App Creation #53 – App Design – Function

App_illo5_HardwareWhen creating your very first app, there is no need to go in all guns blazing. Concentrate on one function and refine the software until you are totally satisfied with the result.

You will also need to carefully consider what impact the functionality may have on the device.

Battery Preservation

App capable devices offer various features that your software can take advantage of. Although this sounds a superb way of adding extra depth to your creation, it does however take a toll on battery performance if you are tapping into these frequently.

For example, devices can include a method that fairly accurately calculates your current location in the world. Apps that utilise this functionality include road satellite navigation, walking/running logs and local points of interest.

iPhone battery status
iPhone battery status

All of these will need location data to function correctly. Some such as a local point of interest app will only need your current location once to work out if there are any restaurants, shopping centres or other amenities close by. A Sat Nav app will require constant location data on your car journey at regular intervals and this will severely reduce the battery life as it gathers all of this information.

Of course the simple answer to the user is to always have the device plugged into the mains power, however individuals who wish to track their route on a walk will hardly have this option.

Consider how you can reduce battery consumption without losing functionality. Can you limit the number of times location data is required? How accurate do the results need to be? This same thinking will also apply to other functionalities.

Multi-tasking

Multi-tasking is a term that generally suggests that more than one app can run simultaneously. Although this sounds great in principle, again it can affect battery life and indeed device performance. If processing power is shared among a range of different apps all running at once, the device can soon become a slow lumbering beast that is painful to use.

Not all devices associate multi-tasking in the same way. Some manufacturers effectively cheat to give the illusion of true multi-tasking; however the goal is always the same – to provide a method of continuity.

App capable devices are often within a mobile phone. Inevitably a phone call or other distraction will require you quitting the currently running app. You certainly wouldn’t want current progress, information or route instructions vanishing when leaving to view another screen, so multi-tasking certainly plays its part.

Windows 8 app multitasking
Windows 8 app multitasking

The first option is to offer true multi-tasking, so when leaving the app to visit another area of the device – the app remains running in the background. This option is actually the least favourable due to its effects on battery consumption and overall processor usage.

The second option is to limit the amount of functionality until the user returns to the app itself, thus reducing any potential problems. These are often referred to as background processes, as they are not always visible on-screen, however they are indeed running behind the scenes.

Thirdly and actually often the most sensible is to save the current status on exiting the app. This means that when you leave an app, the current progress and any information is automatically saved on exiting without any need for additional user interaction. Your return triggers the app to check for any previous visit and if detected loads a file with all the necessary data that you left behind – giving the illusion that you never left.

App Creation Series

There are literally hundreds of thousands of applications and games available to download using the digital marketplace. These range from basic clocks to fully fledged 3D gaming experiences rivalling even the leading portable devices that usually only specialise in this field.

Your challenge is competing with this vast library of already impressive offerings which, although a daunting prospect to the fledgling traveller, can be navigated successfully with the right ideas and implementation. Whether you want to create an income generator or simply desire recognition for your efforts, this book will aim to show you the path and inspire your imagination to overflow with possibilities.

Allow James Woodcock to guide you through the wilderness and raise your chances of realising your development dreams by detailing different routes with this light hearted tour of the Apps terrain. Featuring a myriad of exciting and surprising examples, you can glean important suggestions for your own creation.

App Creation Series Index:
App Creation – Beginners Guide to App Design, Development and Marketing

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Illustrations by Steve Ince
Starting out as an artist at Revolution Software, he moved over to production before settling as a writer-designer. With various titles like the Broken Sword series behind him, Steve turned to Freelance in 2004 and in 2008 earned a Writers’ Guild Award nomination for So Blonde.

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James Woodcock

Freelance Journalist, Author, Blogger & Podcaster specialising in gaming and technology.

Ever since he experienced the first controllable pixel movement on the television screen, he has been entranced by the possibilities and rewarding entertainment value generated from these metal and plastic boxes of delight. Writing hundreds of articles including commentary and reviews on various gaming platforms, while also interviewing well known industry figures for popular online publications.