The Modern Rules of Custom iPad App Development

With a crop of over a quarter million iPad apps in the iTunes Store, it’s evident the ability to develop apps has never been easier. A wealth of mobile developers, a stable SDK, and ample documentation on the app development cycle make it fairly straightforward to getting an app onto the store in few months time.

The ability to develop a differentiable, value-added product or service via the App Store, however, has never been more difficult. This is not meant to discourage – it’s just that 250,000 apps have an inconveniently annoying way of covering 99.99% of the general population’s needs.

So if all the types of the apps have essentially been created before (insert infinite number of monkeys with typewriters joke)- what are the modern rules of engagement to creating custom iPad apps that will actually get noticed?

1. Be innovative. Always – The great thing about the future of touch computing is we have yet to discover all the unique ways we can use our fingers as inputs. The moment you start questioning conventional ways to present your interface, the moment you start to separate yourself from the pack. Case in point: there are about 4.25 million* drawing apps on the app store and almost every single one of them has a UNDO function for when you’ve made a misstep. Invariably, that function almost always looks something like this in the corner of the screen.

Admittedly, there are worse ways to force a person to undo a drawing error (for example, you could bury it in a bunch of submenus). However, there are definitely more novel ways to do so as well. One such example is the route that the company, 53 Studios, took in making their iPad application, Paper. Paper allows a user to take two fingers and dial back their mistakes: see here. It’s incredibly simple, completely original, and most importantly, makes users’ lives easier by keeping them focused on the drawing canvas as opposed to pecking through buttons.

2. Push the envelope – Want to get noticed by Apple so that they can advertise your app on the front page of the App Store? The answer to that is yes, yes you do – because Apple-endorsed apps tend to get hundreds of thousands to millions of downloads more than ones that aren’t. One of the best ways to do get noticed is to develop apps using the last SDK features available. For example, when iOS6 launched, Apple as well as various tech blogs freely advertised the most popular apps using the new Facebook integration and Passbook wallet features.

3. Follow the Data – Using services like Crashlytics, Flurry, and other monitoring tools, you can see exactly how users are interacting with your app. Because there’s always a surplus of new apps on the App Store, existing apps that aren’t evolving to the demands of their customers quickly get left by the wayside. To that point, the maintenance of your app to ensuring that it stays bug free, unique, and delightful for users is a rule that goes on far longer than the original development cycle of any iPad app.

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