Developing Mobile Apps

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Mobile Apps - Introduction

Teaching how to use mobile apps


Mobile apps harness the power of the Internet with the simplicity of multi-touch technology on a smaller screen and can be run on computers, smartphones or tablets. In 2007, Steve Jobs launched Apple's App Store with only 500 applications (Ricker 2008). As of May 2013, users had downloaded over 50 billion apps (including a variety of health based ones) from Apple's App Store - downloading at a rate of more than 800 apps per second and over two billion apps per month (Apple 2013). Owned and operated by Google, the growth of Android has been just as fast (Barra 2011). Health apps offer tremendous potential as they can be geared towards particular conditions and purposes or focus on providing support for specific users.

Pew's 2012 mobile health study found that 19% of US mobile owners had apps installed that helped them track or manage their health, with 24% of those aged 18 to 29 owning such apps. These users were also more likely than older owners to use mobile health apps (Fox and Duggan 2012). An app requires careful design to suit a mobile platform and to ensure that it is clinically accurate and fully considers the individual needs of its user, and at the time of writing, there is little research relating to the design process, development, and use of health-related apps by individuals or groups, although this will certainly change as they become more widely distributed and used in the next few years.

Like good mobile web, apps should be easy to use with clear interface design. Due to the power and graphical capabilities of smartphones many apps are 'over-designed'. The key to avoiding this is to study design guidelines carefully (both Apple and Android have thorough design docs) and to use the standard interface elements of the device as much as possible. This may sound 'boring' to your designers, but the elements created by the platform holder work for a reason.