Creating a mobile app is a tricky task – with so many on the market (or app store), you have to make sure that your app works well, looks brilliant, and engages the users. So, you have to consider mobile design. It’s absolutely crucial and makes the world of difference to the overall usability and attractiveness of the app. Below we’ve listed the crucial tips for mobile UX design – following these will hopefully provide you with everything you need for designing a killer mobile app.
What is UX design?
We’d like to say UX design is the difference between a good and a bad app. If you provide high-quality user experience (UX), you’ll undoubtedly be creating a fantastic app. Mobile users expect a lot from their app – and rightly so. They can download and delete in a matter of seconds. This makes everything from loading time, to ease of use absolutely crucial. In short, if you want your app to do well – you have to consider UX design first and foremost. Ignoring it could be a crucial mistake.
To understand UX, we recommend asking yourself why the what and the how:
• Why – The motivations, values, ethos, and views. How do the users relate to the app?
• What – Features and functionality. What can the user do with the app?
• How – Aesethtics and accessibility. How will you ensure the above two points look and work great?
There are many things to consider when designing your mobile app. We’ve listed what we believe to be, the most important.
1. Offload tasks
This refers to anything in the mobile app design that requires user effort. So, consider entering data or making various decisions. The good news with a mobile app is the technology that it has. It’s no longer necessary for users to repeatedly enter their details. You can save them, and use previously entered data to help make the overall experience better. Obviously, Facebook is a great example of this – users just need to click on their image to log in to their account. This just makes everything a little more effortless.
2. Avoid cognitive overload
What is cognitive load? It’s a reference to the amount of brain power needed to use an app. It goes without saying that every app is different – some are actually designed to test the brain. However, the brain does have a limited degree of processing power. If you overload it with too much information all at the same time, it can be detrimental. Have you ever exited an app out of stress? Make sure everything in your app is seamless and easy to follow. If you have an inherently more challenging app, make sure you break everything up. For instance, you can allow the user to get used to one feature, before introducing them to the next.
3. Use familiar screens
The screens that many users see on their phones every day? Try to utilize them. It just makes everything more streamlined and accessible. An example of this would be a “getting started” page or the “search results” option. They’ve become commonplace for mobile apps, and don’t necessarily require any explanation. Using familiar screens is beneficial to you. You don’t need to spend time on creating a new dashboard, or explaining how to use something. As soon as your user downloads your app, there will be no learning curve. They’ll build a relationship instantly, and can interact with your app.
4. Consider your user needs
This is arguably the most crucial tip when regarding UX design. All the way through your design, consider your user’s needs. Obviously, this will require research into your target audience, as well as general pointers. Predicting what your users will want and need is fundamental in UX design. When an app works just how they anticipate, they’ll feel happy and gain a level of control and security. For example, the buttons and icons that you use – will the user be able to understand and predict what they do. Desktop computers offer a hover over advantage – which you’re not lucky enough to be gifted. They way your app looks, should mirror how it performs. If you include something that looks like a button but doesn’t work as a button – your user will be confused.
Nobody likes to enter an app that looks far too busy. It will be confusing, overwhelming, and might even take up too much storage on the phone. We’d say, decluttering your app is another integral part of UX design, that every mobile app designer needs to consider. A great design can be overshadowed by too much clutter quickly. Keep your content to an absolute minimum, and only present the user with everything that they need. Also, it’s essential to not oversaturate the user experience with elements. This is known as functional minimalism.
As with every design, consistency is vital. Not only will this eliminate any confusion your users may have, but it allows you to create a brand for yourself. This means visual consistency – fonts, buttons, labels, etc. They all need to be consistent. Functional consistency is also a key element in content design. This means everything should work the same. Avoid any type of confusion, and create a consistent feel.
“External consistency is also a key factor in UX design. This means that your website and products should match your app. A user will already have knowledge of your app and what it should look like, way before downloading.” — Jenna Hyde, Marketing Specialist at WoWGrade.
7. Divide the tasks
This slightly ties into the point about cognitive load. You don’t want to overwhelm the user with too much information. We won’t ignore the fact that some apps just require a lot of information in them – it’s an important aspect. If a particular task requires too much user attention, break it up. One great example of this is commonly used with e-commerce sites. For example, the checkout page is broken down into a few tasks – delivery information, and review. What this ultimately does is makes the whole process seem a lot shorter and more manageable. Imagine having to do all the steps on one page?
Obviously, you need to ensure that your app is responsive and fast right from the start.
As technology has advanced, we’ve all become increasingly impatient. We expect pages and apps to load instantly. If they don’t, we assume there’s a problem and become frustrated. If your app pages take a long time to load, your users might leave. For this reason, speed should really be a priority for you. If you can, wherever possible, make your app faster. It will truly make a world of difference.
9. Minimize the user input
Have you ever tried to fill out a form on a tiny mobile screen? It isn’t enjoyable and can actually lead to errors. As part of the UX design, you should minimize the number of inputs that you make. If you have to do forms, make them short and easy to fill out. When your user enters your form, they should feel like it’ll be easy and straightforward. Input masks, aka the feature that helps users to input text, is a great addition. Smart features like autocomplete and suggestions are really great too. Location services help with this, but also the predictability of the user is something to consider in this sense. With mobile apps, they also have a handy addition – keyboard customization. Have you noticed that it displays a numeric keyboard when asking for a phone number? What about how the “@” icon appears when asking for an email address? Little additions like this make a big difference.
10. Create an error message
Making errors happens. Technology is shaky, and creating a mobile app won’t come without mistakes. Sometimes the user will make a mistake, other times the app fails. Either way, a meaningful error message is crucial. How mistakes, regardless of blame, is handled, makes a big difference on the UX design. If you manage it poorly, users might exit your app. Certain apps, even big ones, have terrible error messages. If you pop up with “there’s been an error” with no explanation or solution, it can be extremely frustrating. Not everybody using your app is tech-savvy, and so you have to explain what exactly went wrong, and why. You should offer a solution or an indication of when it’ll be back up.
This is something that, disappointingly, is ignored by many app designers. Part of UX means that you have to create an inclusive app, to everybody’s abilities. Color blindness, deafness, visual impairment – the list goes on. How will you ensure that your app is suitable for everybody?
12. Don’t use jargon
Mobile apps that use a lot of technical jargon isn’t great. Everything on your app should be clear and easily understood by all your users. Diving into your target audience research could help a bunch here. Finding out when it’s appropriate to use specific phrases or words. Of course, this depends on the type of app you’re creating, too. If your app is solely focused on Agile business owners – you can mention Agile principles. Just as an example. However, if your app is marketed towards a wide range of people – all from different educational and business backgrounds. Avoid jargon. There are many apps and services that can help you simplify your text for the end user. Try human-operated services like Trust My Paper and Studicus, along with Grammarly and Readable, which are Machine-Learning-based services.
13. The back button
This deserves its very own section, as so many apps haven’t yet perfected their back button. Sometimes, users will click the back button, and it will take them all the way back to the home screen. It’s happened to all of us, and it is not fun at all. Your back buttons should be easy and allow users to make corrections. Nobody wants to lose progress. Make sure your back button doesn’t cancel out any important information, too. Users will not want to input this multiple times.
14. Simplicity in navigation
We mentioned decluttering, but navigation also needs to be free from any unnecessary parts. Your app won’t matter if your users can’t find all the content in them. If they struggle to navigate their way around, they might just give up. All primary tasks and essential features should be easily navigated, without an explanation. The best way to test this is by giving a prototype of the app to somebody outside of the design team. If they struggle, it’s a great indication that you need to make some changes.
15. Sign in walls
You’ll know exactly what we’re talking about – you download an app, and before you can even use it, you have to register. Of course, it’s a little bit different on social media or dating apps – you need an account to use these.
However, with games or practical apps, a sign-in wall can cause frictions. If it’s essential that users register, delay the pop up for this – allow your users to get used to the app, and then they can decide if they will give you their details.
16. Let your users know where they are
If your user is browsing through your app and has no idea what page they are on, it can be confusing. If you enter an app right now – you’ll probably see little navigation spots – this gives your user all the information that they need. This ultimately just helps with navigation and practicality.
17. Use visuals
Essential parts of your mobile app should contain various visuals. Whether it’s pictures, videos, or an interactive map. If you need a waiting screen – perhaps there’s a loading page. You could add animations of visuals. This just helps to retain the user’s attention. Don’t forget, all animations should be optional – some people do get motion sickness.
As you can see from the points above, a great design really is a combination of functionality and beauty. It considers every user while still remaining fun and visually stimulating. It’s also important to note that building the perfect app won’t happen on the first try. Updates and advances also mean you have to continually change your design.
Guest Blog Posting
written by Melanie Sovann
Contributor and blogger at 3 TO 5 MARKETING