Kevin McMahon


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Book Review: Tapworthy

The Book

Tapworthy: Designing Great iPhone Apps by Josh Clark

"Designing a tapworthy app means designing for an economy of time, attention, and space."

The Review

Tapworthy is an indispensable resource for developers trying to make quality mobile applications for all platforms. While the book uses iPhone apps and user interface elements to illustrate the concepts discussed, many of the observations made about the mechanics, human interactions, and the psychology of what makes great applications are applicable to all mobile applications.The book does a good job of exploring the user interface elements found in iOS apps and provides a good summary of how and why you would use the elements in your designs. The coverage of this material is quite good but pales in comparison to the exploration of what goes into making a tapworthy app. It is in this exploration of what makes a tapworthy app that I got my two main takeaways from the book.The first is to be ruthless when cutting scope and narrowing the focus of your app. To help developers and designers do this, a series of questions are provided and discussed.

It is amazing how quickly issues with your design arise when your ideas are subjected to simple questions like:

  • What does your app do and why?
  • What specific problem does your app uniquely solve for users?
  • What makes this app mobile?
  • What mobile context are you designing for?
  • Why would you use this app when you are away from your computer?

These questions are straightforward and may seem somewhat obvious, but they are an easy way to vet ideas. If you can’t quickly provide a compelling answers for these questions, then you might not have a best selling app idea. Conversely, the questions can be used to identify weaknesses that might need more attention and potentially turn a good idea into a great one.The second takeaway was to recognize the three mobile contexts: microtasking, local, and boredom. To make a good app, you need to tightly wrap the answers to the 5Ws (who is the user, what are they doing, why are they doing it on a mobile, where are they, and when are they doing it) around one or more of these. Something common among the most successful apps is how easy it is to identify the answers to the 5W questions plus which mobile context it applies to. When the scope of an app is perfectly tailored to a specific scenario or use case, users will find that every tap has a payoff and accomplishing tasks within the app will seem effortless. Efficiency becomes a feature.

The Summary

There is so much to like about this book. Tapworthy forces us to ask the right questions in designing mobile apps and provides invaluable tips and insights about maximizing your app’s user experience. If you are serious about making good apps, do yourself a favor and pick this book up. You won’t regret it.