Best practices of mobile app user experience

Best practices of mobile app user experience

Reading Time: 12 minutes

Today, there are tons of different mobile apps on the app store. The market is intensely competitive and only some apps have been successful. However, there are also a lot of mobile apps that have failed soon after launch.

So, what makes some apps successful and not others?  Let us try to understand.  

One thing that has been commonly observed in the apps that have been successful is they all have superb user experience! 

The number of smartphone users has exploded in recent years. People are using apps that are visually appealing, easy to use and fast. All of this is achieved by User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) design.

An excellent UI will create an instant attraction to your app. A superb User Experience will put a lasting impact on your users’ minds. It is, therefore, vital to get both UI and UX right, if you want your app to be successful.

A good mobile UX enhances customer satisfaction  

If your content is not optimised for mobile, the user will abandon your site. Here are some stats that prove that mobile optimisation is the need of the day in this digitally evolved world.

A good mobile UX enhances Customer Experiences

User experience has overtaken price and product as the key brand differentiator.

Consider the example of one of the successful applications – WhatsApp. It is blazingly fast, easy to use and offers a lot of other features that make communication a breeze.

Users choose apps that help them in taking decisions faster (3-step booking etc.) over apps that require them to fill in irrelevant information.

A great UI and UX provide them with a continuous flow of valuable information and easy decision making. This will allow more and more users to be interested in your app, creating natural traffic which in turn will lead to a boost in conversion rates and thereby grow your brand name. 

It is therefore essential to hire mobile app designer who will make sure your mobile app is interactive and pleasant to your users.

So, where it all started?

Today, mobile devices are used for everything from monitoring blood sugar levels to providing an experience of a virtual 3D world. 

Users have hundreds of options to communicate with their social world, be it Facebook messenger to send a quick text or a Skype call.

However, smartphones are only the tip of the iceberg. There are multiple devices and screens where information is shared, viewed and consumed.  

The mobile revolution has transformed industries, created new ones and left others in its wake. 

Mobile Revolution

During the first few years of the invention of the mobile phone, business was all it was meant for.  Many PDAs (personal digital assistants) offered practical apps including emails and spreadsheets, but Nokia offered an additional (and probably one of the most important) thing: fun.  

Nokia’s Snake Game: Pioneer of Engaging UX

The Nokia phones had three games among which one was the game called ‘Snake’. I’m sure we all remember playing it as kids. It had a ridiculously simple design, almost everything that makes for an addictive mobile game.  

It gave rise to a mobile app gaming phenomenon that would eventually lead to a revolution in online gaming. Today, e-sports (or online gaming) has become a part of the Asian Games and is looking forward to landing its place in Olympics as well.  

Little did we know, the simple game of Snake that we played as kids would be the beginning of a revolution in mobile app design just 10 years later.

iPhone disrupts mobile technology

But the evolution of mobile app design was spearheaded by Apple like none other. In 2007, Steve Jobs walked into the Macworld convention and announced the launch of the first iPhone. A phenomenon that would permanently change the game for mobile app designers and developers.

iPhone provided a multitouch screen that adjusted based on how the phone was tilted. This brought a whole new layer of possibilities for UX design. The app marketplace was set up, and app creators newly discovered a clear path to build and market their products as they wanted.  

However, it wasn’t long before Apple had a competitor giving it a run for its money.  The world’s first commercially available Android device, the HTC Dream, was launched in 2008.  

At the time, there were plenty of operating systems to choose from for smartphone aficionados.  

But the Android and iOS systems kicked out all other players off the market. This happened because others lacked the development efforts required to deliver features users craved with additional security.

Ephemeral Life of Windows Mobile

Then Microsoft entered the market and brought along the trend of “flat-design”. I’m sure you know at least a couple of people who owned a Windows phone, or maybe you had one yourself.  

And you’d agree when I say that Microsoft’s mobile OS did not stand a chance against iOS and Android. However, its minimalist design, bright colours, and fluid UI managed to intrigue mobile app designers for quite some time.  

It made flat design the new cool and dominated the mobile app design world but failed to sustain the growing wave of innovation.

A report by Broadband Search shows that about 60 per cent of searches on Google are performed on mobile devices.

It is now normal to see cash registers replaced by iPads, or shoppers paying for their groceries using Google Pay, Paytm or other wallets.  

This goes to show that mobile search has long replaced desktops. It also emphasises the point that having a great app with a great UI UX is extremely important today than it ever was. 

But what is flat design? Why did it disrupt the mobile interfaces?  

Definition of Flat Design and how does it affect mobile experience

Flat design is a user interface design style that was originally designed to make websites and apps responsive to different screen sizes. It uses simple, two-dimensional elements, shapes, minimal textures and bright colours. 

It basically reduces visual noise (textures or shadows) so that sites load faster on mobile devices and provides users with an optimal UX. It rose to popularity when Windows 8 was released. It was also adapted by Apple’s iOS 7 and Google’s Material design.

The introduction of iPads and tablets gave rise to a new aspect of mobile app design. Apps now had to be built to fit different screen sizes- and era of responsive design began- for both, mobile devices and desktops. 

Today, responsive designs have evolved to a much deeper level. With Apple and Android bringing mobile apps and functionality to people’s wrists, UI UX designing is witnessing its peak in the industry.  

If you are a UI UX designer and want to understand the fundamental process of how design mobile app UI UX here is a simple diagram to help you.

Mobile UI UX design process:

Mobile UI UX Design Process

So, if you’re planning to design a mobile app, here are the basic principles of UI UX designing that you need to remember: 

  • Follow design trends – Keep a track of the latest trends regularly and incorporate them into your design (e.g.: micro-interactions, mobile-first material design etc.) 
  • Know your audience – Knowing your target audience is usually of prime importance in both, running a business and selling your product. E.g. people usually scan websites, not read them, so place content accordingly.  
  • Keep it simple & interactive – Users look for clear (if possible) HD pictures as well as easy, readable content. Keep the text size, colour and style consistent throughout the app.  
  • Implement a visual hierarchy – Design to capture users’ attention to the right thing at the right moment. 

In one of our articles, we have covered all important aspects of mobile-first designing.

The Do’s and Don’ts of designing the mobile app UI UX:

Do's and Don't of Designing the Mobile App UX Design

1. Reduce cognitive load 

Cognitive load refers here to the amount of brainpower required to use the app. The human brain has a limited amount of processing power, and when an app provides too much information at once, it might overwhelm the user and make them abandon the task. 

2. Declutter 

Clutter is one of the worst enemies of good design. By cluttering your interface, you overload users with too much information: Every added button, image and icon make the screen more complicated.  

Clutter is terrible on desktop, but it’s far worse on mobile. It’s essential to get rid of anything in a mobile design that isn’t absolutely necessary because reducing clutter will improve comprehension 

  • Keep content to a minimum (present the user with only what they need to know). 
  • Keep interface elements to a minimum. A simple design will keep the user at ease with the product. 

3. Offload tasks/ minimize user input 

Look for anything in the design that requires user effort (this might be entering data, making a decision, etc.) and find alternatives to that.
You can reuse previously entered data i.e. features such as autocomplete instead of asking the user to type more.  

4. Avoid jargon 

The copy should be easy to understand. It is wrong to assume that all users are tech-savvy or aware of your product. Providing information in a simple language will help your app.  

5. Consistent design 

  1. Consistent visuals – the typefaces, buttons and labels need to be consistent across the app 
  2. Functional consistency – make sure all interactive elements work seamlessly across all devices  
  3. External consistency – design should be uniform across multiple products and screens 

6. Avoid sign-in walls 

When users visit your app for the first time but come across a wall that requires them to sign in before they can explore the app, is annoying.

You need to design a good onboarding experience and let the users fully explore your product/ service. The app should ask users to register or sign in only when it is absolutely necessary (such as checking out or to buy premium services).

7. Make navigation simple 

Designing all the cool features and writing engaging content won’t matter if users can’t find it. If it takes too much of the user’s time and effort to discover how to navigate your product, it is highly possible that the user might simply leave.  

The app should be intuitive and provide the user with an easy way to complete all primary tasks. Navigation icons and drop-down sub-menus or sliding menus will make your app’s navigation simple and user-friendly as it should be one of your topmost priorities. 

8. Reduce loading time 

The faster your app is, the better experience it will provide. Loading time is extremely important for the UX. As technology progresses, we get more impatient.  

It is found that if a page takes more than 2 seconds to load, visitors become frustrated and leave. That’s why speed should be a priority when building a mobile app. 

However, some features or elements might take longer to load, so while that happens, make the loading page interesting by offering a visual distraction and engaging the user to make them stay.

9. Optimise video content to portrait mode  

Video content has been gaining popularity as compared to images or write ups. Mobile video consumption has been growing by 100% every year and YouTube has estimated that by 2020, over 75% of global mobile data traffic will be from video content.  

So ensure to optimise the video content for mobile devices. Shoot or produce videos in portrait mode for Instagram stories. Use landscape for YouTube publishing and Facebook feed.

10. Personalization 

This is probably the most sought thing by users while using any app. User experience isn’t just about the ease of usability. 

It is about the complete, overall experience that the brand offers and how well it gets represented in your app. A well-crafted design is what defines a good experience. Personalization is by far the most critical aspect of an app’s UX which most often forget or are ignorant about.  

Having a personalised design and content is your opportunity to connect with the users on a deeper level so that users not only buy your product but stick to it and convert into loyal customers. 

Having a personalised mobile UX will develop a trust in the user’s mind about your brand and that can go a long way in scaling your venture to great heights. 

You can offer personalised content in mobile UX in various ways e.g. user’s location, purchase history or based on their usual behaviour when they’re on your app.

Few examples of the best mobile UI UX design

1. Trello

Trello is one of the best examples of mobile UI UX design. This app offers an online tool for collaboration that organises projects in form of boards. 

Users find it easy to use and can keep track of the progress of each task. 

Trello maintains a perfect balance between physical movements and digital micro-interactions that mimic them. The UI UX of the app is simple and has basic elements on the homepage, which makes the app quite addictive.  

The app does not have unnecessary elements crowding the interface. It lets the user focus on their workflows. Hence, this platform feels natural and is suitable for responsive workflows.

2. Slack

Slack is another example of a good mobile UI UX. It is a team communication tool with a simple and powerful design.  It is also the most widely used tool by professionals for remote collaboration.

The key to the success and popularity of this app is its design. The left drop-down menu has everything about the project put together. Along with that, the feed gets updated continuously.

3. Airbnb

One of the best examples of a clean and user-friendly mobile app is AirbnbIt has minimal design elements and a clean-cut mobile presence.  

Its easy and interactive onboarding makes the process quite enjoyable for the users. Once the onboarding is complete, the app displays the main screen which displays a direct question to the users asking them ‘what can Airbnb find for them?’. An even better part is that the app makes its UX personalised for users by using their name in the question. 

Such interaction helps ease the users. The main screen also displays blocks of different categories like ‘homes’, ‘experiences’ etc which makes it easy for users to find the information they seek. 

Its subtle mobile UX makes the app extremely user-friendly and engaging for the users, making it one of the most used apps for travel and accommodation bookings across the world.  

If you want to design the best mobile UI UX for your mobile app, here are some of the latest trends that you can use in your designs.

New trends in Mobile UI UX designing

One of the most important design styles trending in mobile app design is Minimalism.  

Minimalism is defined as the use of the fewest and barest essentials to create a clean user experience.  

Nowadays, there are a lot of apps and websites that are opting for a minimalist design interface as it enchants the users. A blend of simple and subtle elements, colours and fonts has emerged as a constant winner among mobile app users.  

However, apart from minimalism, here is a list of some of the latest trends in mobile app UI UX design that you can use to make your app successful.

1. Diffused backgrounds

Diffused background mobile trend

You must have definitely come across at least one app which has a diffused background on its sign-up or log-in page. Such backgrounds make the CTA in contrasting colours easily visible and accessible.

This is one of the best features to market your product to the users and generate conversions. Subtle designs, simple colour schemes, blended hues and softer tones are the most trending features that help brands gain the users’ eyeballs easily.

2. Skeuomorphism

Skeuomorphism Mobile UI UX Trend

The skeuomorphic design is one of the trending topics in UI/UX design. A skeuomorph is a derivative object that retains ornamental design cues from structures that are inherent to the original.  

It mimics the design interface of their real-world counterparts in how they appear and/or how the user can interact with them.

3. Buttonless screens

Buttonless Screen Mobile UI UX Design Trend

The release of edgeless and buttonless smartphones from Google, Samsung and Apple has made mobile app designers rethink their designs. Buttonless smartphones offer more space for the design to fill and the unavailability of buttons makes the user’s focus shift to gesture-based interaction. 

There are many apps that used gestures to carry out user interactions, e.g. Instagram, Dribble or Wikipedia app. A lot of e-commerce websites have also made gesture-based interaction a part of their checkout process. This is one of the most interesting trends that has taken a liking among the users and has been a welcome change among the designers.

4. Visual and Voice  

Visual and Voice Trend

With the rise of voice recognition bots like Siri by Apple, Alexa by Amazon or Google’s OkGoogle, it is wise to say that 2019 could be the age of ‘no UI’.

However, another school of thought exists which states that voice-assisted interfaces (VUI) do not exterminate the visual interfaces, and both will co-exist to create a seamless integration. 

5. Neutral interface 

Neutral Interface in Mobile Trends

As we stated before, minimalism is on the rise. Neutral interfaces are a part of that. Designers are increasingly creating designs and they prioritise content over design. Such interfaces draw attention to what’s important without being distracted by gaudy designs.  

It requires smart use of typography and colours to give a personality to the app and deliver a truly memorable experience to users. This is quite a trend among UI UX designers but can be challenging at times.  

6. Augmented reality 

Augmented Reality in Mobile

Augmented reality (AR) is unarguably one of the most promising technologies that is going to define the future of UI UX design. It will let the designer visualize the prototypes in a realistic manner.  

Users will be able to interact with the real world with the interface that designers create. This allows the designers a wide opportunity to develop innovative UI UX.  

Take, for example, a user wanting to buy a piece of furniture or clothing. With AR, they can try out the furniture in their house, or clothes on their body virtually before buying.   

This has already begun in many countries and it can only get better from here. 

You may also like to read about:
Building a mobile app vs a mobile-friendly website

Creative Director and Founder of Octet Design Studio- Aakash Jethwani
Aakash Jethwani

With an experience of 12+ years and serving more than 300+ projects, he is now leading a team of 25+ designers and developers and handling responsibility as founder and creative director at Octet Design Studio.

A design leader, known for creating and offering pixel-perfect design by striking a balance between design and technology to his clients while also managing his team and business.

His vision is to help companies disrupt market through designs and becoming a go-to partner for innovation. With a commitment to deep implementation of design strategies, he envisions pioneering innovative solutions to not only transforms businesses but also make it an essential requirement for the clients seeking unparalleled excellence.

His ultimate goal is to offer ‘experiences as a differentiator’ to clients seeking sustainable growth in the competitive digital landscape.

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