Socially Bright | 10 ways to make a bad app
We work with a wide range of advertising agencies and brands to help bring their digital dreams to life. As a dedicated, specialist and flexible part of your team we offer strategy, creative and production across all native and web technologies. We develop mobile, web and social apps that work on every last browser and device you can think of.
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10 Oct 10 ways to make a bad app

Creating effective, successful or useful apps isn’t easy.  We have made dozens of apps (iOS, Android, Facebook or web across an assortment of different devices, including this dog) and we still don’t know the secret formula for success.  But we have uncovered numerous way to guarantee ruining one. So here’s our top 10 ways to make a bad app:

1.  Don’t worry about the file size.  The bigger the better! Our app is so good it’s worth waiting for!  We’ll need a minimum 500MB for users to really enjoy it. In a world of superfast broadband, TV-on-demand and 4G, it can be tempting to over-fill an app with poorly-compressed assets or just bloated content and assume the end user will download it in seconds. But users won’t wait. Shrink it as much as you can to deliver the minimum viable experience whilst being mindful of over-the-air limits (see image), mobile connectivity, mobile network speeds as well as, ultimately, storage space – no one is going to delete their wedding videos to install your app.


2.  Put ads everywhere! Include text ads, image ads, interstitials and pop-ups – users don’t mind and the money will soon start to roll in. Heck, let’s put them right in the centre of the screen, just to make sure they see them! Ads are a viable revenue stream but more acceptable for a boot-strapped indie game (like Flappy Bird was) than a corporate. If you have to include them put them at the top – not in places that could be accidentally clicked and NEVER in places that compromise the user experience, like the pop-ups on 101 Great Goals on Facebook.

3. Force users to buy stuff! Allow users an easy way to win the game via in-app purchases that let them to breeze through difficult levels. If users have to pay for special items to progress or win a game, you essentially make the app into a buying contest.  Kids, acting without the bill payer’s permission, have been spectacularly good at this (here’s the 8-year-old who bought £980 on donuts playing the Simpsons game) before Apple and Google tightened up the process earlier this year.


4.  Forget about mobile – desktop is where it’s at! Our site looks better on desktop computers (and our logo can be bigger!) so there’s no point in encouraging mobile use.  Our audience should be sitting down and concentrating when we talk to them. Astonishingly, a quick look through the FTSE 100 companies shows how prevalent this view still is. Before getting to the end of the ‘As’ on the list you’ll be wearing your thumbs out zooming in to see what’s happening at 3i and Astra Zenica - so take a bow Aviva.  Mobile is likely to account for 50% of site visits by the end of this year, so get responsive (or adaptive) or see your traffic fall and your SEO suffer.

5.  Make an app that includes everything you can possibly fit into it Who needs multiple apps, when we can just provide our users with absolutely everything they could EVER possibly want from a single app? It’s not just enterprise apps that suffer from information and function overload. If you’re not sure what to leave out, then follow the MVP approach and check-in with your test groups as often as you can afford to.  Sky have dozens of apps defined by their discrete functionality – they each do singular things to meet specific needs.


6.  Repurpose your mobile web content into an app It takes too long to conceive of separate content and features for an app.  We’ve already got a content-rich website… so it makes sense to just copy what’s already on there. Stick with mobile web unless…1. You’re planning to add new built-in features such as the accelerometer, camera etc. 2. You want the content to be available offline.  3. Improvements in speed and performance are essential. 4. You have the budget to to support multiple platforms (Apple, Android, Windows etc).  5. You are Wikipedia. It’s a strange app, but like the flaws of a loved one, makes us appreciate them even more.  So just donate!

7.  Notifications should be like confetti Users LOVE notifications. If we send out hundreds, then users will keep coming back to our app. All 3 major platforms have made dramatic improvements to the way notifications are handled and presented.  So even if you can’t resist the urge to say “We’ve noticed that you haven’t used the app for 20 minutes and we miss you”, users will find it easy to switch you off and to customise their notification center into a much more powerful tool than ever before.


8.  Completely ignore UX and design conventions Let’s put in some alternative icons and gestures - then our app can be a fun guessing game for users. Android users are familiar with the system back button and iPhone owners can swipe to go back.  So you don’t need a back button in the top left of the screen that they’ll need to use their other hand or nose to reach.  The same goes for icons and other navigational ‘aids’ such as Starbucks‘ shake to pay feature which is the last thing you want customers to do when surrounded by hot drinks and small children at the checkout.

9.  Ignore battery usage. Who cares?  Users don’t mind if your app drains their batteries. Our app is more important than being able to make calls, receive emails or send texts. Until inductive charging becomes truly wireless then the battery is a shared resource.  Be a good digital citizen and use as little as you need.

10.  Ask for the user’s address, bank details, blood group and hat size.  At the start. Users can’t get our content before telling us a bit about themselves as this will allow us to improve their experience. The key here is reciprocity.  Give before you take.  Let the user see what you’ve got and then ask for permissions as and when you need them and only then if you can explain the benefit to the user.  As Android designer Greg Nudelman says, it’s a simple UX equation:

Long sign-up form before you can use the app = Delete app

Greg’s look at Charmin’s SitorSquat app, finds that first time users have to tap their way 50 times through the sign-up process, before they can find out where the closest toilets are!