Currently, there are over 4 million mobile apps available on App Store and Google Play Store combined. An average mobile phone, however, has around 40 apps installed. It will not be surprising to find some common apps (such as Facebook and Google Maps) in most of these phones. One may wonder, how many apps go neglected and how hard it is to make a mark in the mobile app market.
There are several reasons for an app to succeed – or fail – in the market. One very obvious reason is the usefulness of the app. Take Google or Apple Maps, for example. In today’s world, it is almost impossible to think of a smartphone without these navigational apps. It is also important to understand the reasons for an app’s failure. If a mobile app is not meeting the needs of the users or is not providing an overall pleasant experience, the users have no reason to keep it on their phones. Given that there are many alternatives available, they’ll quickly switch to one that meets their needs in a better way.
A successful mobile app can add value to any business by bringing more users and turning leads into potential customers. When designing a mobile app, it is important to give due attention to app usability and user experience. The success of an app is highly dependent on the way users interact with it and the overall experience they get out of the interaction. Designers and usability experts need to focus on mobile UX to make sure that the app is useful and usable. This is exactly what a professional app design agency would do to create highly interactive and responsive apps.
In this article, we focus on the best practices for mobile application design and development. Read along as we answer some important questions and leave tips for aspiring designers.
- UX and mobile apps
- Good app design practices
- Principles of good mobile app design
- Mobile app design examples
It is impossible to present a standard roadmap for mobile app design and to list down all the practices that can guarantee success. The way an app is designed and the features it contains are dependent on a lot of factors such as the nature of the app, the target audience, and the end goal. There are, however, some best practices for mobile app design that are essential for all designers and engineers.
UX and mobile apps
An app cannot survive in today’s market in the absence of good UI/UX. A modern mobile app design must, therefore, take user experience into account and ensure that the needs of the target audience are met effectively.
Why do mobile apps need good UI/UX?
Mobile apps with good UI/UX help you retain your existing users, convert your leads into customers, and add great value to your business. An app with a good UX is not only easy to use but also leaves a lasting impression on the experience of users, making them come back for more.
Before we talk about mobile app design best practices, it is important to understand the relationship between UI/UX and the success of an app. For any mobile application to be successful, it must meet the needs of the target audience, that too in a way that doesn’t make the journey of users complicated. The best quality of a mobile application is the way it presents complicated information in a simple manner and makes it easy for users to interact with the on-screen content. This is exactly where the knowledge of UI/UX design comes in handy.
Mobile design needs to be both interactive and useful. When using a smartphone, a tablet, or an iPad, the users expect instant feedback and, therefore, the apps need to be highly responsive. All the principles of design, including consistency, user-centered design, and aesthetics play a vital role in mobile UX. A designer must follow the best practices of UX design by conducting market and user research, prototyping, and user testing a design to ensure that the needs of the audience are met in all cases.
User experience design gets a little more complicated for mobile devices since the users can interact with the same – or similar – app from different phones (android or iOS, for example) and on different devices. It is important for designers to understand these differences and create a design that works well on all devices and in all possible settings. A slight hiccup in the users’ journey can lead to a significant drop in the performance and perception of the mobile app.
One might wonder about the value of UX and why is there a need to design a mobile app interface in a user-friendly way. When a user interacts with an app, he/she wants to accomplish a certain task. This can be watching videos on YouTube, buying a gift from Amazon, or any other such thing. An app is successful when it makes this task easy, does not overwhelm the user, and gives them an overall good experience.
If users do not get a good experience and/or if they are unable to complete a task when interacting with the app, they may abandon the app. This will not only result in the loss of a customer but will also lead to bad ratings. On the contrary, if a user gets a good experience, this will lead to retention of existing users, new customers, and a better return on investment. User experience design is critical in achieving all these goals.
For a modern mobile app design, there are certain best practices that can be followed to improve the UI/UX. Read along as we discuss the tools, tips, and practices that can make your task easy.
Good app design practices
Mobile app design is different from the design of a physical product or a website. There are several factors that need to be considered when designing an app for a mobile device, whether it is to be used on an Android or an iOS device. Nevertheless, a good app is one the design of which is user-centered and it aims to make the lives of the target audience easy.
Which is a good app design practice?
Although mobile UX best practices have a lot in common with UX for the web, it is important to think of apps as separate entities. As a designer, you must not replicate everything for the web on a mobile app. Instead, prioritize the needs and familiar experiences of users.
Apps are not websites
One of the most important things to consider when designing a mobile app is to know and acknowledge the fact that apps are not websites. This information may seem obvious but it is something that often gets ignored when talking about mobile design best practices. There are several ways in which a web experience is significantly different from a mobile experience. Professional designers always consider these factors and make sure that the users get the best experience whether they are interacting with the content on the web or the app.
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Some of the ways in which a website or a web app design is different from a mobile app design are as follows.
- A website is mostly accessed via laptop or desktop computers with the help of specific browsers while apps are accessed through smartphones so there’s the different nature of devices that needs to be considered.
- It is logical to assume that when accessing a website, a user is sitting or standing in a fixed position but that doesn’t hold true for a mobile application.
- Smartphones, generally, have slower processors as compared to desktop and laptop computers, so the design needs to be appropriate for slow processing speeds.
- The navigation of smartphones is different from that of computers and an app should consider this integration with features already available on the phone.
Clarity of goals and objectives
Just like any other UX design problem, one of the best practices for mobile apps is to have clear goals and objectives. This involves research and understanding of users’ needs, limitations of the app, and a clear vision for the nature of the app. There are several questions that a designer must ask before designing a mobile application. Some of these are as follows.
- What is the nature of the app? It is important to know the nature of the app is. Is it a shopping application or a social media platform? The design considerations vary based on the type of app.
- What do you want the app to do? It is essential to understand your short and long-term goals. Do you want the app to drive traffic to the website? Do you want to lead the users somewhere else? What will their journey be like when they interact with the app?
- What is the purpose of the app? Having a clear purpose for the app is always useful. Do you intend to make money with the app? If yes, is it free to use? Do you include advertisements or not?
- How will the audience interact with the app? This is where considerations of devices and screen sizes are very important. How and where will the audience need the app? Is it a fitness app that they need to use while running or is it an ebook reader that they use while in bed? The UI of the app changes depending on these factors.
Prioritize the users
The users are the ones who define the success – or failure – of a mobile app. It is, therefore, impossible to think that you can create a successful app that doesn’t take the needs of users into account. This is where mobile application best practices highly overlap with UI/UX design best practices. Some of the ways to do so are as follows.
- User-centered design: The design of an app should always be focused on the primary needs of the users. It should be kept in mind that the users want to use the app to accomplish a certain task and the goal of the design is to help them complete this task with ease.
- Design thinking: Design thinking is an approach that makes users an active part of the design process. Getting constant feedback, conducting user tests, and making sure that the data is used effectively can be of great help.
- Basic principles of design: Consideration of basic UI/UX design principles, like consistency, typography, and visual or textual hierarchy, apply equally well to mobile app design.
There are a number of tools in the market that can make your work easy as a designer. If you’re a beginner, you can start with free and easy-to-use tools like Marvel or Origami Studio. For professionals, Sketch, Adobe XD, and Figma are ideal tools.
Which app is best for app design?
The best tools for mobile app design include:
- Sketch: A popular tool for interactive app design.
- Adobe XD: Easy to use tool with advanced features.
- Marvel: Perfect for beginners and non-experts.
- InVision: Best for collaborative design practices.
- Figma: Fast, collaborative app design.
- Proto.io: Design easily with drag and drop.
- Origami Studio: Free tool for interactive design.
- Axure: Widgets and custom controls for designs.
- Mockplus: Built-in templates for app design.
Principles of good mobile app design
It is true that there is no standard way to design a mobile application. However, based on the experiences of professional designers and the trends of the market, some app design best practices can be listed. Aspiring designers can use these for guidance and professionals can use them as a checklist when working on a project.
What makes a good mobile application design?
The design of mobile apps should be consistent, simple, and highly responsive. Additionally, a design should also be aesthetically pleasing, with good colors, fonts, and accessibility aspects. The needs of users, as in any other design, take precedence in mobile apps.
The design of a mobile app needs to be consistent. This means that the use of colors, typeface, and contrast does not surprise or overwhelm the users at any point. Consistency also means that if an app is accessed through different devices and at different times, it should give the same, familiar experience. One such example is Instagram. Both the iOS and Android apps of Instagram look similar, at least to a general user.
One of the best practices for mobile design is the use of a simple and easy-to-use interface. In any design project, simplicity is the key to success. If the users get lost in the design, they will not be able to accomplish their goals, and this will lead to a bad user experience. The issue of simplicity gets more pronounced when the app being designed is complicated and has a lot of things going on. For example, a shopping application can be hard to design as the users can use it in a number of ways. The important thing to remember is that the task of a designer is to make complex things look and feel simple.
When talking about mobile design best practices, it is impossible to ignore the usability of the application. If an app is not usable, will it ever be successful? The short answer to this question is ‘No’. For an app to make a mark in the market, it must be easy to use and it must also meet the expectations of the target audience. User testing is one way to understand the major pain points of users and then address those with efficient design.
One of the most important aspects of any mobile application is its responsiveness. A good design is one that gives quick and right feedback to users when they interact with the app. When interacting with the app, the users are, in fact, in conversation with the interface and they need a quick response. A responsive app is going to give a good experience in such cases. Responsive design also means that the app gives a consistent response on different devices.
A design, along with being useful and usable, must also be aesthetically pleasing. No one wants to use an app that doesn’t look and feel nice. This is where the creativity and aesthetic sense of designers is put to test. While making an app aesthetically pleasing, it must be noted that it is not overly complicated or too heavy for the processor of a smartphone. A good-looking design is helpful but it won’t be successful if the users cannot interact with it easily.
Mobile app design examples
In UI/UX design, it is always a good practice to learn from the best examples. To get a better understanding of mobile app design and to see how app design best practices are actually implemented in the real world, looking at some examples can be of great help. Following are some of the best app designs out there.
Spotify is one of the most popular music streaming apps at the moment. One of the reasons for this app’s success is its highly responsive UI and simple-to-use design. There is a lot of room for customization when the users interact with the app. One of the best practices of mobile design that Spotify follows is the fact that it gives control to the users, thus adopting a user-centered approach.
Medium is another remarkable mobile app. It is one of the best examples for aspiring designers where important decisions are made while designing the app. There are some features that are restricted for the website, such as the Medium Partner Program information. This is an excellent example of how a website design is way different from an app design. Designers need to make important decisions when putting information and content on the apps and Medium does it very well.
Coursera is a different type of application where the purpose is to stay focused on education, online courses, and learning. This is where the designers need to answer some important questions as were discussed above. The app is designed so that users from different professions can understand the UI and use the app with ease. The understanding of the target audience comes in handy in such cases.
Google Maps is one of the most downloaded apps. The success of this app is dependent on its UI/UX and the ways the designers give due attention to the situations in which the audience may be interacting with the app. The app gives you a lot of options, such as toll-free and energy-efficient routes, cycling and walking options, and a lot more. Additionally, the responsiveness of the app is commendable as it doesn’t ask you to do a lot of work while you’re, say, driving. This helps the users accomplish their tasks with ease.
Slack is an excellent app to be used for professional communication and collaboration. In the last few years, many organizations have switched to Slack and this speaks volumes about the success and efficiency of the app. One of the best things about Slack is the way it understands the needs of its users. For example, an individual may have multiple emails associated with different Slack workplaces (school, office, etc.). Slack lets you add all these workplaces from different emails in a single app, that too with minimum effort.
There are numerous other examples of mobile design best practices in the market. It is important to remember that you may not be able to implement all the practices in your app and you may have to tweak some of these. That is because the nature of an app and the goals of a product or service dictate the way an app is designed.
Designing a mobile app is a challenging but fun task. As an aspiring designer, it is important to understand the basic principles of UI/UX design and to make sure that the focus is always on the needs of the users. A design that prioritizes the needs of the audience has a very good chance of succeeding and getting a competitive advantage. The best practices listed in this article will help you stay focused when designing a mobile app. These practices can also be used as a checklist to know that your design is meeting all the necessary requirements before it hits the market.
Updated: Dec 27, 2022