Mobile apps provide an opportunity for businesses and designers to reach more people than ever before. No longer are business owners limited to reaching out to customers via phone, mailing campaigns or in-store. Today, your company is available 24/7 through a website and mobile apps, which go with users everywhere. Developing an app allows you to send push notifications to users and meet a particular set of customer needs.
Unfortunately, not all apps work the way they should. Some are downright frustrating and make little sense to the user. Creating a great app design UI and experience (UX) for mobile isn’t as simple as it sounds. Researchers predict that by 2020, mobile apps will generate about $188.9 billion in revenue. There is still plenty of room for growth, but there are also some design practices that don’t work well. For every good app, there are three that don’t translate well in real life.
Users have the option of thousands of apps from which to choose. If you want yours to grab user interest in a sea of other choices, it needs to stand out. One way of achieving an app people use frequently is focusing on the user experience. Every designer has a different way of creating apps, but they all have some elements in common. Here are nine ways you can deliver the best experience possible to your mobile users.
1. Spend Time Planning
Before you create a single element of the app design UI, spend time planning which problem it solves and its overall structure. Dig into the personas of the people most likely downloading the app, so you know the audience you’re trying to reach. Understanding your audience crosses every aspect of development, from the layout of your navigation to the way you promote your software.
Some designers use wireframing to create a sort of blueprint for their design. This allows the app creator to try out different elements and see how they work in the architecture of the program. It saves time, as you can determine what might create issues before spending hours coding something that won’t work into the app. Think about the age of the user and even how large their hands might be — bigger buttons work better for men who sometimes have larger hands than women, for example.
2. Develop for the Type of Device
Even though iOS is popular, there is a percentage of people who will always have an Android. You can choose to develop for only one or both. If time allows, go ahead and create apps for both systems. While you might wind up getting more downloads on Apple than Google Play, you’ll meet the needs of all your users — no matter which operating system they’re using. Also, keep in mind that the behavior of Android versus iPhone varies, so you’ll need to factor in the way each segment uses their smartphones and tablets.
Survey your current customers and ask if they own iOS or Android. If 90 percent of your customers are on iOS, then releasing your iOS-compatible app first may be the best choice for your budget and time considerations. While it’s smart to offer both options, you should always focus on where you can get the most bang for your buck first and then add on other platforms when you can afford to.
MindMeister is a mind-mapping tool that works well for brainstorming and project collaboration. MindMeister is available online and for mobile devices, and can be used for both iOS and Android. One of the advantages of this particular app is that it integrates across multiple device types. If you own an Android tablet and an iPhone, you can seamlessly use the different versions of the app from both items without losing a beat.
3. Divide Big Tasks Into Subtasks
Think about the way people use their smartphones. The typical user grabs their phone while in a waiting room or riding in a subway to and from work. They may not have an hour to complete a big chunk of a task, but if you separate large functions into smaller ones, then the person can do things as time allows. Users also may not like endless scrolling, so breaking actions down to fit on a single screen at a time is an improvement in overall UX.
One way of making sure your big tasks are doable for busy people is testing the system. Set a timer for 30 seconds and see if you can complete the job in that time. If not, how can you break it down further, so part of it is completed in 30 seconds? You’ll also want to create your app so if a user has to leave the process for a bit and return, it will pick back up where the user left off.
4. Create a Rich Experience
You’ve heard the advice to keep things simple, but that doesn’t mean your app should be boring. The most recent smartphones have high screen resolutions and offer images and videos in high definition. It’s important to find a balance between rich media within your apps and speed. Graphics need to be optimized to load quickly, but still be bold and sharp, so users are visually satisfied.
Remember that your users have other choices, and they’ve decided to use your app instead. If you don’t keep them entertained and engaged, then you risk losing them to a competitor’s app. Yours must be both visually pleasing and highly usable.
HotelTonight uses vivid images that make users want to travel to different locations where they might book a room through its app. The focus of its features are functionality, but the app doesn’t ignore the aesthetics of design, creating a nice mix of images and elements. The calls to action often sit on top of the background image.
5. Create a Clear Progression of Steps
When you’re moving users through the various parts of their journey, make it clear what the next step will be. If the user clicks on an actionable button, immediately slide the screen into the next step. You can also use elements such as numbering things: Step 1, Step 2 and so on.
Another idea is utilizing icons, such as arrows, to show the user where to go next. Simple words, such as “Scroll down” or “Swipe left,” offer clear direction to people and make your app simple enough for even beginners.
6. Highlight Calls to Action With Color
A burst of contrasting color draws attention to calls to action (CTAs) and clearly shows users what they need to do to use the app. Once you know who your users are, you’ll have a better idea of what color buttons might work best to grab their attention and drive them forward through the app’s functions. You can also conduct split testing to see which colors and button sizes work best for your specific audience.
There are various studies on the color of CTAs some experts think work best, but other studies contradict the findings. The takeaway is that different colors, shapes and placement work best for various types of audiences, so you have to find the best combination for the results you’re seeking.
Hwy 55 Burgers, Shakes & Fries app utilizes red and pink buttons that pop against the pastel background. The user’s eye tracks to the buttons, and they know they should take one of the actions listed, such as scanning a receipt or viewing their rewards. The colors match the palette on the company’s website and in its restaurants, while using favorite shades from the 1950s and setting a tone of a fun time in history.
7. Create a Style Guide
Once your app design UI is out for a while, you’ll want to offer updates and additional features. Once you’ve released your app and tested for usability, create a detailed style guide. You’ll understand what your users like about your app and can add details to the manual, which you should follow for all future updates.
If your users adore larger buttons because they’re baby boomers and have trouble seeing small text on little buttons, then your style guide should indicate that. On the other hand, if your audience is millennials and they prefer skimmable material, you’ll add details to your guide about keeping explanations short or image-based.
Your style guide should include details on the color palette, button styles, language preferences — first person, second person, third person — and even other features you know work particularly well. Indicate preferred methods and elements to avoid in order to remain consistent.
8. Cut Clutter
Over time, you’ll add features to your app. However, they can also create clutter on the screen. Nothing is quite as confusing to the user as 20 different options and uncertainty about where to start. To create a genuinely user-friendly app, you must cut the clutter and hone in on only the vital elements. Any additional features are icing on the cake and should be added after mastering the basics.
Start by thinking about the primary purpose of your app. Do you want users to be able to see what new items arrived in your store this week? Is your app meant to track healthy food? The user should be able to add what they ate by clicking a single button and entering the item in the search bar. Keep things simple and to the point, and your UX will automatically improve.
Find My Friends is Apple’s app that allows people to find family and friends in their area and see how far they are from arriving for a visit. It also keeps track of family members, such as teen children. When you first log in to the app, you’re given the choice of looking who you are already connected with or adding friends. The options are simple and to the point.
The only elements on that initial page are buttons that let you look or add. You must navigate to a specific name or location on the map to get more detailed information. The app works perfectly for someone throwing a party and wanting to see how far away guests are from arriving.
9. Consider Finger Placement
Creating designs that work well with specific devices requires familiarity with the product type. Think about the way most people navigate on their phones: Their thumbs are near the bottom of the screen. Add navigation elements so they won’t have to reach for them, and be sure to make them as natural as possible.
The only way to create the right placement is by testing it yourself as the designer. For example, put a button where you think it would be easiest to access, and then beta test the location and see if it is more accessible there or needs adjustment. It’s also a good idea to pull in additional beta testers, as some people hold their phones differently than others. Any navigational elements and actionable buttons must be as easy to use as possible.
App Design UI: UX Is Everything
When it comes to creating an app that people download and regularly open, usability is of the utmost importance. Have you ever downloaded an app that sounded great but was difficult to use in real-life applications? You likely deleted it off your phone and forgot all about it. Your app needs to meet user expectations so well they feel they can’t live without it.
Your app should meet a need the user has and then create something that makes their lives easier or better. The more you put yourself into the consumer’s shoes and meet those needs, the more successful your designs become. These nine tips should make it easier to connect with users and enhance their experience, so your app is seen as a vital part of their lives.
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