7 things to consider before designing a Facebook or Google Plus app.

Recently I have been spending a good amount of time in developing facebook apps and have learned some valuable lessons about social media users. The user’s behavior is not the same as normal website users. In this case, they are already in a website and they see your app as a feature / tool. So conceptualizing an app is slightly different from conceptualizing for a website. I encountered a lot of unexpected and surprising things while developing few apps. It was both technical and conceptual. Thought of sharing few ‘must dos and don’t in developing apps for social media’. Even though things mentioned in this article are about facebook app, most of the points apply to any social media app. Thus people who are going to develop apps for Google Plus also can consider these points for sure. Now lets get to the point!

Take less, Give More:

Considering the present chaos in the Internet regarding privacy issues, Users are really scared to reveal their personal details. A lot of users don’t even keep track of what all details they have in their facebook account. So when you suddenly show a list of fields and ask for permission to share, it scares them. Only a regular app user knows the fields for sure. 70% of the new users don’t just click the ‘Allow’ button… now the only thing that you can take care as a developer is to ask for permission to share information which are primarily required to run the app. Its high time you think whether you really need those hometown, birthday, work, etc..

Its ok to ask again:

I know this sounds weird. You might be thinking ‘what do we have to ask again?’. Believe me guys, I learned it the harder way. I did an app which will predict ‘What kind of designer are you?’. It basically takes birthday from the users data and according to the users sun shine decides what kind of designer he / she is. Finally the results are displayed and it asks them to publish in their wall. There is a text on top of the screen which explains clearly that the result has been calculated form his / her birthday. Even the user’s birth date was displayed there. The funny part is, all my test users (college students – regular faceboook users) came up with one common question. How come the app is finding my deisgn personality without even me giving the date of birth to it. Now you can learn two things from this.

  1. The user never / ever reads anything displayed on screen.
  2. The user has no idea on what happens when he / she clicks ‘allow’ to give permission for the app to access data from his / her account.

The best possible solution is to have a dropdown box or may be an ajax calendar and ask the user to enter his / her birthday and then show the results. This makes a lot of difference.  Thus an app designer should know what to ask and what not to ask from user.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do:

Here I am trying to talk about the graphical language. If you decide to load your app in the facebook canvas, better stick to the graphical language followed by facebook unless you have a good command over graphic design. I have seen hundreds of apps with pathetic color combination and bad layouts. You don’t have to be a graphic designer to do this. Just use the same color which facebook uses and use the a basic sans serif font with 10 to 14px size. People who claim themselves as hard core programmers, please for heaven sake consider doing some css work in changing those hyperlinks from blue underline to something that goes well with the overall graphical language.

Not everyone likes everything:

If your app is going to be used by someone apart from you and if it’s an entertainment app, you really need to consider cross cultural issues. People around the world have diff sense of humor. They are excited about different stuff at different times. So be careful in choosing content / theme which are universally acceptable and appreciated.

Know the etiquettes:

At least in the case of facebook, this is very important. I am not sure how Google Plus will be.. Read facebook’s policies thoroughly. I mean it. There are a lot of things which you think as obvious but are not permitted. For eg, you can’t store the user details like name, email in your own database for sending email newsletters later. Even though there is a API to publish wall post, you cant run it on page load, you can only execute it when the user clicks on a button or hyperlink. There are many more unobvious policies to explore and discover. So better read the entire policy before designing the interaction flow. If facebook finds a flow, they just remove the app from the app directory, your app dashboard and also remove all the wall posts and pictures published by the app till then. You have to again setup a new app with a diff app ID and profile page. You loose all the user base, likes, etc. It’s a pain. So be carefully….

Better be an entertainer, you are not paying the user to use your app:

On an average a user has to click at least 5 links from the ‘allow’ permission button till he leaves the app. And they are scared of the spams both in terms of the email and wall post spams. So if you want your user to even enter into your app, make sure you have something he / she wants. Just make sure you give something, which is useful or entertaining.


Make sure your app is alive, if possible check every second:

Last but not the least. Check whether you app is working regularly. You might have done an awesome Conceptualizing, Designing, Developing, Hosting and Testing. But internet is not a safe place for yesterday’s codes. Who knows when our beloved facebook api will get updated, when they will release the new sdk, when facebook will block some features on your app based on some users negative feedback, when your server is down, etc.. Better keep checking our app on a regular basis. If its dead, better heal it asap.

Few useful info for new facebook app developers:

  1. ‘Facebook Insights’ for apps are available only when you get 30+ likes in your app’s profile page. Not any other like button you added in your app.
  2. Many people can set their gender to be ‘not visible’, so don’t design an app which will work based on the gender, even if you do so, make sure you have an unisex version in case the gender field turns out to be empty. Also remember to construct all the sentences in the app for both genders in common.

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