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Building a Better App

Delivering a positive user experience via mobile device is key to good customer service.

By Dan Ward

In 2017, a banking app for your customers is no longer a nice-to-have – it’s a must in order to reach your patrons where they are, and more importantly, where they expect their bank to be. Put yourself in the shoes of your users:

You’re in the checkout line at the supermarket and want to pay with your debit card, so you pull out your smartphone to check your balance. But the user interface requires so many taps to navigate that by the time it’s your turn at the register, you still have no idea what your balance is.

Or you’ve just received a check and want to deposit it quickly, but your bank’s app makes it onerous to log in and properly photograph the check, because it doesn’t take full advantage of your iPhone or Android device’s native hardware.

These scenarios are just two of many for users of banking apps where a simple interaction can be derailed by a poorly designed app, leading to a terrible customer experience. Adding to the list of possible complications, your customers use both iOS and Android devices. To start your app off on the right foot, it is critical to understand the beautifully varied elements that distinguish one platform from another.

Why? Once you’ve determined that it’s time for an app, you’ll be faced with a fundamental decision before you even get into the details: Will you design your app for one platform (Android or iOS) and copy it to the other, or will you design two native apps to deliver similar customer experiences?

Designing for one platform and copying it to the other may seem like an easy, cost-effective solution to the task of building a mobile app. It’s hard to build great apps, and having to re-create the same effect across two separate platforms can seem like a waste of time and resources. You can get a single, non-native app into the hands of your customers much faster and cheaper than two native apps. It’s a no-brainer, right?

Here’s the thing: Making one platform act like the other causes confusion that can alienate your users, resulting in negative app store reviews and eventually app deletions. These unmet expectations can even lead to account closures as your disappointed customers flee to competitors with excellent app experiences, which directly affects your bottom line. Customer service and user experience are king in the app space, just as they are with the brick-and-mortar business.

If your intent is to provide your customers with the best user experience, generate outstanding app reviews, and release the best app on the market, it is critical to treat each platform separately and take its unique characteristics and design guidelines into account. Here’s why.

A more consistent user experience and higher satisfaction.

The overall look and feel of iOS and Android apps should be similar, but the actions users make should behave like the platform they regularly use and love. Every platform has a set of guiding principles for UX. These principles are often found in the form of design guidelines and are specifically tailored to the platform’s devices and context of use.

Designing around these principles guarantees an optimized experience for users, while designing against them almost always causes confusion. An app that looks and acts like most of the other apps customers are already using on their devices is intuitive to use – and builds trust, which is key when an app deals with sensitive financial information.

Saving time and money.

Cloning an app is like shoving a square peg in a round hole. Platform-specific apps are designed to use platform conventions. Anything else is custom. So if Apple or Google releases an update, there is no guarantee that a non-native app will even launch.

Although native development generally requires a higher initial investment, it demands fewer adjustments over time. By using native core components, updates to the operating system automatically pass to your app – no active development is necessary to make your app look and act the way it should. Additionally, this means that your app will be backwards compatible with older versions of the operating system. This helps reduce ongoing maintenance expenses, making it the most cost-effective course of action.

Avoiding hardware difference.

Hardware parameters differ between both platforms. For example, Android products have dedicated navigation buttons. iOS devices have a dedicated hardware home button. The two platforms deliver features like fingerprint security and cardless payments on totally different schedules and should be handled independently in many cases.

When it comes to banking apps, although all phones do not have hardware fingerprint authentication, your app should still offer it as an option – if your customer’s device has it, he or she will expect a banking app to utilize it. Even if a hardware feature doesn’t have 100 percent saturation in the market you’re serving, you should still strongly consider designing toward it to satisfy customer expectations and security concerns.

Delivering stability, scalability and performance.

Native design is the most reliable way to develop apps. It delivers a level of stability, scalability, and an unmatched UX that cross-platform apps don’t do as well. You must respect the differences between Android and iOS if you want to build a beautiful native mobile app. If the goal is to create a stable, high-performing app, staying true to the platform is in your best interest.

A banking app should be as intuitive to use as possible. Think about when the customer might need to use it and what for – they might be sending money to a friend, paying a bill that’s due tomorrow, or making a deposit – all while on the go. Your app should be feature-rich but not overwhelming. Using it should be painless.

Just as your bank tellers and financial advisors provide great customer service, your app is another way for customers to accomplish important tasks. As long as your app provides a seamless experience – and by developing native apps that take advantage of all of the features that iOS and Android phones offer, even when those features differ from device to device, it certainly will – you’ll continue to build trust in your product and in your bottom line.


Dan Ward is co-founder and chief creative officer of Detroit Labs, a Detroit-based mobile development company and maker of iPhone, iPad, Android and vehicle apps. For more information, visit


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