Use standard UI elements or custom?

Discussion in 'iOS Programming' started by satchmo, Dec 11, 2014.

  1. satchmo macrumors 68000

    Aug 6, 2008
    So I'm looking to develop my first iOS app. As a non-programmer, I'll be relying exclusively on the knowledge of a developer.

    So I've been reading and learning about the SDK. But to be honest, it's above my pay grade and it's not what I enjoy. That said, I wanted to throw this out there and ask what most feel is the best approach for a basic contacts type app.

    Naturally employing a design with custom graphics will allow for greater branding and uniqueness.

    Using the standard built-in UI elements provided by the SDK will I assume be much simplier and possibly the smarter route. I suspect it will be cheaper to produce too.

    Would love any pros and cons to each.
  2. 1458279 Suspended


    May 1, 2010
    Having a standard iOS looking app will not catch much attention. It'll look like someone took some sample code, compiled it, and put it on the appstore.

    Making it look different will make it stand out and some may like it and other may hate it, but it will cost a bit more, it doesn't have to cost much more as there's a ton of tools and free / near free artwork out there.

    This is what I'd do:
    If the app has high functional value and is targeted to adults, I'd focus on simple effective interface.

    If the app is a gimmick and/or targeted to young people, then time/money spent on flashy things can help.

    Example: a professional business calculator doesn't need cartoon characters or bright colors, it makes it look like a toy. Kids don't like business calculators.

    Look at the purpose of the app, design the interface to match the purpose of the app.
  3. chown33, Dec 11, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2014

    chown33 macrumors 604

    Aug 9, 2009
    Sailing beyond the sunset
    Use standard controls as much as possible. If there's a benefit to the user experience for doing a custom control, then (and only then) should you do it.

    "Greater branding and uniqueness" is often an excuse for making crap to satisfy oneself. Focus on the customer's direct experience of your product, and that will establish the brand. Being different just for the sake of being different is the fast road to winning contempt instead of customers. Gratuitous changes are gratuitous (that may be self-evident, but it's surprising how often this simple fact is lost).

    Don't think of "brand" as name recognition or any of that other stuff you might hear about. Think of a brand is one thing: reputation. If no one knows what you do, you have no reputation. If many know you do something poorly, you have a bad reputation. If many people know you do something well, you have a good reputation. Having no reputation is different from having a bad one.

    If you have a good reputation, people will remember your product. If you have a bad reputation, people will also remember your product, and no amount of "branding" hocus-pocus or name recognition "rebranding" will counter the perception that your products are crap.

    How do you make a good reputation? By being useful in a distinctive area (utility), and by leveraging the customer's existing skills (familiarity). If you're not useful, or erect unnecessary barriers to being useful, then no amount of uniqueness will improve your app's reputation.

    One other thing: a good user experience design is a completely different animal than a good software design. If your developer can't show you top-quality products they've designed ("quality" referring to seamlessness and scope of user experience), then don't let them design the user experience. Get a UX designer and have them do it.

    A basic contacts app means you have some stiff competition. Be clear about exactly what their shortcomings are, and exactly what you'll do to improve those. Bring something new and useful to the table and you'll get your brand recognized. Do it poorly and you'll be just another failed attempt.
  4. satchmo thread starter macrumors 68000

    Aug 6, 2008
    Hey thanks for the great feedback.

    I'm hoping a developer can still tweet standard elements to make it somewhat different.

    Good advice. It will be very austere and serious to suit the subject.

    I recognize it's a crowded playing field and hopefully the utilility will win over others. This is for a very niche market so hopefully I will stand out.
    My approach is always less is more. The brand and uniqueness is just something I'd like to add a bit of. Nothing flashy. The branding could simply be through the startup screen/about page and through the use of colour. I'm certainly wasn't suggesting garish odd shaped buttons. :)
  5. PhoneyDeveloper macrumors 68040


    Sep 2, 2008
    Standard vs custom may be a false distinction. Most of the standard controls can be customized. From the standpoint of the code there's not much difference between a button with an image in it or text in it or a screen with a background image or a screen with a plain grey background.

    The best way to do this is to have a UX designer design the appearance of the app according to your wants. The coder will be able to code it based on the design. Think about the UI design as a critical first step. Not something that you'll tinker with at the end.

    Most developers are not very good at this. I can develop good work-flows that offer ease of use but I'm not much good at drawing icons or developing a unique theme for an app. Most of the apps I've designed myself use the standard appearance. You need a good mobile UX designer if you want something unique and good.

    Look at Apple's apps and at any apps that are similar to the one you're building to get ideas of how you might want to theme the app.

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