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Five apps that look pretty, work well

By Evan Wade / May 21, 2013


Making an app visually appealing and easy to use (in no particular order, of course) should be at the top of any developer’s strategy. iPhone or Android, there are lots of good examples of apps that do just that. Here are five of the prettiest, best-designed ones — and the reasons why they work so well.

Dark Sky (iOS)

“Innovative, gorgeous, and highly practical,” one review of Dark Sky, a popular iOS weather app, says. You don’t need to pick up — or even own — an iOS device to see why. The radar alone lends credence to the gorgeous aspect, and the highly practical thing comes in loud and clear via the big button placement and at-a-glance info presentation. As a crowdsourced app (it got its initial funding through a successful Kickstarter drive), customer engagement was a core focus before the first line of code was written. The message? If dull subject matter like the weather can be turned into an interesting, engaging app, anything can.

Vine (iOS)

How’s this for simplicity? When you click the link to video-sharing app Vine’s web site you’re taken to a simple splash page with the application’s logo and not much else. Clicking that takes you to an App Store listing and the brief product description therein. That’s it. The app itself is just as easy, if a bit more functional: Recording and sharing a short, looping video is as easy as a few thumbtaps. In a world where big-name apps come cluttered with features just waiting for an accidental touch, there’s something refreshing about a basic click-and-go mechanic.

Evernote (Android)

Yes, that Evernote. We’re looking at the Android version here because of its excellent widget (pictured above), which lets you do all kinds of neat stuff with a bare minimum of hassle. Want to jot some quick thoughts down? Cool. Need to snap a pic as a reminder? Go right ahead. Want to record a note to self? Sure, if that’s your thing. Evernote’s ease and scalability make the app perfect for anyone whose daily duties (or faulty memory) require extensive note-taking, and the Android widget makes it even better.

Jiffy (Android)

Remember the PDA? The smartphone kind of absorbed the whole concept, of course, but the idea’s still alive and kicking in Android apps like Jiffy. If you’re busy enough to need a planner, learning a planner may be just the kind of time suck you’re looking to avoid. Intuitive is the key word behind this inspired alternative, with dead-simple task management and a UI Gizmodo says “couldn’t fit its purpose any better.” In other words, it’s built for the user’s needs — not what the developer thinks the user wants. A small distinction, perhaps, but one large enough to make Jiffy one of the most popular Android apps for planning in a market full of them. That’s got to say something, right?

Yahoo Weather (Android and iOS)

Splat F writer Dan Frommer has perhaps the best recorded observation on Yahoo’s surprisingly wonderful weather application: “Hey, look at that,” he says, “Yahoo is capable of making something beautiful and useful.” In fact, his whole take on the app and philosophy behind it is pretty darn interesting. Like with Dark Sky, the app shows (to paraphrase Frommer) that even common, useful ideas can be tweaked and made better. Yahoo’s image isn’t quite as tarnished as it was, say, two or three years ago, but it’s still impressive for an old monolith to get a tip-of-the-cap from a younger audience. It’s also a sign that the product is one of the most useful iOS or Android apps out there. Check it out if you care about not getting rained on — or seeing a useful application at work.