App reskinning is considered as a quick-fix solution to the drudgery that is mobile app development. All you need to do is just slightly change the graphic elements, the sound, and music, a little tweaking in for the monetization models and that’s everything, right? No sweat at all. But with all its advantages, there are also inherent disadvantages in app reskinning (some of whom are mentioned in this post). These disadvantages can limit the effectiveness the reskinning process. So what of the app interface? Would an existing app interface limit creative customizations?
Common Issues with App Interface in App Reskinning
So here’s the deal with app interface: it’s part of the backbone of the reskin so it needs to be strong in the first place. When selecting a source code or app template to reskin you should watch out for these issues:
- You can’t see what you get. One disadvantage of buying a source code to reskin is not knowing how the individual screens look and if the screen flow create quality user experience. On the flip side, most of these source codes come from apps that are still up and running in the app store. You can just install the app and have a ‘feel’ of the screen flow and the app interface’s layout. Observe anything that needs improvement.
- Trends come and go. The app template that you plan to reskin may be using outdated design trends. Some designers often emulate the design of popular apps to ride in the trend but when it’s time to put the app template up for sale, the trend is already stale.
- Usability is not equal to ease of use. Some apps earn the label “user-friendly”. This is somehow deceiving since task completion is the only measure in us to gauge effectiveness. There aren’t any consideration to factors that aid in ease of use. A task may be important enough for the user that he/she would try to accomplish it even through stumbling blocks in the app interface but it doesn’t mean that it would be true for all tasks, especially when it comes to navigation.
- Very simple UI that it’s stupid. The general mantra of UX design is KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). This is all good since simplicity often equates easy understanding which then leads to ease of use but there are instances when the app’s design is so simple and straightforward that it looks like you are underestimating (unintentionally of course) your prospective user’s capability to think beyond the surface. Buttons should be intuitive and not redundant. Walkthroughs and tutorial modes should not interfere the normal flow of gameplay and should only appear as per the user’s request. App users, especially those of game apps are up for the challenge of more complex interfaces. For some cultures and subcultures, it’s somehow a rite of passage -that just being in the know separates you from mere mortals. This is why the same UX and UI design will not work for different target markets.
Reskinning a User Interface Design Template
App skins make an app an almost unrecognizable incarnation of its old self or it could make it look like a lazy knockoff done by the dozen in sweatshops. But the question still lies: would you retain a UI’s original elements or would you make it something else entirely? Here are some things that you can do to solve this dilemma:
- Make the user experience memorable. We humans, make impressions based on the emotions that an experience evokes. These emotions would immediately be called upon the moment we see a reminder of that event. It’s like when a brightly-colored window suddenly popped up in the middle of an exciting game or a dialog box telling that you did awesome and you should share your achievement with your friends. Bring to mind your experience as an app user; what was your first impression of the app? Does the familiarity of the app interface make you feel at ease? Does the presentation of the app’s features and functionality kept you hooked? Is the app design working because they arrange the things this way or because of the overall aesthetic appeal? A lot of apps have memorable UI and UX elements, most of them for the wrong reasons.
- Flat app interface design for fast loading times. Flat designs are minimalist and mostly focus on the iconic value rather on the overall aesthetics. Without the drop shadows, textures and gradients, your app will load faster. Also, adopting concepts from Google’s material design would make the colors and shapes of design elements intentional, focused and organized. The design itself serves as a guide for users as it draws out defined hierarchies almost effortlessly.
- Don’t change navigational elements too much or any UI elements for that matter. The key is to make navigational elements as familiar as possible. You can change the colors or shape of the navigational tools but it should still be distinguishable. You can also tweak the layout of these elements
- Buttons can be at the same place but should not look the same as the original. This is something that stands out with most reskins. Some buttons and other graphic elements are sold as kits or bundled with templates. These graphic elements are usually customizable to better fit the reskin’s overall aesthetic.
- Elements should have cohesion and consistency. As mentioned above, you can customize UI elements. But it’s better if the same people working on the other graphic elements also work on the UI elements.
- Create adaptive UI elements. As a rule of thumb, create graphic elements with three screen sizes in mind.