While no two apps are exactly the same, all great apps share the same common software development principles. Adhering to or deviating from these principles could mean the difference between a good app and a great one. Your app’s success is inevitably dependent on your willingness to apply these pillars of software development.
These seven principles dictate how an app is developed, influence its functionality and, ultimately, determine how successful it will be once it’s in the marketplace. While the principles of development and software engineering are somewhat subjective and dependent on a wide variety of factors, there are undeniable commonalities between successful, high-performing applications.
These seven core application principles should be a part of your process in developing your app. These principles are essential and easy to incorporate no matter the type of application you’re developing.
Keep the Customer First
It is imperative to keep your customer in mind at every stage of development. Why are you creating this app? What is your ultimate goal? Ideally, your goal is to fill a need and to satisfy the wants and desires of your customers. If this holds true for your vision, your customers’ wants and needs should be the core foundation of your development and design efforts.
As you design your application, continually ask yourself: “How will this benefit the customer?”
If you’ve already created a similar app, do not reuse components of your existing code to make things easier on yourself, no matter how tempting. Your apps can certainly be similar, but they should serve a different purpose and provide the customer with either a new or improved tool or convenience. With that being said, the inner workings of your applications should be as unique as their intended usage.
Companies that have an ecosystem of products and applications should strive for consistency, but consistency should never come at the expense of the user experience.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
This is a good software design principle in that it is multi-faceted and applicable to nearly every step in the design and development process. Working smarter allows you to eliminate duplicated or competing efforts, automate common tasks whenever possible, optimize time and resources, and keep your application efforts simple.
Duplication is a thorn in the side for most app developers. It’s time-consuming, costly, and wasteful to say the very least. While it is crucial to keep your customer first in the development hierarchy, you should economize tasks whenever possible if the user experience and overall quality of the app aren’t compromised.
It’s best to follow the DRY principle – don’t repeat yourself. Following this principle will result in a single, unambiguous representation in a system. Develop your code once and let the application call into it instead of cutting and pasting your code all over the place.
Developers who simply cut and paste code run the risk of spreading errors like wildfire, which then have to be fixed in multiple places. This issue is completely avoidable by designing the application to call into a single set of code.
It is also a best practice to automate common tasks as much as possible. Do not waste valuable time doing the same thing over and over again if there’s a more efficient way. Invest in continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) methodology to build, compile, test, and deploy code so you can focus on the items that truly require your attention.
Finally, don’t get ahead of yourself. Stay focused on the task at hand and avoid becoming distracted by wish-list items or creating features you think you may need in the future.
Additional features and tools can be added anytime. Stay the course and focus on developing an application that meets your customer’s current wants and needs, not what you think they’ll need six months down the road.
Maximize Device Capabilities
Smartphones offer incredibly powerful technological tools in a pocket-sized package. Everything within the device can be used to your advantage, including the accelerometer, audio and video capabilities, and GPS. Software developers should maximize the device capabilities and harness the device’s inherent features and tools when building their application.
As you begin the development process, think of ways you can use the smartphone’s existing hardware to your advantage. For instance, utilize the phone’s GPS for a food delivery app or the phone camera for a lifestyle/fashion app.
This is a simple principle of app development that’s often overlooked. Don’t assume that just because you’re creating an app for a smartphone that you will automatically be able to tap into every hardware gadget the phone has to offer. It takes a great deal of effort on your part to ensure those tools are harnessed properly to create the best user experience possible.
Think About Scalability
This is an extremely important software design principle as the type of devices used to access your app can be just as diverse as the customers using them. The ease of scaling is dependent on you and your design.
Create your app with the goal of being device agnostic; meaning anyone, no matter the device they’re using, has the same high-quality user experience. This encompasses accounting for different platforms as well as the many different sizes of modern devices.
A good software engineer develops an application that looks and functions the same on a tablet as it does on a phone (and every device in between).
Mind the Platform Design Guidelines
Designing for IOS and Android are two completely different beasts, but both have strict mobile user interface design principles and requirements. One of the biggest mistakes a developer can make is to fail to consider the subtle nuances and special requirements of each platform during the development.
When developing an app, keep the native OS guidelines at the heart of your work. Neglecting these guidelines could prove disastrous for your app and its success.
Simply knowing the guidelines isn’t enough. Developers must stay abreast on the latest mobile user interface design principles from each OS. Both Android and Apple frequently update these guidelines to reflect advances in their hardware and software, so staying up-to-date on these changes is essential.
Before starting the design process for your app, review these guidelines with fresh eyes to ensure your product meets the requirements for each OS.
Android Design Guidelines
Google has Material Design Guidelines to use when developing an android app. Brush up on these often to stay in-the-know about the latest and greatest in Android app design.
IOS Design Guidelines
Apple has Human Interface Guidelines to use when developing an iOS app. Read through these guidelines every so often to remain current with iOS app development best practices.
Test Your Product
While this principle seems like a no-brainer, you’d be surprised at the number of applications that are not properly tested before being released. Prior to releasing your product for the masses, you must, without exception, thoroughly test it. This can be accomplished by writing a unit test to generate classes. Once this is complete, your software becomes highly testable, and testable software is quality software.
When you go to test your software, you want to see it fail fast. Although a foreign sounding concept to those outside the software development industry, failing quickly is typically a welcomed result. Of course, the goal is to not have any failures whatsoever, but that rarely happens
When you get a null pointer exception, throw it out! This may require you to check every political or technical barrier you have quite early in the process, but it’s definitely worth the time and effort to ensure the final product is high-quality and free of errors.
Think you’re ready to apply these software development principles? In doing so, you’ll create user-centered, high-quality applications that are among the best available for download.
Don’t waste your time and money developing a sub-par app. Take the time to apply these software engineer principles, speak to a software development company and start creating meaningful software today.