In today's world there are far too many mobile apps. It is very difficult to deploy an app that will attract users’ attention. It is even harder to release something that will make its way among all others up to the top successfully. Definitely, one could say that a secret ingredient that turns simple apps to outstanding apps is the customization touches that developers and designers apply to even smallest details that usually most programmers don’t deal with.
But before anyone can claim to add "delight", one needs to get three fundamentals of the product right.
- Primarily, the product needs to have a value and it needs to be functional - that means that it solves the problem. Skyscape was the pioneer in creating a new category of mobile product that directly solved the problems of the healthcare student as well as the professional.
- Secondly, the product must be reliable. It needs to be up and running and available for use at all times. If you can't use it even once, you are going to use the faith in the product and will never open it again.
- Finally, the product should be usable, right out of the box. It should be intuitive to learn and easy to remember as to how to get to a particular function.
The final ingredient to a good product is the fact that it is a pleasure to use it. This is the essence of the term 'Delightful', although it has become somewhat overused of late.
At Skyscape, we have religiously followed the above approach right from the time we deployed our first prototype at Brigham and Women's Hospital some 20+ years ago, well before the term 'Mobile' became the buzz word. Some of our long time users will surely remember the first actionable and innovative book renditions to appear on the PDAs, the mobiles of the yesteryear. It came with the unique features like 'Smartbuttons', 'Smartlinking', 'Treewalk' aka interactive algorithm navigator, live formulas and more.
While all of these might have been creative for the time, it may not seem so novel in the world today. This is where we would like to touch on some of the new ideas that we have introduced to make our products sleek, while being practical and useful. We will have a series of posts to highlight such features in our products. The first in the series is the feature we have dubbed as 'Elastic Menu'.
This feature provides a "menu" that is easy to use and avoids having to tap multiple times to get to the desired function. A simple icon that can be tapped to activate and then select an entry from the activated list of menu items without having to lift the finger. All in one smooth action!
Some of the important things to remember about this interface:
The key ingredients of this feature are-
- minimal, clean and effective design
- The key visual information travels with your point of contact (since the navigation is performed with a finger and you feel the sensation where your finger tip touches the screen, it is easy for your eye to focus right near the area of the touch)
- Allows accommodating multiple menu icons (and thereby the corresponding actions they trigger)
- One touch action - All of this becomes one smooth action. Tap... move while keeping the finger on the screen... and when you are on the lines of the desired icon/option (visual feedback gives you a clue as to what is active), just lift the finger away, ... voila, you are in business!
- Contrast this with the traditional approach. A typical menu selection process is to tap once (and lift your finger) on an anchor icon - then it presents a choice of menu, you look at the options and tap again (making sure that you tap in the given area of the desired icon's boundary, requiring that special motor skill and attention) you will trigger the necessary action. If you change your mind, you tap on the icon that looks like an 'x' or tap away from the icon.
See it in action here (screen simulation from our latest release of the popular 5 Minute Clinical Consult title):