The first part of the app design process is one which I am already fairly familiar with. This is 'wireframing', the production of a blueprint for how the app will look and behave when in use. At this point the design is not functional, but is instead a series of images of how the app could look at the end of the process. This is important as it helps to show the purpose of the app as well as become a reference for how the final product should look. The original designs were somewhat quickly produced and now I have a lot more time to work on something with a more user-friendly feel to it.
The original design of Lecture Companion uses a list with nested subsections. This is something I am keen to carry over to the final design.
There are many different styles used in apps, some more intuitive than others. Despite the original mock design, I have made the decision to try to create something consistent with apps already present and used by people every day. There are two main reasons why this makes for a better user experience. Firstly, nobody likes to have to become accustomed to a new interface when they were perfectly happy with what they were already using. By using a design people are familiar with, the app can be downloaded and used straight away. Secondly, it's a fair assumption to make that if many apps use a certain design, it is because the users like it. By going with a design that is already popular, people will be more likely to want to use the app thanks to a user interface that they like.
So, a combination of familiarity with the design and actually liking this design (since the two do not always come hand in hand) will make for a better-designed app. Now the decision to be made is, what design should be used? It will be very difficult to please everyone at this stage as there are two common options; Android-style app design, or iOS-style app design. The former, with the current Material Design specification from Google, tends to focus more on simple, functional and flat design. The latter, using Apple's Human Interface Guidelines, appears more complex, variable and stylish.
The average from the past 12 months of monthly sales shares of smartphones in the UK, according to Kantar, are as follows:
I've combined the data from the past 12 months to find averages, since the various product launches will affect sales share from month to month throughout the year. It is clear that the majority of smartphones purchased over the past year were running Android, but this is not the whole picture. I was unable to find data for tablets, a sector of the market which is likely to have a greater sway towards devices running iOS and of course these data are from all sales, not sales to students. The split, in my experience, is more even between Android and iOS among students. It is often difficult to gauge the overall choice of device because Apple devices all look very similar to each other so are more noticeable than Android devices, which can vary hugely in size, colour, materials, etc., leading to an apparent greater popularity of iOS than Android.
The app itself will be targeted to both Android and iOS, and assuming a roughly 50:50 split of users, the choice of one operating system's native design over another will appeal more to about 50% of students. My personal choice is Material Design, as this is something I am far more comfortable with as a user of Android devices. Additionally, Material Design is meant to be universal, with Google themselves releasing apps for iOS while the same cannot be so easily said for Apple's Human Interface Guidelines, which are very much aimed exclusively at iOS users.
As a result, Material Design presents itself as a more appealing choice for the initial wireframing process because of its ubiquity. This decision is of course not final and I intend to explore as many options as possible to find one which suits the goal of Lecture Companion best. Material Design is simple, allowing students to focus primarily on their lectures, making it an obvious choice for the production of the first wireframe.
My current plan now is to start work on making some wireframes to demonstrate the functionality of Lecture Companion as these will be the centre of any future design-related decisions.