A happy crowd joined us for Appy Hour, a cocktail-infused presentation on the Magical Mixology of Mobile Applications, sponsored and presented by local company WillowTree Apps. Presenters Whitney French, Beverly Anderson, and Jossay Jacobo put us through the fascinating paces of app development from start to finish.
Here are some highlights from the presentation.
What’s in an app?
While it seems that the term ‘software’ has gone out of style, duly replaced by the catchphrase ‘there’s an app for that’, sometimes companies who think they need an app really don’t. They may simply need a webpage that is more responsive and mobile friendly. So what makes an app an app, anyway? Here’s two criteria:
Apps endure. To create an app is to create a tiny world, a world to which the user has a reason to return again and again, and creates some sort of history in that world, whether it is a history of candies crushed or movies watched.
Apps leverage the features of the device. Apps often rely in some way on the Internet but they also use your phone’s other features (GPS, accelerometer) and stored data (contacts, music).
Who is that target user, anyway?
Apps are made for people, but before those real people get to test a nearly-finished app (see below), you need to know (or pretend to know) about these folks. That information is going to influence both your content and design choices.
Personas. A persona is a “representation of a user, typically based off user research and incorporating user goals, needs, and interests.” Considering the wealth of data that we each generate through our digital movements, the difficulty with creating personas is not a lack of information, but rather with the time it could take to get and sort through it.
Enter the proto-persona. When you don’t have time (or possibly the money) to create a persona, you do the next best thing: you create a persona based off assumptions and best guesses rather than actual data. This is exactly what WillowTree had to do when it was tasked with creating the Fox News Election HQ 2016 App in time for the first Republican presidential candidate debate.
Testing 1, 2, 3…
Apps are products, and like the best of products they have to be tested before they are unleashed on the world. We were treated to some fascinating footage of an actual user test where you could follow the trail of the tester’s fingers and listen to a running commentary of reactions. Ever wanted to talk back to your phone and have actual designers on the other end listen? Well, maybe user testing is your true calling!