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User experience and the iPhone

The iPhone is a phenomenal device. There is really no other device, than probably the iPod in recent history that has generated as much interest and sales than the iPhone. And the interest goes on increasing every day.

What is the reason for such a success?

In one word – the end to end user experience is probably what has made all the difference. Right from the point of buying one (not withstanding the lines, buying something at an Apple store is a real pleasure), to owning and operating, everything seems to work seamlessly and without flaw.

Then the actual device. The iPhone by all accounts is a wonderful device that does perfectly what it is meant to do. More than just functionality, however, what makes the iPhone stand out amongst the crowd is definitely the user experience. If you think of it, till very recently, the iPhone did not have some really basic functionality that one would take for granted in any other similar device (copy+paste being one prime example). What kept it popular thought was the user experience, the interface, the cool and sensible animation and the device’s accelerometer that really made all the difference. No other phone does what the iPhone does in similar style. The Windows and Nokia interfaces were stodgy and many features did not work as anticipated. The iPhone multi touch screen changed all of that and started a trend that many other companies have now started to imitate – but with limited or no success.

We know all of this, but this post is about how this applies to developers or creators of iPhone apps. To succeed as an iPhone app developer, one should keep the user experience paramount. Whether it is a simple app or a complex one, the user interface and then the experience needs to be exemplary. That is really what brings users back to the app again and again.

If an app does not leave a lasting impression on the user, by its user interface, one can easily forget the app and move on. Very few apps can create functionality that is totally new, but almost all apps can create a user interface and experience that at least makes sense. The really great apps create user interfaces that have subtle ways of surprising the user. Consider UrbanSpoon – the way you shake the phone to get a suggestion for a restaurant. Such small innovations are the ones that engage the user and drive adoptability.

We at InfoBeans are paying a lot of attention to the usability and user experience in our phone apps. Paying attention to usability does not mean we ignore the basic functionality of the app. In this day and age, that is a give. The app has to work. It just means that to create an app that stands out amongst the crowd, this usability will be the most significant differentiator.

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