From the launch of Pison Organiser in 1984 to Nokia in 1997, iPhone and android in 2008, to Microsoft with flat and fray design in 2010, to Material design by Google in 2014, mobile app design has come a long way. It has been through many trials and errors with the ultimate goal of improving the user experience.
Though each of these phases holds enormous significance, with the launch of the Apple app store and Google Play in 2008, app design became an interesting market. Then Material Design by Google, an entire set of physics designed bespoke for smartphones and other “smart” devices, entered the market in 2014 as a game changer. Ever since then, the need for mobile apps has been on the rise, and design for iOS and Android apps have been the main focus of mobile app design.
Earlier, users did not pay much attention to the application’s design. It was all about getting the work done quickly. But over time, with the evolution of design, users’ expectations have increased too. Today, users want the applications to be easy to use, easy to navigate, have a lot of attractive features, an appealing design, and what not!
Given these demands, a mobile app designer must put in a lot of research, thought, and strategy while designing a mobile application. Therefore, this blog will help you learn the mobile app design process, the best practices, and mistakes to avoid while designing one. But, before we get to that, let’s understand what mobile app design is and why it is important?
What is Mobile App Design?
In broad terms, app designers are the ones who make mobile apps look good, while developers ensure they function correctly. Mobile app design includes both the mobile app UI (User Interface) and mobile app UX (User Experience). Designers work on the overall style of the app, including the color scheme, font, and the types of buttons and widgets the user will use.
The design of a mobile application is crucial to its success because it dramatically affects the users’ experience. The way an app looks and feels while using determines whether users would stick to it for a longer duration or not. Moreover, design plays a crucial role when it comes to representing your app in the marketplace. The well-designed it is, the more professional it looks and excites users to download it at first look. If they find the design appealing, they’d be willing to wait on any bugs and use the app for longer.
Mobile app design can get confusing too fast, too soon. To avoid that, you need a proper strategy and a mobile application design process in place.
Mobile App Design Process
If you’re wondering how to design an app and where to start, follow this mobile app design process:
1. Define the Scope
To define the scope of the mobile application, you must state what needs to be done, what you want to achieve from the app, and how large/small it will be. The scope may include:
- Target Audience
- The nature of the mobile application
- The critical features and functions of the application design
- The essential visual design elements
- Potential technologies to be used
- User-specific preferences
- Consistency with the business strategy
- Decide whether you want to go for an android app design, an ios app design, or a web app design.
Moreover, to document the scope of the app, you must identify:
- Objectives of the app
- The ultimate goal of the app
- The ultimate purpose of the users
- Phases and subphases
- Tasks and resources
Once you have all of these in place, you can get to the design and flow of the application.
2. Market and User Research
Next, you conduct in-depth market research. Start with analyzing the existing apps in your industry. Take note of their features, solutions, color scheme, patterns, etc. Also, check out their business and monetization methods.
Once you’re through with the market research, get to know your audience. Understand their issues, preferences, what motivates them, expectations, and behaviors. This will help you make informed decisions related to application design and user flows.
Create a struct of the user interface of your mobile app design. The purpose of UX wireframing is to define the flow of the app, including:
- Number of windows
- Buttons and their placement
- Where each button leads the user
- The registration process
- The login screen
Clearly showcase transitions and interaction points. You can either sketch it out or use wireframing software. Try to lay out the user flows exactly how you want them to appear on the actual app. However, ensure the more superficial it appears, the better.
Once you’re through wireframing, the next step is creating a prototype. Whether you plan to design a mobile or web app, a prototype helps you visualize and feel it. The earlier you build it, the better.
You can first create a sketch prototype on paper. It requires less or no resources. Then, you can move on to high-fidelity prototyping. A lot of people waste no time or resources on a high-fidelity prototype. Instead, they invest time in-app features, functions, and coding.
5. UI Design
Don’t confuse mobile UI design with mobile UX design/wireframe or prototype. The UX research, wireframe, and prototype are about how your app works. But, mobile UI design is how your app looks and feels. At this stage, you deal with the visual representation of:
- Color Schemes
- Font Size
- Animation, etc.
But it just doesn’t end here. You must test multiple designs to determine what works best for your users. In a way, it’s similar to A/B testing. The only difference here is that you need to make judgments yourself.
Try out different interface animations and gestures, too, at this stage. Test different styles of animation in real-time. Animations have the power to grab users’ attention. Hence, they should be functional instead of simple design elements.
6. Architecture Planning
This is perhaps one of the most crucial steps of the entire mobile app design process. Architecture planning helps make your app better in terms of functionality and design. You must involve the whole team, including designers, programmers, and managers. The idea is to improve the front-end and back-end processes by constructively tweaking the software. A successful architecture plan is divided into phases. These phases are further divided into interactions broken down into activities and tasks.
You can either design it in-house or outsource a mobile app design company. It’s best to take note of your resources, the time at hand, and the expertise required before deciding who to assign the project.
Best Practices for Mobile App Design
Now that you know the mobile app design process, check out these best practices to ensure you create an effective and efficient mobile or web application design.
1. Useful and Intuitive Experiences
Make your android app design or web app design intuitive by reducing the effort users have to put in. Organize information effectively, requiring a minimum number of actions to reach the final destination. Moreover, it’s best to break big tasks into smaller chunks and hide secondary actions. Allow users to save and continue the journey from where they left.
2. Light and Airy Interface
Another mobile application design best practice is to keep the interface seamless. This way, it seems light and airy to the users. Remove unnecessary elements. Create cards to display actionable content instead.
Also, try to keep appropriate white space to draw attention to important information. Another thing you can do is present a limited set of features. Prioritize only what’s essential. This will help you simplify mobile UI design and improve mobile UX design.
3. Eliminate The Clutter
Follow a simple rule of thumb of one primary action per screen. Another thing you can do to cut the clutter is to avoid information overload. Don’t try to fit all information on one page. Break information and long forms into bullets, chunks, and pages.
4. Easy Navigation
Incorporate navigation that encourages your users to interact with content. Keep it simple and easy to remember. Ensure it accommodates the majority of the app users. Make UI paths and destinations with frequent use more prominent. Also, provide icons, options, and action indicators to reduce users’ memory load.
5. Fast and Responsive
If the users have to wait for the content to load on your app, it’s not good. Make your app fast and responsive. Eliminate guesswork for users by providing feedback in response to every action. Moreover, use skeleton screens instead of progress indicators. This increases the users’ anticipation and increases their focus on what is to come next.
6. Only Necessary Timely Notifications
Sending too many notifications to users can make them feel like your app is spammy! If you keep sending annoying notifications to users, they might uninstall your app. Don’t overwhelm your users with push messages. Don’t make notifications feel like interruptions. Instead, send to engage the users. Moreover, research and send notifications only at the most convenient times.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
1. No Purpose
It’s best not to enter the design phase without clear intentions. You could proceed to design if you have defined your objectives and the ultimate goal. Don’t design the app to keep up with the trends. Go for a mobile app or a web app that solves a problem, fills a niche, or offers a unique service. Think of the value your app will bring to the users. This will guide your mobile app design and development further at every stage.
2. Poor First Impression
The first look and feel of an app are crucial. Everything depends on how the users perceive your application. They might uninstall the app if they feel bored, have to wait, or don’t like the elements or features. Try using splash screens. They’re an interactive way to engage, intrigue, and hook users to your application design.
3. Inappropriate Information Architecture (IA)
Often an app designer fails to plan the information architecture for their application. This causes users to put in extra effort to understand the information and access what they need. Therefore, to improve the user experience, identify the users’ priorities. Accordingly, make the features and information accessible by applying the concept of “prioritizing based on priority.”
4. Poor User Flow
App designers often get too excited to produce aesthetics and details. They don’t realize that too much attention to detail shadow bans the logic. This leads to poor user flows and navigation. Therefore, it’s best to slow down and sketch the application design flow. Focus on the finer details later.
5. Lack of Design Consistency
Maintaining design consistency across the app can get tricky for the app designer. But, since it is a significant factor in designing an app’s UI, it has to be worked upon. That mean:
- You must keep the font type the same throughout the mobile app design
- Keep a subtle layout
- Place all icons correctly
- Ensure that changing screens change the visuals
- Ensure the text is readable throughout the application
6. Unplanned Budget
Once you sketch out the basic features and functions of the app, you must talk about the budget. App designers often overlook this factor and end up spending too much time on features that they eventually have to cut down later. Therefore, having a set budget will help make appropriate mobile app design decisions. It will inform you on which features to invest money in and which to avoid.
7. Excess Features
Having too many features in one app can make it congested and slow. It can make the mobile UX design complicated and UI tacky. Both of these cause the loss of potential users. So, it’s best to have a limited number of features. Ones that are absolutely necessary for the initial stage. Give it time and gain the trust of your users. You can then offer them more by upgrading the application design with a new look and features.
Now that you know how to create a mobile app design, the design process, best practices, and the mistakes to avoid, you can easily start working on one for yourself. Keep up with the mobile app design best practices to provide an excellent user experience. Moreover, avoid the common mistakes usually made by most app designers. These will prevent you from investing too much time, effort, and money into applications that won’t reap profits. If you follow the steps mentioned above, we’re optimistic you’ll be able to build an effective app easily. However, if you still have any doubts, you can reach out to us, a mobile app design agency. We’ll be more than happy to help you design and develop a mobile application.
If you have any suggestions or something to add, feel free to drop them in the comment section below.