This week’s been a pretty big deal at GoThinkBig. In time for London Tech Week, we teamed up with our mates at O2 Think Big (they fund young people to start social action projects) to bring you Think Big Digital Week, an entire week jam packed with events to inspire and inform you lot about digital careers. Whether you’re interested in social media, wearable tech or the future of the industry, we’ve got it covered. We kicked off the week with Mobile On Monday, a day dedicated entirely to careers in the mobile industry and were joined by experts Margaret Gold, Helen Keegan and Terence Eden.
As well as joining our panel on mobile careers (if you missed it live on Facebook, you can check it out here) Terence also hosted an app building workshop. Lucky attendees came up with their own app ideas, designed them, and then were put through their paces when they were given feedback and grilled by the experts.
Sounds pretty bloomin’ brilliant right? Wish you were there? No need to worry, we scribbled down some of Terence’s best tips (he works at the Lab at O2, so he knows his stuff). If you’re thinking about creating your very own app, you need to read this step by step guide…
Step One: Just do it!
Think you’ve got a million dollar app idea but no idea how to get started? Just get on with it! “All of you know how to draw”,” Terence pointed out, so grab some paper and pens.
“You should all learn how to code,” he told us. “But you don’t need to and certainly not at the start. If you’ve got a pen and paper, you can start designing an app. That’s literally what we do at O2 with some of our apps.”
Eh? Why do tech whizzes at top companies use paper and pens – is this the dark ages?! Terence explained why paper is perfect for the job: “If you get it wrong it doesn’t even matter,” he told us. “Rip it up, throw it away, start again.”
“Lots of stuff can go wrong but if you do it on paper, it doesn’t matter. It’s faster, it’s practically free and you can get instant feedback.”
Step Two: Make a checklist
With so many things to think about when designing and creating an app, it can all feel a bit overwhelming at first. Terence suggests that when you get started it’s a good idea to think about key areas. Start with the home screen icon, navigation style, sign in, first impressions, personalisations and permissions to get the ball rolling.
Step Three: Stand out
Have you ever noticed that looooooads of the apps in your phone are blue? (We’re looking at you Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, BBC Weather and National Rail… we could go on). Why’s that? According to Terence, it’s “because some psychologist has said that’s a trustworthy colour”.
“When you’re thinking about logos, it’s ok to be a bit crazy and whacky,” he suggested, so think about ways that you’re app can stand out on a phone full of icons. At this stage, he says: “you can experiment and do absolutely anything with your designs”.
Plus, don’t forget to think about the way your app will look on different phones. Buttons that might be massive on an iPhone 6 could look teeny on a smaller screen, so think about who’ll be downloading your creation. “If they’ve got a small phone, you’ve gotta make the app smaller” says Terence.
Step four: Take down your competitors
We don’t want to get all pessimistic on you, but the chances of you coming up with a completely original, never been done before app are pretty slim. Half the battle of coming up with a great app is being better than the ones which are similar to yours.
“The best advice I can give you when you’re designing an app is to download your competitor’s,” says Terrence. “Find out what you hate about it and make sure yours doesn’t do that!”
Is it too slow? Does it crash all the time? Is the entire process too complex?
“Write down every single thing you hate about the app and think about why they have decided to make all those decisions,” suggests Terence. Ask yourself: “How do you stop yourself making the same mistakes as other apps?”
Take inspiration from other apps and the decisions that their creators have made too.
“When your phone crashes, someone is hurting the thing that you love” said Terence. “You’ve got about five seconds before someone gets bored and moves on. People don’t like to wait”.
He says that Angry Birds is a great example of success: “If you look at how quickly Angry Birds loads it’s perfect,” he told us. That way people can have a quick game on the loo (oh shh, you’ve all done it) without getting bored and quitting the app.
Step Five: Find Out If People Like Your App Idea
In the initial stages, feedback is critical. If people don’t rate your idea, or think something major needs to change, now’s the time to find out and shake up your app, as it’s way easier to do this now than later down the line.
“If you go to a coffee shop and say to a stranger, ‘can I buy you a coffee and show you my app?’ you will get brutally honest feedback,” says Terence. That’s perfect! We’re willing to bet your mum will love everything you create, but in this instance, that’s not always useful.
“Going out and talking to people, it’s uncomfortable,” admits Terence. But “you can do it in safe locations. Go to your local library, coffee shop or schools, ideally where the demographic you’re aiming at are” to find out what they think and then act on the feedback they give you.
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