App School: Removing Feature Overload

Apple’s famous phrase “There’s an App for that!” has been uttered hundreds of thousands of times. From finding restrooms along the interstate, to locating the best burger in town, to even managing your budget on the fly, there is almost, literally, an app for everything. The new trend in app development has been to start combining apps, making them more of a Swiss army knife than a singular function app. While this bundling of features together has limited the number of apps we have on our phones, making finding the right one easier, it is also equally important to remember not to overload an App’s functionality to the point where it becomes cumbersome and confusing.

For example, during the development process for an app for festival-goers across the UK, to feature many of the biggest events over the summer period, we loosely decided that the app should allow users to enter the bands that they were going to see, with the app finding any overlapping acts in their planned activity. After researching other festival apps, we found shared and common functions in many of the current offerings which we added to a list of possible functions. Initially, the list of potential functions looked like this:

Featureweb

Use a features web to brainstorm the main features of your app, then start removing the features that aren’t essential to your apps main purpose.

Clashfinder: The app’s primary purpose.
Schedule: Goes hand-in-hand with the
Clashfinder.
News: Updates, announcements, and
more.
Music Discovery: Images and videos
of the acts. For users unsure of an act’s
output, Music Discovery allowed them
to explore the act’s sounds via videos
and images.
Forums: Giving festival-goers the
opportunity to chat about the event,
arrange meet-ups, and share information.
Blogs: Features on the upcoming event.
Social sharing
Find Your Tent
Flashlight
Text your schedule and clashes to yourself or a friend
Share your plans and images on social networks
Airprint: Print out your schedule and clashes before you leave.

While this list of potential functions seems like the whole package, in app form, it would be a little overcrowded and confusing for the user. Though pushing boundaries is normally considered a good thing, when designing your app, it’s better to make the most out a few functions rather than to stuff in everything possible. The saying “jack of all trades and master of none” is very fitting in the world of app development. We’ve been conditioned to think that more is always better, but in terms of developing the scope of an app, the UX will almost always be hindered by function overload. Your app needs to be the master; it doesn’t need to be everything to everyone.

While all the functions in Clashfinder listed might be useful or fun, they’re not all necessary.

RemoveditAs well as focusing on the app’s primary purpose, the aim for Clashfinder was to produce an app with easy-to-use, high-quality functions, rather than to overload it with several poor-quality features. Feature overload will often lead to a lesser experience for the user, with rushed development time being one of the side effects. When there are apps such as Torch already available on the App Store (and it’s available in the control center in iOS 7 without having to download anything), why waste space in your own app for a feature which is unlikely to perform the function better? The decision to remove many of the features was based upon this assumption.

The features that were kept in were ones that added to the primary function; the ability to text or print clashes supplemented the primary function, and Music Discovery aided people’s schedule decisions, as did the news. The features that were taken out of the list, though useful in their own right, could have diluted the app’s streamlined experience by congesting the user flow, without actually adding much to the app’s primary purpose.

While the myriad of features you have planned for your app may seem exciting to you, bombarding your users with choices in such a tiny piece of real estate can be confusing and overwhelming. To be able to use an app intuitively, without any real instructions, the user journey needs to be clear and simple.

AskYourself2By asking yourself the questions in the text box on the right, you’ll be able to make sure your app not only clearly highlights the main purpose of the app, but also ensures that the ancillary features are those that are directly related to the app’s main purpose. An app with a clear driven purpose that it does better than anyone else with logical, related additional features will gain you far more downloads than an overburdened Swiss army knife where you have to pull out everything just to find the one tool you’re looking for.

 

 

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For more great ways to craft the best iPhone App check out The iPhone App Design Manual available now at MyDesignShop.com!

 

 

 

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