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An Apt Image – Icon and Screenshot Tips for App Developers

Build your Lego set. Craft your own dinner recipe. Now mold an icon or screenshot in your image. These guidelines will rein in the best…

A smartphone application represents the combination of technical savvy and creative genius, whether it's an e-commerce portal for a major business or a game of frantic screen tapping to guide an oblong object through a maze of geometric shapes. After investing so much time and effort, it is imperative to market the app as thoroughly as possible to ensure you and your associates are properly rewarded. Chances are, the first thing that potential users will see when they encounter your app is its icon and subsidiary screenshots. That being said, the sensible thing to do as an app develop is to craft your app icons and screenshots to crystal clarity and unmistaken quality while retaining authenticity.

Icons, Screenshots, App, Developer, Tips, Guidelines, Craft, Build, Design

The Prominence of Clarity

Icons should represent the entirety of an application's purpose, so an obscure or disconcerted image can make it difficult for both users and potential clients to empathize with. The user might not recognize the app's mission statement and delete it, or the downloader will opt for an app with a more practical message. As a rule of thumb, the icon should describe the app's functionality in a tiny image. Just think of processor chips for computers. It’s a miniature object that serves as the brain and power of the computer’s function. Similarly, the icon should condense and define the history and role of the app in one tiny square.

If the concept of your app is too abstract or has no core imagery you can use, play off of the name and functionality of the app. For example, an app designed to find local restaurants could use a magnifying lens paired with a plate of food. The lens is a traditional symbol for searching, and restaurants are where people will find plates of food ready to eat.

For screenshots, the key thing to remember is that it should be a representation of an actual screen the user might see. Modifying the border of the screen is acceptable, but the shot itself should remain undisturbed if possible.

Icons, Screenshots, App, Developer, Tips, Guidelines, Craft, Build, Design

Celebrate Uniqueness: Originality

There is a strong chance that your app has a startling amount of direct competition from a number of other programs offering similar services, and they will be trying just as hard as you to make their program stand out from the pack. You do not necessarily have to go for the random or unrelated, but the icon should build on the clarity of the image with unique identifiers that differ from apps that share the same purpose or tend to appear on the same search result lists. To return to the restaurant finding app example, you can modify the style of the magnifying glass, the contents of the dinner plate, colors, shading, and arrangement until you achieve the final icon that is both separate from the pack and true to your application's purpose.

As you might expect, originality is less important for screenshots at this stage, but you can still take advantage of your earlier creativity. All of the primary and unique features should have a screenshot available.

Icons, Screenshots, App, Developer, Tips, Guidelines, Craft, Build, Design

That Je Ne Sais Quoi: Flair

Above and beyond originality, flair is that little something extra that catches the eye. The intangible nature of what constitutes "flair" means that there is no set method that always work for adding it to a piece; the effort might just as easily backfire and detract from the icon's beauty. Feel free to experiment with random ideas or forego flair altogether depending on the feeling it evokes.

Screenshots are a terrible place to add flair. Again, remember that the concept of actual screen representation should reign supreme here.

Icons, Screenshots, App, Developer, Tips, Guidelines, Craft, Build, Design

Quality Counts

If devices that can be worn on your forehead can produce high definition video that is suited for Hollywood editing, there is no reason for any of your icons or screenshots to have low image fidelity. The easiest way to ensure quality for your icons is to use one of the many image editing and icon-specific programs that have flooded the market, many of which are free for commercial use (at the cost of reduced features or forcing you to endure advertisements).

The screenshots should be as close as possible to the sizing and appearance of the app when viewed on an intended device. Whether or not to include a border on the image is half preference and half determined by the intended platform; if you know that the viewers will primarily be on mobile devices, a border might seem redundant and detract from the already limited space on the device's screen.

Icons, Screenshots, App, Developer, Tips, Guidelines, Craft, Build, Design

Highlight Your Application

Adhering to these tips will help you create icons and screenshots that promote your app with precision and power, but they are no guarantee. The only truth is that it's the images associated with your application that will rally sales and downloads of the software - or drive users away. Treat them with the same care and respect that you do with every line of code that make up the structure of your mobile application, and use them to highlight its principles and aspirations.

Icons, Screenshots, App, Developer, Tips, Guidelines, Craft, Build, Design

Landing Crosshairs

Much like a picnic portrait or a class snapshot, icons and screenshots have to not only be appealing, but serve the model template for others of its genre. Beauty is to a degree, both objective and subjective. Try to nail the lid on the coffin for the prior while appealing as much as you can to the latter. Perseverance is a prized attribute in many aspects of life, and can be a great ally when crafting your icon/screenshot. There will be times where you stumble and those where you fall. Digital architecture proves to be just as frail and frustrating as its steel and concrete predecessor. Needless to say, its undertaking is just as satisfying and uplifting upon completion. Granted that not everyone will give positive feedback on your icon/screenshot, but at least try to seal the deal on common grounds while stripping user reluctance to its base.

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