Mobile App Design: The Basics

Mobile App Design: The Basics

In this day and age, having a mobile app is crucial for many businesses. According to a 2017 study, more than half of the world’s population owns a smartphone and more than half the world’s web traffic comes from mobile phones. For this reason, mobile phone app development is no longer an option for businesses. You need to have the best mobile app design you can. Innovative mobile app design is essential to compete in the mobile world, no matter the industry you are competing in.

So you need to develop the best mobile app around, but where do you start? It is most important to recognize that your focus should be on user experience (UX) throughout this process. Within both design and product strategy, you need to focus on UX. You want to promote retention and re-engagement through your design, and the way to do this is by prioritizing your customers’ experience while using the application.

iOS vs Android App Development

Of the operating system market share, Android holds 68%, while iOS holds 29.2%. However, the United States is the only country in which Android and iOS hold a relatively equal market share. For this reason, it is important to develop an application for both platforms, in order to optimize for users on both operating systems. However, there are pros and cons for each operating system, which are outlined below.

Android Operating System

Pros

When developing an application for the Android operating system, a major benefit is that Android is a relatively open system. This allows developers to have more clarity into the inner workings of the operating system, which makes application design much easier. In addition, publishing on the Android Play Store is fairly simple and quick, which makes it stand apart from other operating systems.

Cons

The major drawback of developing an application for Android is how fragmented Android devices are. There are so many different types of Android devices with extreme variations in screen size, which makes developing and testing very time consuming and expensive for this platform.

iOS (iPhone Operating System)

Pros

On iOS, there is much less fragmentation than on the Android platform. This makes iOS application design much easier. In addition, iOS has a standardized User Interface (UI), which also simplifies the design process. Revenues have also been found to be much higher on the iOS App Store, as iOS users tend to be extremely loyal to the brand and are willing to spend more on app purchases.

Cons

Some drawbacks of developing an application for the iOS operating system include it is fairly expensive compared to other platforms, and the iOS App Store has exclusive and restrictive publishing. Also, because of the standardized UI, there is a lack of customization available for app designers on the iOS operating system.

Steps to Creating The Best Mobile App Design

So you understand the importance of having a mobile application and the different operating systems, but how do you actually design your mobile app in the best way possible? In the duration of this post, we will outline the three steps to mobile app design development: research, design, and testing.

Step 1: Research

Early on in the research process, you must identify your company’s goals in developing a mobile app. What are you trying to generate with this application? Depending on whether you are trying to generate interest, engagement, or profits, your app design will look very different. Identifying these goals early on will allow you to make sure that your application aligns with your overall company strategy.

Discovering the purpose of your app is key here. Are you interested in making money off of your app? Think about how monetizing your app could affect your overall design and layout.

Continuing in the research process, it is a good idea to make sure you have a strong general understanding of mobile applications as a whole. Stay on top of smartphone innovations and how they affect application design.

As an app user, learn to identify what you do and do not like when using an app. Check out your competitors’ applications, and see what features they offer and how their applications are performing. Developing an understanding of mobile applications and the current offerings available to users will help you to develop a product that stands out from the crowd.

The most important step in the research process is gaining an understanding of your audience. Use personas to determine what will drive your users’ actions within the application. You can use user scenarios to generate insight into how a persona will act and develop experience maps to display each step a persona is likely to take when using an app. This will allow you to see all possible conditions for a single user interaction within your application and help you understand all emotions and circumstances surrounding those steps. Researching your audience will allow you to design an application that meets all of their needs.

Step 2: Design

When beginning the design stage, start with simple prototypes and create a strong core. You  want to keep the interface relatively simple, as this will optimize speed and minimize your bounce rate. Throughout your application, it is important to create consistency and use common UI elements. Be purposeful in your page layout and consider learnability for your customers throughout your design process. If your application does not render quick learnability for your customers, you may need to rethink your design.

Throughout the design process, do not underestimate the importance of details. The details of your design are crucial, and may be what sets your application apart from your competitors.

Usability

When it comes to the usability of your mobile app, navigation needs to be made easy for users. This is not an area where you should get super creative. Pay special attention to detail. You should consider how people physically navigate a mobile app. Most users navigate their mobile device using one thumb, so it is important to consider the “thumb zone,” or the area that users can reach with their thumb, If you place an important feature or link in an area outside the thumb zone, this can make navigation and usability difficult for users. In addition, you should try to optimize your application for as many screens as possible, so that users can use your app on any device.

Color Scheme

As you design your mobile app, the color scheme is an important detail to pay attention to. When using color throughout your design, it should be used strategically to direct users. Use color to draw attention to your CTAs, so that users are lead to engage with the areas you would like them to. While using color may be helpful, but be sure not to use too many colors, as this can become very distracting and confusing for users. As you are selecting colors, make sure you stick to those that reflect your branding, not personal preference.

Typography

When inputting text throughout the application, ensure that both the text and font is easy to read. The spaces between the lines and words are also important. The screen space is very limited on a mobile device, so you want to make sure to utilize spacing in the best way possible, so that the text is easy for readers to read. Also, you can use typography strategically to create hierarchy and clarity. Because spacing is so limited, using text strategically to develop a sense of hierarchy can help minimize the overall amount of text needed.

Affordance and Signifiers

Affordance is the relationship between the human mind and the technology. It gives users cues on how to interact with the technology, without explicitly giving them directions. Again, because space is so limited, affordance and signifiers can be extremely helpful. You should use signifiers so that users do not need to think about what each UI element does, but know intuitively how to interact with your application. This helps with both learnability for users and the limited spacing.

Step 3: Testing

Testing is one of the most important steps of the mobile app design process, because it helps provide quality assurance for your product. Testing can reveal imperfections and help you find ways to improve through real interactions with the application. The testing process should begin towards the end of the design phase, and you should thoroughly test your application through multiple stages, including:

  • Case and script design testing: Tests battery usage, app speed, data requirements, memory
  • Manual and automated testing: Tests basic functions
  • Useability and beta testing: Tests compatibility, UI, external factors, accessibility
  • Performance testing: Tests functionality, installation, upgrades, sign-up and login, device-specific functions, services testing
  • Security and compliance testing: Checks for security certificates, secure network protocols, encrypted usernames and passwords, restrictions on login attempts
  • Device testing: Tests on all devices, cloud usage
  • Control testing: Detailed tests to stabilize app and uncover minor defects
  • Test summary report: Documentation for entire testing process

Summary

Mobile app design is a long and tedious project, but hopefully this guide gives you some insight on how to develop a successful application for your business. In summary, here are some of the most important tips to remember:

  1. Make sure you understand your audience! Before even beginning the design process, dedicate some time to researching your audience and personas to help drive the rest of your project.
  2. Consider ease of usability for users throughout the process. From early prototypes to the testing stages, your focus should always be on making sure your application is easy for users to navigate and understand.
  3. Throughout the stages of design, consistency and simplicity are key. There’s nothing wrong with getting creative, but especially in the world of mobile app design, a consistent, simple design may be the best thing for your audience.
  4. Don’t forget to pay special attention to detail as you navigate through your mobile app design. Details, from your color scheme to signifiers, could be what sets your application apart from your competitors.
  5. Finally, testing is key to strong product quality. Do not underestimate the importance of testing, and be sure to maintain a thorough, critical eye throughout this process.

Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to developing a mobile app with a design you can be proud of.