Good tablet apps do one thing and do it well

Good tablet apps do one thing and do it well

Summary: The Swiss Army Knife approach is good for many things, but not for mobile apps. Focus on one thing and do it better than other apps is the way to go.

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TOPICS: Tablets, Mobility
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Apps galore

Tablets are becoming more mainstream as time passes, with iPads, Kindle Fires, and now Nexus 7 tablets appearing all over the place. The purchase of so many tablets means the need for good apps is greater than ever, and hopefully developers will keep churning them out.

Apps on smartphones have evolved to provide a rich selection of functionality to keep most everyone happy. The best apps focus on providing one function, filling one need, and doing it really well. 

This focused approach works well on the smartphone due to the small screen, and the low selling price of most apps. No need to spend a lot of time coding features that aren't going to be used much. 

Even though tablets have larger screens, this single-minded approach still applies. While the urge may be there to make apps that do lots of things in one package, that's not the way to go.

To better serve us, figure out what your app is going to do and put all of your skills making your app do it better than any other app. Streamline the performance and battery life to be as good as it can be providing that one function.

Make the user interface so tightly integrated with the tablet screen that users can't fathom using any other app. Make the one thing your app does so seamless, so fluid, so enjoyable to do that you own the market.

Any information and data that your app uses should be easily shared with other apps and other people. The user should be in complete control over his/her data and that includes sharing it and using it with other apps.

While the urge to keep adding features to your top-selling app may be calling to you, resist it. I have used many apps over the years that become favorites, only to suffer from feature creep over time. Eventually the app becomes too much to deal with and I end up switching to another that just does the primary function well.

Most apps that try to include everything including the kitchen sink fail miserably. They get bogged down in UI elements to access all of those features, and they don't run as smoothly doing any one function as other apps that just do that.

Tablets are wonderful devices but are only as good as the apps they run. Take these suggestions to heart and we'll soon be moving around your app on our touch screens.

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Topics: Tablets, Mobility

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6 comments
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  • This thought process is a fail for me.

    Wouldn't you of course you want your apps to work seamlessly with other apps that you run. You must have a narrowly focused job. I have to have applications share data and integrated into other applications to be productive. Otherwise I will spend all my time trying to figure out how to share my data. What good is your tool if it only works in such a narrow focus?
    heathman
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      Robert Hahn
  • You wouldn't be thinking of...

    >>While the urge to keep adding features to your top-selling app may be calling
    >>to you, resist it. I have used many apps over the years that become favorites, only to suffer from feature >>creep over time.

    ...an un-named package with word processor, spreadsheet, database, email, collaboration...
    zd1923
  • Sounds Eerily Similar to the "Unix Philosophy"

    Quoting Doug McIlroy:

    "This is the Unix philosophy: Write programs that do one thing and do it well. Write programs to work together. Write programs to handle text streams, because that is a universal interface."

    Other than the part about text streams, this article seems to be advocating the same ideas. Of course, the philosophy has served programs written for Unix and Unix-like systems well for a long time. It's an effective approach.
    CFWhitman
  • One vs many rather than feature creep

    I would agree with the single app premise in the article with one caveat. I want a good, single, simple app that works as James suggesst. I do not want separate apps for every conceivable function. A good list manager is essential; separate apps for shopping list, packing list, wish list create management nightmares. Wonder how that will evolve over time.
    davefletcher
  • one app and one app only

    I am terrible with navigation. Google maps is the best thing on iPad!
    billwillclark