Keep It Simple

In 2013 the average person's attention span was 8 seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000. Hell, a gold fish has an average attention span of 9 seconds! Surely, you already understand that your app has an extremely limited amount of time to grab a user's attention, and demonstrate it's value, and convince people to download it. Don't let your app get quickly browsed over because people aren't able to quickly identify with it and understand how they will benefit. People need to know what your app is about and what pain it's going to fix or they will scroll passed it in a matter of seconds.

To illustrate the point, take a look a very brief look (literally just 1 to 2 seconds) at the homepage for a very successful app by the team Tapity called Grades. Go ahead, I'll wait. 

So what do you think? In just a couple of seconds I bet you already know if the app is relevant to you or not, or if your interested in learning more. If you knew absolutely nothing about the app besides it's name "Grades" and tagline "The Ultimate App for Students", you would still immediately know what users they are targeting and have a general idea of app is about. If somebody recognized the app as something they might relate to, then they might spend a little more time reading about it. However, if it wasn't simple enough to understand right away, many people would have already moved on.

That's looking a little more on the marketing side and how the app is positioned, but it's just as important to keep it simple with the app itself. People interact with apps differently than they do with typical programs on their computers. They interact with them in different ways, in different environments, and have different needs. People are often on the go or in an environment with many more possible distractions. Quick, effortless interactions with apps is crucial for their usability. This is particularly relevant for when people are scrolling through the app store, and are not on a dedicated landing page like the previous example. 

To keep things simple, be very aware of "feature creep". It's all-too-easy to get excited thinking about all of the awesome features you could include in your app, or all of the awesome things your app could do. That's part of the fun of the creative process, but that doesn't mean all of those things are things your app should do. You want to be careful not to add too many features because of their "cool factor", because it may end up deterring, distracting or straight up confusing users. 

It's very common for apps to not include all of the same functionality as the same program for a computer, and that's for very good reason. It's initially up to you to decide what users should be able to do on their phone compared to their computers. You can make adjustments later based on metrics and feedback.

To keep Find My Train simple, it has one core function: to tell you when your next train is arriving. We created the tagline "With just one tap, Find My Train tells you when your nearest train is scheduled to arrive." This dramatically helped guide our design decisions. It kept our app focused on what set us apart from the competition - the elimination of need for user input - which I'll talk about in the next element. So as you can see, the app itself is quite simple. Each screen is very focused on one objective. This allowed for the app to be very easy to use and navigate.

Here's a great exercise for your app: try to explain your it's premise in one sentence. If you can't do that, there's a good chance your app is too complicated. One of the real benefits of this exercise is it forces you to laser focus on your app's main objective. This will ensure that not only is your app simple, but it will also be easy for people to identify with in the first place. If your app doesn't appear to be focused, people will have a more difficult time relating to it, and they may skip right past it. If you can't explain it simply, users simply won't take the time to understand it.

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If you found this information helpful, you may enjoy an upcoming book that I am working on with my friend Kirk. The book is called “The Bootstrapper’s Guide to Creating Apps”, and covers the entire process of creating successful apps, from idea inception all the way through launch. If you’re interested you can find more information on our website.

Lastly, if you’re working on an app or planning to work on an app, I wish you the best. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you think there is anything I could do to help, whether that’s answer questions or bounce ideas off me. I am easily accessible and respond to all emails.