Mobile App Development – 6 Best User Experience (UX) Practices

Topics: Advertising, App Development, Branding, Business, Creative, Design, Ideas, Leadership, Marketing, Media & Entertainment, Mobile, Strategy, Success, Technology, Web Design By: Jackie Ta

Mobile device has become the iconic, instantaneous gadget of the moment. As a result, it warrants a user-friendly interface that speaks consumer’s language and enhances their user experience. Mobile UX presents you with the opportunity to invent new ways for your consumers to interact with your information and reinvent or create new experiences for them to interact with you. No longer are they required to be tethered to a keyboard and mouse.

Consumers nowadays are expecting to use their mobile devices to obtain information, shop, compare prices, share pictures, post updates, etc. Do you know how to leave a good impression to your consumers? Think of building your products as if you’re building them for your best friends. This means you know the users very well.

What’s UX?

What’s user experience design? It’s the experience within the context of the user. Think of the context in terms of usability – visual design, interaction design, media content as well as medium in which the context is delivered such as information architecture, technology, and development.

Your UX design should encompass two critical aspects – emotional and technical. How do your users or consumers feel while they doing certain things and what do they use to interact with the product?

Let’s Play with Top Apps

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and think of the last time you felt good about using an app as a user. Then, imagine building visual design for iOS and Android devices. Think of yourself as a designer with a basic knowledge of mobile devices and their capabilities.

1. Play with your top 10 apps. Perhaps the best way to learn the best UX design is to play with your favorite top 10 apps or user’s highly rated apps. Consider picking different app types. Choose one or two game apps where the users will want to beat their or other’s high scores, or new users who may need guidance and encouragement to keep playing. Choose one or two utility apps where you can see how or where the task will be completed in real life. Check the following and emulate those apps that are doing it right:

a. Navigation. How do they navigate? How do they guide users?
b. Organization. How are they organized?
c. Content. How much information is displayed on each screen? What content is displayed? How are items displayed?
d. Speed. How fast is the experience?
e. Features. How do they use the platform features? Are they using GPS, touch, etc.?
f. Target audience. What users are they targeting? Consider demographics, user profiling, and user experience. What well are they predicting what   the users will want to do?
g. Usability. How useful and valuable are the features? How well do they predict user’s behavior?

2. Consider mobile space as opportunities instead of constraints. Mobile devices and small and yet don’t let the constrained design space to discourage you from thinking of them in terms of opportunities that they can convey. Mobile can convey time-sensitive and brief information. Its advantages allow you to design an interface that will pivot your users through information quickly and exposing them to all the interactive possibilities. Present the user with a series of data that flow smoothly in a mobile context.

3. Be part of the culture you’re designing for.  Learn and understand the culture of your consumers and develop your design based on the context of that understanding. It’s all about understanding the human relationships and interactions in terms of people, places, and things in the world. Know your target users and understand their tasks in context. Gain empathy and clarity on exactly what your consumers go through when they interact with your products and services. Think in terms of pain points – what are some of the key areas where you can improve your consumer’s experience?

a. Pain points. Take Starbucks for example. Starbucks use smart technology to address some of these pain points. What are some of the mobile apps or solutions that they have to offer to help with their pain points while enhancing customer experience? Starbucks has an app for locating, ordering/waiting, paying, and reloading Starbucks card. Does your app solve a unique or specific problem or solve it better than any other apps? Does it serve a specific niche? Find a unique problem, a passionate niche, a better way of doing the same thing better and watch your app goes viral.

b. Ratings. Giving your users the option to give ratings or feedback is a means for creating a great mobile experience. Take iTune Preview – Customer Ratings for example. It allows customers to rate current version versus all versions of Angry Birds, for example.

c. Customer-focus. Make your apps simple, fast, and effective. Users do not want to dig through many layers, icons, or prompts to get to where they want or need to go. Usability is key to your UX design.

4. Create interfaces that speak to their power. You can build the best mobile app ever made, but if your intended users don’t know why it’s good, then it will be useless. This is why it’s important to design and build interfaces that speak your app’s best features. Your app’s vitality depends on your understanding of your users and their needs. Anticipate what they would want to see and do on the pages. Your design should be responsive and as such should work across multiple devices, providing users with the content they seek. Make your user comfortable with the unfamiliar. Check out any popular mobile app such as Starbucks, Lycos, and Path. Notice their responsive design and how they adapt themselves to the user’s mobile behavior based on the device’s screen size, platform, and orientation. Mobile navigation is key. When designing your app, think of it as constructing a great book. It should have a great beginning, middle, and end. Let’s review some apps that utilize some good UX design as their primary navigation:

a. The Toggle. Starbucks app uses the toggle in mobile design and navigation. Notice how the menu slides open right in the header.

b. Good Metaphors. What’s a metaphor? In literature, a metaphor is a figure of speech that the speaker helps the listener understand one thing by describing it as though it was another. In UX design, it’s a strategy that help user understand the new by relating it to the familiar. Choose metaphors that are recognizable and not ambiguous so that it helps users understand content and function intuitively.

  • Visual.  Everyone knows the shopping cart icons that are available before purchase. Such visual metaphors leverage familiar graphic elements – images, icons, and colors – to create a familiar connection, especially for new shoppers. Visual metaphors are interface standards like tab navigation or the shopping cart.
  • Functional. Apps such as DoItTomorrow use a good functional metaphor as their primary navigation to make the tasks of performing to do’s in a traditional way (the physical daily calendar) to those they can perform in a new way (mobile daily calendar). Facebook also uses good functional metaphor as its primary navigation by allowing users and their friends to write on their wall.
  • Organizational. Apps such as Ikea uses a good organizational metaphor to leverage user’s familiarity with basic concepts of organization to convey quick understanding of their organization simply by mapping people’s mental model to organization of its mobile website.

c. Tabs and custom tabs. Apps such as Tumblr use tabs for their primary navigation. It’s easy to navigate from one area to the next.

d. Sparklines/charts. Apps such as use charts and sparklines to represent and trend data. Fidelity app is a good example of how to chart data. Such apps are great for trending and analyzing statistics.

e. Gallery pattern. Apps such as Trover use the gallery pattern as their primary navigation. Gallery allows quick detection and ease of finding things.

f. Dashboard. Check out apps such as PageOnce, Google, and Facebook for the use of dashboard. It’s another way of organizing the pages to navigate to.

g. Search design. Apps such as Trulia use a great search design for location searches. Every retail or business knows that integrating search to their app will make users more likely to visit them.

h. Contextual design. Apps such as DropBox and Google Docs have good contextual tools making it easy for users to get their most important stuff on the go. It’s about remote accessibility and convenience.

i. Feedback and photos. Your site, especially if a mobile commerce site, should provide users the option to provide feedback. Apps such as Gilt and Instagram provide this option while users are snapping.

j. Menu. Check out Google Maps and Facebook for making good use of the list menu variation. Menus are also a good way to organize pages for easy navigation.

k. Filter. Depending on your products and services, your site should provide advanced features such as filtering capability. Check out Kayak for a good example of great filter design.

l. RSS aggregator. Apps such as Google Currents can provide the best design for reading news and RSS aggregator. It’s a great app to get ideas for including RSS into your app.

m. Gestures. Native metaphors such as swiping are the norm for mobile devices. Web metaphors such as scrolling are not within the realm of mobile. Build your app to utilize these  native gestures.

5. Enhance user experience using your platform capabilities. Mobile design and development is more than APIs and the latest models of mobile devices. It’s all about making a difference in the way users interact with technology. Your platform (e.g. iPhone, iPad, Google/Android, Blackberry, Microsoft Windows, Nokia, Samsung, Palm, etc.) drives your users’ information seeking. Use the platform capabilities as they relate to data, audio/voice, GPS/location, QR/barcode apps, touch screen/gesture, and augmented reality. Be flexible to handle all the complexities of each platform you’re designing for.  Design with optimization in mind to allow compatibility with different devices. For example, your UX design should focus on:

a. iOS UI design for retina supported devices such as iPhone and iPad.

b. Fonts that’s supported in your chosen devices. Consistency with the font(s) used by the operating system may be ideal. Consider using the default font such as Helvetica for iOS and using standard mobile font and font sizes for easy reading.

c. Layout that presents a table view such as the plain and grouped layout as seen in iPhone.

d. Vertical and horizontal layout that works best both ways – landscape and portrait.

e. Using iTunes for iPhone Apps and Android Apps Market for Android apps.

f. User experience. Consider the user base. For example, iPad users are sophisticated and expect perfection. They expect Apple Aesthetic when it comes to user experience and interaction. iPad gives them control over their experience and as such, they can remove, close, or delete anything that they perceive as a marketing or sales pitch.

g. Seamless mobile-to-PC experience.  Google Chrome, for example, provides a browser for Android smartphones to seamlessly syncing user’s laptops or desktops and mobile devices.

6. Less is more content. Check out any good apps. They know that less is more. Users can become impatient with too much animation or content on each screen and the speed of loading pages. Clutter and speed impacts user experience. Invest in design that speaks to its power without the need to clutter the pages. It’s all about UX experience.

Unless you have an in-house staff with mobile UX design and app development expertise, you may want to consider hiring a firm whose focus is to get brands on the mobile path as quickly as possible while improving your business. The right firm can discover what your business does well, areas that are hindering your business growth, as well as uncovering opportunities for improvement so that together you can design engaging mobile experiences that empower. Remember you want to build a mobile site or app site that will provide the best possible experience to the user’s context.

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