Smartphones are ubiquitous, owing to just how much they help us accomplish on a daily basis. The average person is figuratively lost without it, and businesses rely on them to reach the masses who in turn depend on them. This is what makes the common smartphone such a valuable resource – through minimal effort and a small upfront investment (via purchase), the average consumer is now ever more so connected to brands that are important to him/her – while leveraging accessibility for those very businesses.
But it isn’t as simple as just placing an ad online, or posting a quick update on social media; there’s much that requires consideration, well before any decisions are made on what to execute. Sure, digital marketing can raise the awareness you need, but what about actual interaction? On top of that, how do you make sure that your customers truly love what you’re releasing via the online landscape, and how can you measure the efficacy of it all?
Enter the world of mobile apps. As consumers start to divert towards an on-demand temperament, the ubiquity of smartphones combines to create a situation that makes one-on-one interaction an essential, and not an extra. Failing to adhere to the trend can possibly make businesses lose out, since brand names and consumer options are abundant. On the other hand, mobile apps in today’s day and age are also a no-brainer; thanks to the success of numerous other apps that have now become household terms, opting for one to cater to the needs of your own business is definitely a must.
This subsequently leads to one inevitable question: how can you determine if your mobile app is a success? Considering the overwhelming complexity of the mobile app generation and the digital landscape at large, the answer to this question is multi-faceted, no doubt. Simply putting it, success rates can be determined by looking at two major factors – how you articulate the nature of your business via the app, and the technicalities that have gone in to making your app a reality.
Sure, this is still just a vast generalisation, as no two apps, businesses or even consumer bases for that matter can be made to follow a strict set of protocols. There’s no blueprint for mobile app success, but following some fundamental rules can help you achieve maximum rewards. An integral factor that mobile app development companies in Sri Lanka follow is a custom approach to each and every project that is waiting to be managed.
However, the starting point always involves information architecture. The manner in which this is carried out is basic – via business reviews that collect ample information. But how you decide to articulate that information is what constitutes its architecture, and thereby concludes the overall success of your mobile app. The right mobile app information architecture should make the most extensive and complex ocean of data into one that is easy to understand and simple to retrieve. On top of that, the information architecture should also facilitate scalability, so that your app can be scaled up or down depending on business demands.
Without further ado, let’s get down to comprehending how you can approach the whole concept of mobile app architecture, especially as a business or brand owner with little to no IT knowledge.
The business review you conduct with your team members needs to touch base on a number of key factors, before actual development sets in. Meeting members need to include key decision makers from your company as well as those who interact with your customers day in and day out (be it in person or virtually). Together with members from your mobile app development agency, your business review needs to clarify things such as:
Once the above concerns are addressed, you’re on your way to deciding which information architecture will be most suitable for your business. There’s no rule to strictly adhere to one layout alone, and you are free to mix one or more elements from different layouts to suit your purpose.
As its name suggests, a hierarchical pattern starts from the top (with a main display of what’s on offer) and breaks down into subpages or subcategories as needed. The hierarchical pattern alone is ideal for organising and displaying information; for specific product/service pages, a wholly different interface can be used for articulation. The best use case for hierarchy information architecture is for apps that already have well established websites. Therefore, the app can also follow suit in this regard.
Best use case example: Classifieds websites, since a main display or search can subsequently lead to multiple options for viewing and interaction.
The hub & spoke layout features a central area that’s replete with all the features you need to work on the app (the hub) and spokes (the features themselves). In order to access certain features, simply tapping on it takes you there – but doesn’t give way to multi-tasking, if ever that’s required.
Best use case example: The hub & spoke layout is ideal for games, especially those that feature multiple different games to choose from. Since a gaming app is a rare exception to a platform that doesn’t demand multitasking (as one can only get engrossed in a single game at any given time) the hub & spoke layout is an easy and appealing option.
The nested doll follows a linear structure of representing information, from a larger display set to a more specific one. Similar to its hierarchy cousin, the nested doll funnels information from generic to specific, but without much freedom to come back to the beginning, if it is required.
Best use case example: Any (preferably e-commerce) website which offers the option to customise something by way of asking multiple questions. This can also apply to custom inquiries, depending on what exactly a customer wishes to be contacted about.
Tabs function as a menu – but with easy access no matter where you are on the app. This is especially helpful if you want to multi-task, so keeping multiple tabs open to run tasks can be of added value to your users. Tabs can be found at the top, bottom or sides, depending on what you specialise in business-wise.
Best use case example: Flight and hotel booking engines stand to vastly benefit from such an architectural layout, simply because users will always want to revert back to the main objective of the app – which is to refresh their search and start all over again.
Also known as the Bento Box, this layout derives its name from the boxed options that are presented for interaction, on the main page of the app. In the case of the dashboard, only the most important functions can make it to the forefront – else you risk a layout that is too cluttered and complex to navigate around.
Best use case example: The dashboard layout is best suited to business apps, especially those used for analytics. Since most business apps are very oriented towards the objectives their users wish to achieve, displaying a set number of them via this layout makes on-the-go duties all the more convenient.
Just like hierarchy and nested doll, filter view also helps narrow data down. However, the visual layout is much different than that of its counterparts. Featuring a set of options on the side that can then be selected to reveal specific options at the centre of the screen, filter view is one of the most versatile ‘pick & choose’ styles of layout there is when it comes to mobile app information architecture.
Best use case example: Ecommerce websites that offer a vast list of items to choose from. Owing to so many options, the filter view can ease the user into displaying exactly what they’re looking for, by tapping on filters (and not taking any trouble to swipe through scales or manually type in text).
Mobile apps feature a number of constraints that desktops don’t, which makes developing for the same an even greater challenge. However, as long as you keep these factors in mind, finding a way to bypass or overcome them is very much possible, no doubt.
One of the biggest challenges of developing a mobile app is the lack of screen and touch space. With only a few inches of screen space available to make the most of, app developers need to caution themselves from cramping too much within such a confined space. In this context, less is more and keeping this in mind will help create information architecture and user interface that isn’t too overbearing on your user.
Android or OS? This won’t just influence the information architecture you finalise for your app, but also determine whether your app should be a native or progressive one. While native apps are great for ensuring performance in the wake of a bad connection, progressive apps are versatile enough to work on practically any smartphone, owing to its resemblance towards web apps.
Mobile app information architecture is the foundation that can make or break your mobile app, without a doubt. However, before we determine what type of information architecture should be applied, it’s important to understand the magnitude of today’s mobile app generation, and the immense dependability on services which are facilitated by the same. With an endless array of options for today’s consumer, establishing a strong mobile presence is a necessity in order to attract and retain customers for the long-term. While a mobile app is the answer for such exposure, ensuring it is a success is a whole other challenge.
This is where the discussion about mobile app information architecture comes in. Identifying key pieces of information and organising them to suit your business objectives requires thorough introspection on the part of your team and agency. Answering important questions that pertain to how your mobile app will attain business objectives (and what those objectives are in the first place) can be the stepping stone for determining the technicalities of your mobile app’s information architecture – as well as everything else. Also, don’t forget that reporting and analytics are also important factors in this whole process; having a stable reporting system in place can help you see whether your strategies are working, and make way for scaling if required.
The type of information architecture you use (hierarchy, hub & spoke, nested doll, tabs, dashboard or filter) is vastly influenced by the calibre of data that needs to flow to and from your user. On top of that, there’s no set rule in terms of following only one architectural layout – you are free to combine elements from multiple layouts, as long as it complements your data flow. Last but not the least, keep other constraints in mind (such as limited screen space and OS requirements) to complete your mobile app development process, and ensure the final result is one that will bring long-term value to your business.