors and pointing devices. Of course, most of the latest smartphones in the market today are touchscreen phones and use either a stylus, trackball, track pad and so on. Even so, each one is different in the way each one of them has to be handled.

Remember, it is going to be a torture for end users to drag and drop objects on the screen of a tiny mobile device, so avoid including such functionalities in your app. Instead, making anything on the screen clickable and enlarged will help users, as they will be able to work better with the app.

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Smartphone keyboards, even physical QWERTY ones, can be quite a pain to use. Even keyboards that offer better moving space can be quite a hassle for the user.

So try and avoid keyed inputs as far as possible. At least try and keep it to the minimum if you can afford to do so.

In conclusion, working with so many diverse mobile devices can be quite a task, especially as you cannot pin down an “ideal” standard to develop apps for all these devices. However, keeping your mobile app flexible and using the commonest possible features can vastly help you to create better and more usable mobile phone apps.