iPhone Life magazine

An Open Letter to iPhone App Developers

Dear iPhone App Developers,

I love experimenting with iPhone apps…the photo apps are my special interest. I wish you all the best of luck and hope that you sell millions of copies. You deserve as much as you can make for spending the hours that you do creating your nifty stuff. But some of you (far too many of you) need to alter the way you do things. Although you know how to code, your business skills are lacking. Here are some suggestions. I hope that they are helpful.

After you finish your app, ask someone who knows nothing about it to use it. What you want to know is whether or not it is intuitive enough that a beginner can teach him or herself how it works. Asking a 10 year old may be useful as well. Don’t stand over them saying something like, “All you have to do is….” Remember, you will not be standing over the millions (hopefully) of potential users. Ask several people and observe them. You’ll see common problems.

Once you get an idea of how easy or difficult your app really is, write your instructions. Pictures are always needed. A simple step-by-step approach is best. It’s probably best if someone else writes the instructions other than you. Remember, you made the app so you know all of its details. You want someone who doesn’t know everything to find out and explain it to others.

The instructions should be easily findable within the app. Don’t refer folks to your website or another person’s site. No one wants to search for help, they want it on the spot.

The harder you make it to use your app the fewer the folks who will use it. Even if a zillion people say they like your app, others may download it and ignore it because they don’t understand it.

Be particularly aware of users with negative comments or requests for clarification. They are your most important users because they are pointing out problems that many others are probably facing.

The best app in the world is useless if folks can’t figure out how to use it. Please make it easy to use it…for me and all the other potential users.

Thanks. I’m really looking forward to using your next app.

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Joel Heffner is a writer and speaker. He has been writing about photography for about thirty years, ever since his book Amphoto Guide to Wedding Photography was published. Today, he mainly uses two types of cameras, pinhole cameras and an iPhone, a photographic odd couple of sorts.