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App Development
12 minutes read

How to Design an App

By Jose Gomez
YouTube video
By Jose Gomez
App Development
12 minutes read
YouTube video

Are you interested in learning more about how to design an app? Application design is one of the primary ways people choose which apps they will use regularly and which mobile and web apps they won’t use again.

We use mobile and web applications daily in almost every facet of our lives. 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 on app stores and which mobile apps are not, User Experience and User Interface (UI) play a significant role.

You could even argue that application design is more important than mobile or web application service. People want to use apps that look good, load fast, and are easy to use. If you want your mobile or web app to be successful with your target audience on the app store, the design must be at the forefront of the mobile app development process.

So let’s better understand what goes into the design process and go over some design tips for user interfaces that you can use to help you design a great app for your end users. 

Understanding App Design process

You might wonder what we are referring to when we talk about application design. After all, there are a lot of different pieces that make up an app.

In the case of the app or web design, we are talking about two distinct features: User Experience and User Interface (UI). UX and UI are very similar and closely related, but they are not the same thing. 

User Experience (UX) focuses on user interactions and experiences with your app’s features. UX is the total impression made on the user.

UI refers to the specific parts of your mobile or web design that users interact with. UI can include facets of design like typography, color scheme, screen functionality, and other visual design elements. UI features add up to create a total User Experience. 

Most of the critical design decisions in mobile apps and web design will focus on UI. The culmination of all the UI design decisions will essentially render your User Experience. Together these two, UX/UI, combine to be your final design. 

Design Tips for Creating Great Mobile Apps

Now that you better understand mobile and web design, you are likely wondering how to design an aesthetically pleasing app that will do well on app stores. We’ve compiled a list of fundamental design tips for great development.

They include:

  • Make logical color choices
  • Use layout constraints/think about screen sizes
  • 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 design tips, look at some of your favorite apps simultaneously and see how many of these design tips are used by them.

Make Logical Color Choices 

Every aspect of your mobile and web design matters, including the colors you choose to use. You should first consider how difficult or easy your color scheme is on the user’s eye. Follow basic graphic design principles. For example, bright colors that contrast with each other can be very distracting and difficult to read. 

You don’t want your target audience to struggle to understand your content. Plus, you don’t want to hurt their eyes when they use your app. So your best bet is to stick with a color scheme for your design that is tried, true, and easy on the eyes. 

Additionally, your final design needs logical color choices for buttons and other parts of your app’s features. For example, yes or confirmation buttons should be green, and no or decline buttons should be red.

If you decided to make an illogical graphic design 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 Sizes 

Smartphones come in all shapes and sizes. As a result iOS apps and Android apps will vary considerably. 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.

Whether you want to build iOS apps or Android apps, layout constraints are critical to the design process. With layout constraints, you can set UI design elements at specific distances from one another.

For example, let’s say you have the main image and 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 two points below it, no matter what happens to the screen size. 

Consistent UI design across platforms and mobile devices 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.

Users of iOS apps should have the same experience as users of Android apps. You want all of your users to have a great experience no matter what device they are using. Layout constraints allow you to make an app that delivers consistency across devices and platforms. 

Keep UI Elements Consistent 

Once you define a UI design element, whether it be button color, button verbiage, navigation size, etc., you need to use the same design in all similar instances throughout the app design process.

For example, 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. This is a bad application design.

Keeping your UI design consistent makes it easy for real users to navigate your app, creates cleaner interfaces, and leads to a positive User Experience. Plus, repeating defined application design elements makes the job of app development a little bit easier.

For example, you don’t have to design a new element whenever you want to put a contact button on your page. Instead, you can reuse the UI design elements you have already created. This will save you time on development and application design when you make an app and create a better User Experience for your users. 

Create a Simple Navigation 

Navigation is one of the most important aspects of any design and should be one of your major application design priorities. It does not matter how awesome your content or app features are if users have difficulty navigating 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 app, you will lose users. 

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel regarding navigation design. Keep it simple. iOS apps use the tab bar, and Android apps use the navigation drawer. However, most mobile users are familiar with both of these navigation concepts.

Like all UI design elements, once you choose a navigation style, this element should remain consistent throughout your application design.

Make sure to prioritize important and common navigation paths that real 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 might not realize these individuals are in your target audience, but they are.

You don’t want to exclude anyone, so you must keep accessibility in mind while creating your UI design. For example, people who have vision issues commonly want to make the text larger. Your users should be able to increase the text size without ruining the UI design. Layout constraints can help you out here.  

You should also consider the touch targets of your app. 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 others 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? Many 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 in your design to help signify when errors are made. 

Choose a Clean Typography 

Everyone likes a cool, expressive font, but you must remember that the most critical aspect of your typography is 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 in your design?

Sure. However, you don’t want to go overboard. Too many varying fonts in your application design will 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, they just look cheap and tacky in design practice. 

Convey Importance Visually 

The biggest items in your design need to be the most important. Essential items and buttons must be given more visual weight than the surrounding content.

You can add weight visually by adjusting the font’s size and changing the color of a button. Users will be drawn to your application design’s most prominent, striking visual elements.

If you have a critical button you want people to click or tap, you need to give that button the appropriate weight in your design. 

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 in your design, limit the amount of input required from your users. You can accomplish this in a few ways. 

First, keep your forms short. Only ask for the information necessary for your final 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 format the numbers entered into a phone number automatically. 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 with your mobile app design, 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. 

Avoid Sign-In Walls if Possible

Finally, provide the right keyboard for the information you are asking for. For example, users need the numerical keypad if they try to input their credit card information.

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 and help you capture more potential clients with your app design. 

A sign-in wall forces users to register before using the mobile app. Sign-in walls are one of the primary sources of friction between users and mobile apps and are often responsible for driving users away from a mobile app even if they just downloaded it from an app store.

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 to fully experience everything the mobile app offers.

When registration is vital, let your users navigate around, see the application design, 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 and web design rely heavily on consistency.

Whether you want to target the Google Play Store or the iOS App Store, UI design elements must be consistent across platforms and screen sizes to deliver a high-quality User Experience.

If you want to learn more about how to design an app that will succeed on both major app stores or the app development process in general, reach out to a development partner.

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