I have a confession. I don’t download many apps. Not Candy Crush, not Clear, not Dark Sky. My 4 year-old nephew was astounded that his Uncle Drew, who makes apps for a living, only had one game (programmed by me) on his iPad. It’s more than a little embarrassing when I’m asked, as an app developer, about my favorite apps and name check some obvious ones: Instagram, Facebook, Tweetbot and HBO Go. But the reality is that using an app usually just tempts me into creating one.
So, how to I keep up with design trends, stay fresh, and keep an eye on competition? The three resources name-checked below should be the first destination for a potential client. All will get your creative juices flowing, and provide lessons on how the most celebrated apps organize and present complex information.
Pttrns focuses on one thing: showing screens of nicely-designed new or recently-updated iPhone and iPad apps. A few thousand app screens are separated by app and type. For instance, users can search for screens for the Airbnb app, or comb through dozens of examples of how newsfeeds or maps are presented in successful apps. To me, it’s a hyper-efficient way of finding inspiration, because I can survey the app landscape without downloading apps and going through a registration process. For anyone approaching me with an idea, it’s a valuable way for us to communicate about design principles effectively. Check it out.
Dribbble features work from a massive number of artists, designers, and coders. It also covers all sorts of devices – not just mobile, but also websites, stamps, stationery, sketches, advertisements, and so on. If Pttrns is the department store whose clothes fit you perfectly, Dribbble is the fashion warehouse. You’ll find a lot of gems, but you’ll need an effective way to search to find things applicable to a specific project. Just searching the site for “iPad” will give you icons, sketches, and photos of iPads alongside actual usable interface ideas. My recommendation is to visit Dribbble when you don’t have a particular project in mind, and are just looking for a little inspiration.
Cocoa Controls primarily directs its content toward app developers, but others can benefit too. Recently, a potential client wanted a fresh way to present information on people. I googled “circular wheel” and found a very intriguing design that could fit the bill. Cocoa Controls goes beyond just showing users the design – it shows how to code the component. The controls are usually publicly available, and in many cases their creators permits usage by others in their own apps. So, whereas on Pttrns and Dribbble, you can’t usually just copy the design, Cocoa Controls is an excellent place from which you can pluck some great, fresh design ideas. Even better, the fact that most controls have publicly-available code cuts down on project cost. If you’re curious, “Cocoa” is a reference to Apple’s programming interface.
If you know of any other great design resources, send them my way!