Are you using mobile as the face of engagement in today’s real-time social, hyper-connected world? With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets putting the power in the hands of global consumers who are now shaping mobile markets, mobile has manifested into a new system of engagement and changed the way brands operate. Brands are using mobile and context-rich, task-specific interactive apps to connect with their customers, employees, and partners. To remain vital in today’s sluggish economy, your brand must create innovation and differentiation, and the “design for mobile first” should be your mantra, focusing on user engagement and branding while fueling profitable growth.
Have you notice how mobile design in today’s always-on the move has become closely entwined with the web design world? Apple set the stage and the ground work for the world with its iPhone and mobile apps, and over the past few years, brands are taking notice, hoping that they too will spark the same interest and excitement that Apple has done. What does this mean for you? This means your mobile app designs must empower your consumers or users by focusing on their tasks and context of that moment and engaging them to connect with your brand.
Nowadays, it’s vital to make the important leap into mobile design and ensure that your brand apps are harnessing social and mobile multi-touch technology to connect people to each other and to your brand. Mobile design is all about delivering the best mobile GUI (Graphical User Interface) and user experience to extend your brand value and differentiation. Designing for mobile is quite different than designing for websites, or even desktop applications. If your web designers implement the below strategies, you’ll get the best ROI for every dollar you spent on this investment. First and foremost, look for rock-solid design aesthetic leading apps that are dominating the market and notice their best features and what they did to port their desktop web presence to mobile. Learn from them, shadow them, and determine which the best techniques to apply to your apps. What can you learn from them? Here are my top 10 design for mobile app essentials.
- Know the hardware and operating system you’re working with. Apple, Google, and Microsoft are dominating the mobile markets, and there are plenty of apps in the market for the respective operating systems (OS) that have done a great job at delivering the very best design. Choose a few apps with multiple OS and see how they look and feel on multiple devices. Take Angry Birds, for instance. You’ll find they have a consistent interface and user experience regardless of device. They do not deviate. Your design must be for the mobile and be scalable to fit all your target devices and operating systems.
- Have “less is more” mentality. Real estate on mobile is so crucial. The last thing you would want to do is confuse or frustrate your consumers by cramming so much information on a small screen. You don’t have the luxury to display a lot of information like you do on the desktop monitors. Create a simple yet stylish and smart design that’s easy to use and easy on the eyes. Don’t try to make everything that’s on your website simply fit into a smaller screen. Think of what your consumers would want to see and do while they’re on the go. Include at a minimum, directions to your establishment, hours of operation, and contact information.
- Design for scalability. Technology is constantly changing, and users typically influence changes with their feature requests, bug submissions, and frequency of use. Your design should be functionally flexible and accommodating to meet future demands and app releases. This will minimize future re-design and rework. You can easily add new features in each of your releases without redoing the design.
- Design for localization. How do your button labels look in multiple languages? Make sure that your buttons and navigation menus are the right size to accommodate your target language(s).
- Design for touch screen interaction. What are essential actions that mobile users expect from your apps? Apps in the marketplace provide not only the ability to touch, but to shake, tilt, swipe, pinch, drag, flick, and vibrate – all gestures that people would use when working or playing with a physical object or product. Audio input and feedback, location-based and time tracking, if applicable, is vital to user experience. Apps that emulate human’s behaviors provide a better relatable user experience.
- 6. Focus on the user experience – not just on the user interface. Anticipating workflow is so vital to providing the best user experience. Your app should be designed to predict consumers’ action and behavior. Smart apps think for the consumers. Make it simple. Cluttered or disorganized apps are difficult to understand, hard to use, and frustrating to the users. Balance your app appearance with functionality. You don’t want to have an elegant design with little functionality or a lot of functionality with less than desired design. The main foundation is to have the interface not only looks beautiful, but it also works in a natural and responsive way. That is, there’s a real-time response to finger taps and gestures. Think of how frustrating it would be to users if they navigate an interface with a fat finger and get an inaccurate, unintended response – all because the buttons are either too close together or too small to be easily pressed. Leave ample room between buttons so the device can detect the user’s choice accurately.
- 7. Focus on user’s natural, common tendency. Pick up a touch-screen mobile device and start using it. Notice where your fingertip and thumb position is typically pointed. Your fingertip and thumb position is most likely pointed towards the top of the screen. What does this tell the designer? Smart designers know that because this positioning brings user’s eyes towards the top, the most important information or feature should be placed towards the top. Thus, map your screen layout to people’s natural tendency by determining the level of importance your information and design from the top down.
- 8. Know your users. What’s your target audience’s user profile? Are you aiming for young gamers, educators, finance institutions, sports enthusiasts, etc.? Where are they – at a sports game, a shopping mall, a bar, or another establishment? Where are they using the app – on foot, by car, by bike, or travelling on a public transportation? Knowing this will help you establish an ideal profile and personas that will reflect the demographic you want to see and the context in which they’ll use your app. You’ll be able to draw out functionality and know what screens that are important to your target.
- 9. Know the types of apps your app falls into. Take a look at any app marketplace like iTunes App Store, Google Play, and Amazon Appstore, and you’ll see many different categories (e.g. games, entertainment, finance, lifestyle, health & fitness, shopping) that an app can go into. Knowing this will help you properly and smartly establish the right design boundaries and the necessary features.
- 10. Show your branding. Your brand should be visually displayed without compromising your screen real estate. Take a look at any app in the market; notice how they display their branding on the screen, keeping it refined and unobtrusive as well as how their branding adds value to the overall design and user experience. Forcing the users to look at a bunch of ads interferes with a great user experience.
For more tips on designing and developing mobile apps, check at our other articles:
- Mobile App Development – 6 Best User Experience (UX) Practices
- Mobile Apps | 6 Essential Steps to Build Engaging Mobile
Always do market research around the type of app to design. Look at what your competitions are doing and what other brands outside of your space are doing, and think of ways to differentiate your app from others – make it better, more exciting, and get your users talking and spreading the word.