No of course you don’t need a style guide. But people who are using your application desperately need you to need one. You know, the people who create the revenue for your application, either with ads or by paying for the application…
There are few extremely good reasons to follow a platform style guide::
- People will immediately know how to use the basic functionality and they feel kind of “home” right away.
- They will make fewer mistakes.
- The app will look and feel like an integral part of the phone, something that belongs there.
- People will perceive that you have taken care about your customers, i.e. your users.
You can also look at this the other way around. Say you do not follow the style guide, but just do a direct port e.g. from an application optimised for a non-Series 40 phone to a Series 40 phone. It is very likely that:
- People won’t know at first how to navigate your app since the main UI elements are not where they would expect them to be. They will be confused even before they started exploring your app! This is a not a good start for trying out something new.
- People will make a lot of mistakes. A simple example: For a Series 40 full-touch application, say you place the Options menu bottom right and the back button top left. Since the application is used by Series 40 users, they will open the Options menu every time they want to step back, since all the other applications in the phone work this way. Even if the rest of your app works flawlessly, people might easily give you bad ratings, just because of this one flaw.
- It really doesn’t help if your app is getting nice reviews for the “non-Series 40 app”; in this example, the users of full-touch phones are not used to the UI style of that “non-Series 40 platform”.
- The application might not render correctly and might look broken.
- People might get the impression that you just want to make money and don’t care about your customers!
Especially for mobile applications (no matter for which platform), it is very important that your application is re-designed and optimised according to the style guide of the platform or even according to the edition of the platform. This has been proven in several large studies. (For some examples, see Jacob Nielsen’s site.)
It also means:
- There is no universal style guide to cover all mobile phone platforms.
- There is no universal answer about where to place common UI components, e.g. “Do I put YES or NO on the left button of a query”. This depends entirely on the platform you are targeting.
If your app is getting bad ratings:
- Read the users’ comments and try to fix what is wrong.
- Have a look into our UX checklist. Following it often helps fix the most common flaws.
- Check the UX webinars online; we have listed some in the Full touch library.
- Check the Event calendar for our UI Clinic webinars and submit your app; we can then figure out together how to improve your app.
For more information on our design resources:
Oh, and one final thought: We are talking about a style guide, not a style law. Don’t forget to have fun.