Application design is one of the primary ways people choose which apps they will use regularly and which mobile apps they won’t use again. We use mobile apps every day in almost every facet of our lives. Mobile apps are used to entertain, find food and other services, connect with potential dating partners, and so much more. Businesses use apps to connect with customers, build their brand reputation, and sell their goods or services.
The average person spends hours every day on their smartphone using apps. When it comes down to which apps are successful and which mobile apps are not, User Experience and User Interface play a major role. You could even make the argument that application design is more important than the service provided by the app. People want to use mobile apps that look good, load fast, and are easy to use.
If you want your mobile app to be successful, app design needs to be at the forefront of your mobile app development project. Let’s get a better understanding of what goes into mobile app design and go over some design tips that you can use to help you design a great mobile app.
Understanding Application Design
When we talk about application design, you might be wondering what we are referring to. After all, there are a lot of different pieces that make up a mobile app. In the case of mobile app design, we are really talking about two distinct features: User Experience and User Interface. UX and UI are very similar and closely related, but they are not the same thing.
User Experience (UX) refers to the interactions and experiences a user has with your mobile app. UX is the total impression made on the user. User Interface refers to the specific parts of your mobile app that users interact with. UI can include facets of mobile app design like typography, color scheme, screen functionality, and other visual design elements. User Interface features add up to create a total User Experience.
In application design, most of the important design decisions will focus on User Interface. The culmination of all the User Interface design decisions will, in large part, render your User Experience. Together these two, UX/UI, are your app design.
Design Tips for Creating Great Mobile Apps
Now that you have a better understanding of what mobile app design is, you are likely wondering how to design a great mobile app. We’ve compiled a list of app design tips that we think are absolutely essential for great app development. They include:
- Make logical color choices
- Use layout constraints/think about screen size
- Keep UI elements consistent
- Create a simple navigation
- Make it accessible
- Choose a clean typography
- Convey importance visually
- Reduce user input
- Avoid sign-in walls
While reading through these app design tips, take a look at some of your favorite mobile apps and see how many of these design tips are used by them.
Make Logical Color Choices
Every aspect of your mobile app matters, and this includes the colors you choose to use. The first thing you should be thinking about is how difficult or easy your color scheme is on the user’s eye. Bright colors that contrast with each other can be very distracting and difficult to read. You don’t want your users to struggle to understand your content. Plus, you don’t want to hurt their eyes when they use your mobile app. Your best bet is to stick with a color scheme that is tried, true, and easy on the eyes.
Additionally, you need to make logical color choices when it comes to your buttons and other UI design elements. For example, yes or confirmation buttons should be green, and no or decline buttons should be red. If you decided to make an illogical choice and flip the colors of these buttons, you would only confuse your users and hurt your conversion rates.
Use Layout Constraints/Think About Screen Size
Smartphones come in all shapes and sizes. Even if you plan to only develop mobile apps for iOS or Android, there are still multiple screen sizes for you to think about and plan for. Layout constraints are a designer’s best friend. With layout constraints, you can set UI design elements at specific distances from one another. For example, let’s say you have a main image and you want one of your buttons to be right below it. With layout constraints, you can fix the image to a point and set the button to be two points below it, no matter what happens to the size of the screen.
Consistent User Interface design across platform and device leads to a quality User Experience. Delivering a consistent UI/UX experience on all the various platforms and screen sizes is also good for your brand image and reputation. You want all of your users to have a great experience no matter what device they are using. Layout constraints give you the ability to create responsive UI designs that deliver consistency across device and platform.
Keep UI Elements Consistent
Once you define a UI design element, whether it be button color, button verbiage, size of navigation, etc., you need to use the same design in all similar instances in your mobile app. If buttons change size, shape, or color between pages, your users are likely to get confused, click on the wrong thing, end up on a page they were not trying to navigate to, and get frustrated.
Keeping your UI design consistent makes it easy for users to navigate through your app and leads to a positive User Experience. Plus, repeating defined design elements makes the job of app development a little bit easier. For example, you don’t have to design a new element every time you want to put a contact button on your page. You can reuse the UI design elements you have already created. This will save you time on development and create a better User Experience for your users.
Create a Simple Navigation
Navigation is one of the most important aspects of any mobile app, and it should be one of your major design priorities. It does not matter how awesome your content or app features are if users have a difficult time navigating to them. Users should be able to pick up your app and intuitively navigate around it with no problems. If it takes too much time to figure out how to navigate your mobile app, you will lose users.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to navigation. Keep it simple. iOS users are used to the tab bar, and Android users are used to the navigation drawer. However, most mobile users are familiar with both of these navigation concepts. Just like all other UI design elements, once you choose a navigation style, whether it be a tab bar or navigation drawer, this element should remain consistent throughout your app. Make sure to prioritize important and common navigation paths that users typically follow and optimize them so that users can reach their end goal with as few clicks or taps as possible.
Make it Accessible
Your design thinking process needs to consider accessibility. Smartphone technology is ubiquitous. This means that nearly everyone is using this technology, including people with disabilities. You don’t want to exclude anyone, so you need to keep accessibility in mind while creating your UI design. People who have vision issues commonly want to make the text larger. Your users should be able to increase the size of the text without ruining the UI design. Layout constraints can help you out here.
You should also consider your touch targets. Are users given enough space to hit each touch target? Not all people hold their phones the same way. Some people may use their left hand instead of their right, and other people may use two hands.
Color blindness is a common visual condition, but not many mobile apps are designed to be color blind friendly. Think about these users. Are colors used to signify errors or other requests? A lot of mobile apps use the colors red and green for declined or approved messaging. However, red and green are the two most common colors affected by color blindness. If you’re using colors, you should use other signifiers like check marks and x’s to help signify when errors are made, etc.
Choose a Clean Typography
Everyone likes a cool font, but you have to remember that the most important aspect of your typography needs to be legibility. Don’t go overboard with your font choices. Like all other UI design elements, your font choices should be consistent throughout your app. Can you use different fonts for headers and body content? Sure. However, you don’t want to go overboard. Too many varying fonts only serve to confuse users and make your content harder to read. Your best bet is to choose a clean, simple font that is easy for users to read. While crazy fonts may look cool in theory, in practice, they just look cheap and tacky.
Convey Importance Visually
The biggest items on your app’s pages need to be the most important. Important items and buttons need to be given more visual weight than the surrounding content. You can add visual weight by adjusting the font’s size and weight and changing the color of a button. Users will be drawn to the largest, most striking visual elements. If you have an important button that you want people to click or tap, you need to give that button the appropriate amount of visual weight.
Reduce User Input
Typing information into mobile apps is often uncomfortable and very error-prone. Information is commonly input on forms. If you want to provide a great User Experience, limit the amount of user input required at a time. You can reduce user input in a few ways.
First, keep your forms short. Only ask for the information that is absolutely necessary for your mobile app and business functions. Provide input masks in your forms. An input mask helps users format a specific field. For example, an input mask can be used on the telephone number field to automatically format the numbers that are entered into a phone number. This helps users focus on the information they are entering and reduces the number of errors.
If you want to create a great User Experience, your forms should dynamically validate field data. Users get very frustrated when they spend time filling out a form only to find out that there is a mistake somewhere when they finish. By dynamically validating fields as users enter information, you can help them submit forms quicker and increase the odds that users will submit forms after an entry error occurs.
Finally, provide the right keyboard for the information you are asking for. If users are trying to input credit card information, they need the numerical keypad. If you’re asking for a user’s email address, be sure an @ symbol is included on the keyboard. Simple UI design features like this make a big difference in User Experience.
Avoid Sign-In Walls if Possible
A sign-in wall forces users to register before they can use the mobile app. Sign-in walls are one of the main sources of friction between users and mobile apps and are often responsible for driving users away from an app. If your brand or business is not well established or known, you don’t want to drive potential users away with a sign-in wall. It is best to allow users to register if they want, but we understand that in some cases, users may be required to register in order to fully experience everything the mobile app has to offer. In the cases where registration is absolutely necessary, let your users navigate around and use the app before you prompt them to sign up.
Final Thoughts on App Design
If you take anything away from this piece, it should be that great app design relies heavily on consistency. UI design elements need to be consistent across platforms and screen sizes in order to deliver a high-quality User Experience. If you need help with your mobile app or just want to talk about application design, reach out to an app development partner.