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Designing the iPhone User Experience: A User-Centered Approach to Sketching and Prototyping iPhone Apps, Safari

By Suzanne Ginsburg

Published by Addison-Wesley Professional

Published Date: Aug 12, 2010

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This is the Safari online edition of the printed book.

With over 150,000 apps in the App Store, it has become increasingly challenging for app designers and developers to differentiate their apps. The days are long gone when it was possible to crank out an app over the weekend and refine it after receiving a few not so flattering user reviews. Users now have choices -- lots of them. If your app is difficult to use or doesn’t meet their needs, finding another one is just a tap away.

To illustrate, consider the ever-growing field of Twitter clients. There are hundreds of variations in the App Store but only a handful stand out from the pack (such as Tweetie or Twitterific). For most apps, it boils down to one thing: the user experience. The same is true for countless other categories within the App Store; well-designed apps are more likely to attract and retain users. Of course there are other critical aspects of iPhone app development: the coding, the marketing, the customer support. All of the elements must come together.

Designing the iPhone User Experience will help you tackle the user experience part of the iPhone challenge. Three key themes will be reinforced throughout the book: Know thy user, the Design Lifecycle, and Attention to Detail:

  • Know Thy User
    Millions of people depend on iPhone apps to get them to work, find their next meal, and stay in touch with family and friends. Professionals of all kinds also rely on iPhone apps: doctors look up drug interactions; photographers fine-tune lighting; cyclists find the best routes. To truly understand how your apps can fit into their lives, designers and developers must learn how users do things today, what’s important to them, and what needs have not been met. Part II, Introduction to User Research, will introduce a variety of user research methods.
  • The Design Lifecycle
    Award-winning designs rarely happen overnight; they usually only occur after many rigorous design cycles. To illustrate this point, consider USA TODAY's iPhone application, which went through at least seven iterations for the article view in their app. These kinds of iterations should happen before you launch your app, since it will save valuable time and money, not to mention the headaches a bad design could create for your user. More importantly, you may only have one chance to impress your users -- you do not want to sell them half-baked ideas. Part III, Developing your App Concept, will explain how to iteratively design and test your app concepts.
  • Attention to Detail
    Most professionals know that attention to detail is important, but hundreds of apps fail to incorporate even the most basic design principles. This lack of attention is not merely an aesthetic issue (which is important) it also affects the way apps function. For example, a news article without proper alignment will be difficult to read, and a poorly rendered icon will be challenging to interpret. Apps with a razor sharp attention to detail will stand out because their apps will look good and perform well. Part IV, Refining your App Concept, will show you how to make to your app shine, from visual design and branding to accessibility and localization.

Mastering these three areas will help set your app apart from the crowd. You may not have an award-winning app over night. But knowing your users, iterative design, and attention to detail are important first steps.

Table of Contents

Preface xv

We’d Like to Hear from You xxvii

Acknowledgments xxix

About the Author xxxi


Part One: iPhone Application and Device Overview 1


Chapter 1: iPhone Application Overview 3

Utility Apps 4

Productivity Apps 7

Immersive Applications 12

Summary 17


Chapter 2: iPhone Device Overview 19

Reviewing the iPhone and iPod Touch’s Features 20

Multi-Touch Display 21

Light, Proximity, and Motion Sensors 27

Location and Compass Information 29

Bluetooth 30

Still and Video Cameras 31

Microphone and Speaker 33

Summary 35


Part Two: Defining Your iPhone App 37


Chapter 3: Introduction to User Research 39

Common User Research Questions 40

Shadowing and User Interviews 43

Documenting User Interviews 47

Diary Studies 49

Choosing a Research Method 53

Planning Your Research 54

Recruiting 60

Facilitating Interviews 63

Related Research Activities 67

Summary 67


Chapter 4: Analyzing User Research 69

Share the Wealth 70

Analyze Notes 71

Document Implications and Ideas 74

Report Findings 75

Create Design Tools 79

Revise the Product Definition Statement 86

Summary 86

Case Study 1: Windspire 88

Case Study 2: Aardvark Mobile 90


Chapter 5: Evaluating the Competition 93

Benefits 94

Apps to Include 95

Methods 95

Choosing a Method 105

Impact on the Product Definition Statement 106

Summary 107


Part Three: Developing Your App Concept .109


Chapter 6: Exploring App Concepts 111

Creating a Design-Friendly Environment 112

Effective Brainstorming 113

Sketching Your Concepts 117

Common Questions 128

Summary 129

Case Study 3: Foodspotting 130

Case Study 4: Not For Tourists 132

Case Study 5: MUSE 134


Chapter 7: Prototyping App Concepts 137

Why Prototype? 138

Common Questions 139

Prototyping Approaches 142

Summary 157

Case Study 6: Prototyping at Dan4, Inc 158

Case Study 7: What’s Shakin’ 160


Chapter 8: Usability-Testing App Concepts 163

What Is Usability Testing? 164

Why Usability Testing? 164

Role of Context 166

Usability-Testing Methods 167

Usability-Testing Timeline 169

Planning Usability Tests 169

Recruiting Participants 173

Drafting the Discussion Guide 174

Pilot Session 177

Facilitating Usability Tests 178

Analyzing Usability Tests 179

Presenting Usability Findings 180

Guerrilla Usability Testing 181

Beta Testing 183

Choosing an Approach 184

Summary 184

Case Study 8: 186


Part Four: Refining Your iPhone App 189


Chapter 9: User Interface Design 191

User Interface Best Practices 192

User Interface Q&A 207

Back-End UI Checklist 215

Summary 217

Case Study 9: Sonos 218

Case Study 10: FlightTrack 220


Chapter 10: Visual Design 223

The Importance of Visual Design 224

When Should Visual Design Begin? 224

Visual Structure 225

Color 230

Type 234

Icons and Other Imagery 237

Summary 245

Case Study 11: USA TODAY 246

Case Study 12: Voices 248

Case Study 13: Convertbot 250


Chapter 11: Branding and Advertising 253

What Is Branding? 254

Brand Expressions 257

Mobile Advertising Formats 261

Summary 263


Chapter 12: Accessibility and Localization 265

Accessibility 266

Internationalization and Localization 270

Summary 273


Looking to the Future 275

Handheld Forms Will Evolve 276

Mobile Payments Will Become Ubiquitous 277

Health Care Monitoring and Delivery Will Improve 277

Environmental Monitoring Will Lead to Scientific Discoveries 278

Privacy Issues Will Come to a Head 278

Conclusion 279


Index 281