Who Should Design an App?

genericmobile.gifI received an email recently from someone asking…

"If you had an application idea and had no coding knowledge or expertise, who would you have design your application?"

The answer is ‘It depends’

Before I attempt to answer the question, we have to think what we mean by ‘design’. It’s not just UI design. It also relates to covering the requirements (and hidden ones) as well as things such as client-server communication, server IO, scalability and general programming complexity.

Here are the types of people I have seen design my clients’ mobile apps, my thoughts on the outcome and some tips.

UI Design House – These usually get involved when brands want the ‘best’ UI. A specialised UI Design house will have a large amount of experience on how to implement the various types of screen on various platforms. The downsides are cost and depth. Their services tend to be very expensive and the design is usually only as deep as the UI. Hence, you still have to think about all the things mentioned above and in some cases the UI will change as a consequence.

The Client Themselves – I have worked on some very good client generated designs. The more successful ones have been when the app has a specialised purpose and the client is a domain expert. They have also probably used similar apps in their specialised area and already know what’s needed, what works and what doesn’t.

An Intermediary – I have seen problems with intermediaries doing designs. There can be problems with having too many partners and  knowledge disconnects.

The Developer – The developer will usually provide the most comprehensive technical design. The developer is also the only one who can provide an optimal design that balances features against effort (cost) to implement. However, you might find a developer’s designs tend to be less asthetically pleasing. If you are going the developer-design route, a tip is to also involve a graphic artist to work on the graphical elements.

Remember, most designs aren’t perfect. It’s often the case that whoever does the design gets too close to the problem for too long and misses a few obvious things. Hence, design review is important. Also, plan in at least one cycle of application end user feedback and rework as it’s also my experience that it’s actually the end user that has the best insights.