Welcome back from the Christmas break and a happy new year!
With everything I’ve written about the design of Letteral, I forgot two things and both are very important. In fact, for most users, these are the two things they see first: The app’s name and its logo.
Especially in the App Store, names are a science of its own. While you might think of them only as an identifier or a brand name, they are, for better or worse, much more.
First of all, with the tiny attention span that people have when browsing apps, app names should be catchy and already transport the essence of what the app is doing. Names like Runtastic, Scanbot or Hidden Folks do this really well. Looking for a word game to play with your buddies? While something like Umpalumpa sounds really creative, a game called Words with Friends might just be better at catching the user’s eyes when he is skimming through dozens of options in the store.
And then, of course, there is Search Engine Optimization or rather App Store Optimization (ASO). There are excellent articles covering ASO out there so I won’t get into much detail. In short, it is really important and the app name, as Words with Friends demonstrates once again, plays a big role in it. Luckily, with iOS 11, Apple has reduced the number of allowed characters in an app’s name from 50 to 30, making meaningless names like “Appname – Subtitle with as many optimized keywords as possible” much more impractical.
When I start working on an app, I try to come up with a name as early as possible. It can be a useful cornerstone for working out the overall design and, like with animals, you just feel more attached to your project when it has a name. Besides, you have to enter something when setting up your project in Xcode…
I wanted my game to have a name that is catchy and memorable but I also wanted it to give users at least an idea of what the app is doing. The first app I published was a Tumblr client called Bloggn and I was very pleased with the name as it did both things pretty well. So I started thinking about the central elements of the game. I came up with Letters, Words, Triangles, and Hexagons. I created a couple of names, none of which I can remember, but the first thing that stuck was Triletteral. I liked the name, called my Xcode project Triletteral and went with it for a while but I never really loved it. It felt a bit lifeless and was, with four syllables, already slightly cumbersome. Less than two months later (still in 2015) I had a moment like this and decided to drop the triangle reference. From this moment, the game was called Letteral and I never doubted this decision ever since.
Ahhh, logos… I hate to design them. But I also love it. Not at the same time of course. It’s a daunting feeling when, at first, you have no clue what you want the logo to look like. But, if you are lucky enough and everything comes together, in the end, it feels like a huge accomplishment.
Especially for apps, the logo is one of the most important elements of any app, period. It is the first thing that potential customers see and, if it’s bad, it will also be the only thing they see. While, with the redesigned App Store, Apple now puts a greater focus on screenshots and videos, a logo is still the key element that represents your app between a huge pile of competing apps.
The one thing that works well both in advertising and on magazine covers seemingly also becomes more and more popular width apps: Faces. The screenshot below shows the current Top 5 apps in the category Free Strategy Games. So if you are developing a game for which you can justify putting a face on its icon, you should seriously consider doing so. However, Letteral is not such a game and I would have lacked the skills for a logo like this anyway.
I wanted Letteral’s logo to look stylish and professional. It had to be easily recognizable in the store and on your home screen and it should look as sophisticated as other logos of professional apps. For my Tumblr client Bloggn, I created the following Icon and I was (and still am) quite happy with it:
Of course, in today’s world, the logo is just too dark and has a bit too much depth but in days of iOS 5, it was pretty good. Thus, my first intention was to create a modern interpretation of it, just replacing the B with an L and making it white/orange instead of black/blue. The result ,which I, unfortunately, couldn’t find anymore, was okay, nothing more. The biggest issue was that it could have been the icon of any app which starts with an L and happens to be orange. I wanted something which is a better representation of the app and its gameplay. Thus, I started playing around incorporating parts of the board into the logo. I went through eleven ideas and variations and luckily, I saved all of them. I’ll let them speak for themselves.
And there you have it. While the first ones are rather uninspired, they slowly evolve in what (almost) is the logo that you know from Letteral.
By the way: The fact that the outline between the two triangles forms the letter L was a complete coincidence. I would love to call it a stroke of genius but if I’m honest, I only realized it after creating the two overlapping triangles…
Just for reference, here is Letteral’s final logo:
So, after three parts, that really is everything I have to say about Letteral’s design. In the next part, I’ll talk about how I implemented the online multiplayer and the pros and cons of Apple’s GameCenter.