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

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

by Suzanne Ginsburg

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

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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.

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Table of Contents


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About the Author

PART ONE iPhone Application and Device Overview 1

Chapter 1 iPhone Application Overview 3

Utility Apps 4

Minimal Setup 4

Simple Layouts and Flows 5

Standard User Interface Elements 5

Utility App Tour 5

Productivity Apps 7

Hierarchical Structure 7

Accelerators and Shortcuts 8

Productivity App Tour 9

Immersive Applications 12

Focus on the Content 13

Customized User Experience 14

Immersive App Tour 14

Summary 17

Chapter 2 iPhone Device Overview 19

Reviewing the iPhone and iPod Touch's Features 20

Multi-Touch Display 21

Supported Gestures 22

Custom Gestures 22

Keyboard 23

Light, Proximity, and Motion Sensors 27

Ambient Light Sensor 27

Proximity Sensor 27

Motion Sensor 28

Location and Compass Information 29

Location Information 29

Compass 29

Bluetooth 30

Still and Video Cameras 31

Image Capture 31

Image Enhancement 32

Image Recognition 33

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

What Will I Learn? 40

How is Up-front User Research Different from Usability Research? 42

How Much is this Going to Cost Me? 42

Two Weeks is Still too Long; What are My Alternatives? 42

Shadowing and User Interviews 43

Shadowing 43

Field Interviews 45

Interviews with Subject Matter Experts 45

Phone Interviews 46

Street Interviews 46

Focus Groups 47

Documenting User Interviews 47

Notes 47

Still Camera 48

Audio 48

Video 48

Diary Studies 49

Choosing a Research Method 53

No Clear App Concept 53

Rough App Concept 54

Existing App 54

Planning Your Research 54

Purpose and Objective 55

Study Dates 56

User Profiles 56

Methods 57

Questions for Research 58

Roles 58

Equipment 59

Report Contents 60

Recruiting 60

Screener 61

Number of Participants 62

Compensation 63

Facilitating Interviews 63

Ask Open-Ended Questions 64

Look for Concrete Examples 64

Probe What's Not There 65

Capture Relevant Artifacts 65

Wrap-up and Debrief 66

Related Research Activities 67

Summary 67

Chapter 4 Analyzing User Research 69

Share the Wealth 70

Analyze Notes 71

Handwritten Notes 71

Transcripts 71

Verbatim Notes 72

Document Implications and Ideas 74

Report Findings 75

Methodology and Goals 75

Team Members 76

Participant Profiles 76

Findings 76

Presenting the Findings 79

Create Design Tools 79

Personas 80

Scenarios 82

User Journeys 85

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

Best Practices 94

What to Avoid 94

Needs Alignment 94

Inspiration 95

Apps to Include 95

Methods 95

Needs Alignment Charts 95

Two-by-Two Diagrams 97

Heuristic Evaluations 97

Competitive Usability Benchmarking 102

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

Set Aside Enough Time 114

Establish Goals 114

Be Inclusive 114

Have an Agenda 114

Provide Inspiration 115

Lay Ground Rules 115

Capturing Ideas 116

Select Promising Ideas 117

Sketching Your Concepts 117

Characteristics 118

Benefits 118

But I Can't Draw 119

Sketching Tips 120

Types of Sketches 121

Additional Sketching Examples 126

Common Questions 128

What If I'm Working on an App with Few Visuals to Sketch? 128

When Should I Created Flowcharts? 128

How Much of My Design Time Should Be Devoted to Concept Development? 129

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

Solve Design Problems 138

Evaluate Design Ideas 138

Communicate Design Ideas 138

Common Questions 139

How Many Variations Should I Prototype? 139

How Much of the App Should I Prototype? 139

What If the Designs Aren't Completely Worked Out? 139

What If My Support Content Isn't Finalized? 140

What Is the Appropriate Level of Fidelity? 140

What Should I Do Before I Start Prototyping? 141

Prototyping Approaches 142

Paper Prototypes 143

Static Images on the Device 148

Interactive on the Device 151

Video Prototypes 152

The iPhone SDK 156

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

Help Resolve Known Design Issues 164

Uncover Unknown Design Issues 165

Set a Baseline for Future Study 165

Gather Information for the Next Release 165

Get Stakeholder Buy-in 165

Role of Context 166

Usability-Testing Methods 167

Traditional Usability Testing 167

The RITE Method 167

Paper Prototype Testing 168

Usability-Testing Timeline 169

Planning Usability Tests 169

Purpose and Objective 170

Study Dates and Times 171

User Profile 171

Method 171

Questions for Research 171

Roles 171

Prototype Supplies 172

Equipment and Location 172

Report Contents 173

Recruiting Participants 173

Drafting the Discussion Guide 174

Introduction (5 Minutes) 174

Background Interview (15 Minutes) 175

Tasks (40 Minutes) 175

Follow-up Questions (10 Minutes) 175

Wrap-up (5 Minutes) 175

Pilot Session 177

Facilitating Usability Tests 178

Be Encouraging 178

Ask Open-Ended Questions 178

Know When to Stop 179

Analyzing Usability Tests 179

Presenting Usability Findings 180

Guerrilla Usability Testing 181

Coffe Shop Testing 181

Walk-up Testing 182

Common Ground Testing 182

Beta Testing 183

Cast a Wider Recruiting Net 183

Ask for More Structured Feedback 184

Provide an Incentive 184

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

1 Be Welcoming 192

2 Know Thy User 194

3 Let the Content Shine 196

4 Make Selections Fast and Error-Free 199

5 Provide Appropriate Feedback 201

6 Minimize the Pain 205

User Interface Q&A 207

Which Productivity Style Should I Use? 207

How Should I Present Tasks on the Productivity-Style Detail View? 209

How Do I Choose the Right Control? 210

Back-End UI Checklist 215

Summary 217

Case Study 9 Sonos 218

Case Study 10 Flight Track 220

Chapter 10 Visual Design 223

The Importance of Visual Design 224

Attract Users 224

Improve Usability 224

Delight Users 224

When Should Visual Design Begin? 224

Visual Structure 225

Grouping 226

Hierarchy 227

Alignment 229

Color 230

Differentiation 230

Emphasis 232

Classification 233

Type 234

Typefaces 234

Type Size 236

Type Weight 236

Icons and Other Imagery 237

Tab Bar Icons 239

Toolbar and Navigation Bar Icons 241

Other Contexts 243

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

Distinctiveness 254

Relevance 255

Memorability 255

Extensibility 255

Depth 256

Brand Expressions 257

Naming 257

Trademarks 258

Branding via the User Experience 259

Mobile Advertising Formats 261

Advertising Integration Tips 263

Summary 263

Chapter 12 Accessibility and Localization 265

Accessibility 266

Built-in Accessibility Features 266

VoiceOver 266

Custom Accessibility Solutions 269

Internationalization and Localization 270

Language 270

Dynamic Content 270

Culture 271

Local Laws 273

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

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