Technology is an industry that loves its buzzwords. And when it comes to app development, you could easily reel off 50 without stopping for breath. But there’s a huge difference between the terms and concepts you can know, and those you actually need to know before starting down the journey of building an app. Here are 10 essentials:
1. End user
This term is the crucial one, because with no end user – the person at the end of the chain who actually uses your app, there is no need for your app, no one to download it and, thus, no measure of success and engagement. But it’s not enough to just have faith and hope someone will like your app enough to download it. As a starting point, you need to identify who your end user/s are, what solution you want to provide them with and, therefore, what functionality you need the app to achieve. And it could even be that there is more than one kind of end user, especially given the nature of modern audience segmentation. For example, if you were creating an app for clinicians in a hospital, questions to ask in identifying the user or groups of users would include:
- Is this app just for one department or many departments?
- Is it for all staff or just medical staff?
- Will access to the app be equal for all?
- Will levels of access depend on seniority? For example, will junior doctors use it in the same way as their superiors?
Of course, these are just a few of the questions you would ask in this case, but they do illustrate a point – that before anything else, you must identify clearly who – individuals and groups – will be the target audience for your app because that will tell you specifically who you are writing features for and how to best create a great user experience (UX) that will ensure ongoing engagement.
2. User experience (UX)
Abbreviated down to UX, user experience simply refers to how a user feels during and after using your company's app. Does your app meet their needs? Is using your app a positive/happy experience for them? Delivering a successful UX extends far beyond how your app looks (see User Interface below) or ticking off a checklist of features for development. It sets the context for how someone might use your app in their day-to-day life. UX is, quite literally, used to describe the user’s experience with your app. And the best way to explain it is with an example, in this case a partnership Wave Digital has in development with the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne.
The centre’s management first identified the need for an app that would allow patients to record consultations on their cancer journey, and then upload them to the hospital. So, the actual design and construction of that function was something that could have been done immediately. But it wasn’t. The UX needed to be developed in such a way that the app would be downloaded/adopted and used by patients and then used on an ongoing basis, meaning it was about making sure it was end-user friendly and easy to use.
So, here, the UX research focus was on identifying the intended audience for the app, finding out what sort of emotional reaction someone would have after using the app - to make sure it was positive, on talking to outpatients, looking at what stage of the cancer journey the app would be most useful – as in diagnosis time or later on – identifying at what point in time patients would use it, how they would find out about it, and what would make it something they would come back to. In short, it needed to be much more than just a recording button because, let’s face it, most phones already have those. So, the key to UX is to make the app useful to the user (ie meeting their need), easy to use, to design it so the end user will feel comfortable with the technology on an ongoing basis and, of course, to ensure they are engaged enough to come back.
3. User interface (UI)
This term, which is also shortened in the tech space – this time to UI – runs in complement to UX and describes how the app’s elements look on a screen and how they function, all with the aim of improving the UX. So, style wise, it can get down to details as specific as whether you want rounded or bevilled corners on a button, and whether or not it has a shadow. As for the function, it’s about prioritising ease of use, which means, for example, not putting a delete button where people would intuitively expect to find the ‘OK’ command. In short, UI is about marrying form and function to ensure it contributes to an engaging user experience. As the saying goes: User interface is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it’s just not that good.”
4. Operating system (OS)
An operating system is the underlying basic software that enables all the apps and interfaces on your device to runs/upports a device’s functions. And for the vast majority of people, this means either Android (as used by Samsung devices, for example) or iOSs (as used by Apple devices). There are alternatives, such as Windows or Blackberry phones, but as these are a smaller percentage of the market and they’re not really relevant to most businesses as the cost of developing for an additional platform usually outweighs the benefits. unless they have the scale of Telstra and the associated need for wider inclusivity. But, in terms of which one to choose, the investment decision can come down to unique factors.
For example, Apple - which is by far the more popular with clinicians in hospitals, for its security credentials, for example - has a closed system with only a certain number of devices that have ever been produced (for example the iPhone 4, and 5 and 6). So, that offers an advantage in, say, building and rolling out an app for employees to use – for example, workers in the field – because an iOS app doesn’t have to account for as many different types of devices during development as an Android one, which would have to accommodate a lot more screen sizes and devices. But a lot of the time, a business is still going to have to develop apps for both operating systems to create growth and engagement with the widest possible customer base. So, that’s where a staged development can come in, by starting with one platform, ironing out all the issues and bugs first, and then moving on to the other.
A wireframe is, basically, an app blueprint that physically represents the framework on which it’s built without all the detail you might expect of the final product. Here’s a picture of what a typical wireframe might look like: