Paul Jarrett, managing director at Big Orange Software, explains why wireframing your app is crucial
The amount of time your app is in its development stage can depend on a number of factors. Typically we find that it’s the review phase which tends to extend your project’s build time, as this is where the majority of changes are flagged. Have no fear though; this can be prevented from an early stage by envisaging your user’s journey on your platform before you begin its construction.
Fortunately, digital agencies are working with programmes such as Pidoco and POP (Prototype on Paper), which transfer hand sketches into digital format, allowing you to click on buttons and tabs just as you would on your phone. To sum up their main purpose in one sentence, they enable you to get a thorough insight into the overall look and feel of your app, well before it’s built.
This type of software can ensure that your app developer works as efficiently as possible. It can be time intensive for a developer to make changes to an app’s structure once it’s been built, and this is where delays can start to occur. Another good thing about having your designs roughly sketched out is that you’ll be able to see which areas of your app are feasible and which aren’t. You can also add and remove areas as you see fit as you refine your idea…
Whether you’re planning on creating a new app or updating an existing website, it’s advised that you think about your user flow before you approach your digital agency. No-one knows your customers quite like you and you are therefore uniquely positioned to guide your agency in how you want it to look, feel and flow, with the agency being there to acknowledge, implement and recommend. In turn, this will ensure that you have every possible area covered, which will also save you time and money further down the line. A well-constructed brief will provide the agency with all the necessary tools to work efficiently and adhere to your deadlines.
Before you get your creative juices flowing, you need to have your user in mind at all times. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself why they’re there in the first place and how they can get to and from your key hotspots. A user’s intentions may vary depending on the app’s sector (consumer and enterprise for example will differ), yet this shouldn’t dictate the quality of their experience in any way.
You don’t need to spend hours on the sketches, as you’ll receive detailed artwork as part of the package from your agency. But we do believe that you should try and think of every little detail in the time that you have to gain an even better understanding of your project’s aims, and this, in fact, has been proven to inform design in the past. Even if you’re adding to your user flow periodically, page by page on scrap pieces of paper, it will still help you gain a better understanding of what it is you want to achieve, and which particular pages can help you maximise your chances of doing so.
One of the main mistakes in app design is asking your user to do more than what is required. Whether it’s a frustratingly long sign-up or checkout process or when you just can’t find that particular product in a sea of other content, these have the power to deter a user all together. There are some great examples of frustrating user scenarios here.
As with any project, there’s always the realistic possibility of complications. In the world of app development the complications are most likely to arise whilst the app is being built. Adding and removing content while your app is being coded can be time consuming, which may lead to you incurring additional agency time and costs. Time which could be spent testing and fine-tuning your already well thought-out project.
The key point here, however, is to have fun with your app wireframes. Feel free to get as creative as possible and be open to suggestions as these may give you additional ideas going forward. If the agency can’t provide a match for the functions you’re after, chances are they’ll be able to provide realistic alternatives which still aim to facilitate the same purpose(s) that you had in mind in the first place.
In summary, make sure you know exactly what it is that you want to achieve in your app. Try and think of every page of your app and make a note of them. Don’t assume that something can be done instantly halfway down the line, as this can lead to additional costs. Most of all, have fun whilst creating your app – this is your chance to shine!
Paul Jarrett is managing director at Big Orange Software