Mobile is everywhere. You probably already heard these three words so many times, but it makes sense, right? Mobile app are evolving too: from photo sharing apps, to games, to apps, that allows you to pay for butter. Mobile is constantly maturing so too does Mobile UX. Good UX is what separates awesome and very successful mobile apps from not so awesome and unsuccessful ones. In this article I’m going to share six tips on how to design mobile apps with UX in mind. These tips will help you not only design good apps for yourself, for your own projects, but also for others, for clients, who are seeking for UX designers who could be able to turn their app ideas into successful and user-friendly app.
1. The context
The first thing to remember and to keep in mind is to separate web UX with mobile UX. You should be cutting different pieces of web UX and placing them into mobile experiences. The world of mobile is significantly different than that of the desktop computer because mobile is all about context and that context is constantly changing. No one uses a laptop while waiting for a bus or a desktop to find directions while driving (that’s true). Mobile devices, on the other hand, can be used anywhere. Someone may check Twitter on their smartphone while bored at a party or covertly read the news with their device under the table in a slow meeting.
Let’s take a restaurant booking as an example.
OpenTable – Free Reservations App Screen
When visiting the restaurant booking website from a desktop computer there is a lot of information I may want to know: hours when it’s opened; location of the restaurant; photos and menu to see if the price and ambience match my preferences. If I visit the same website on my phone I may want to reduce the same and leave the following information: phone number, hours, and location of the restaurant. Why? Well, if you are using your phone remotely, in other words, you are on the go, you probably want to book a restaurant in a hurry or just want to know just the basic information for the restaurant, because you don’t want to read a bunch of it on your phone.
2. Understanding the users
Most of the times users want to use specific mobile app to complete a certain task or any other specific information (to read news, to use a flashlight, book a table at the restaurant, etc.). If your users fall in into this category, you should focus on a features which will enable them to complete that certain task they download your mobile app in the first place. You also should minimize any functionality which does not help them and just distracts from that specific task.
But we also know users, who just wants to fill their time with mobile application and they are not that concerned to complete a specific task (like the previous users category). In this case you should look for a ways to quickly give these users fast and convenient ways to the broad information.
Finally, you should use specific UX for specific applications. Don’t be Jack of all trades. Analyze your potential users and see, how they react to different scenarios or design variations.
3. Keep it simple
Mobile users don’t like to make a lot of additonal moves to achieve specific tasks. That’s a fact. Why is that? Mobile screens are smaller than desktop ones, so if the users wants to take a picture and share it with others on one of the social networks, he should achieve this quickly and easily. And the best way to do this is to just keep everything simple. Every additonal step user takes is one second away from his goal. And in the long run, the simpler the app, the better it will be.
4. Keep in mind platform UX
Google, Apple and others put a lot of work and money into specific mobile UX in order to help users to better achieve certain tasks in no time and, most importantly, comfortably. They created UI elements specific to platform (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, etc.) and every app designer and developer should know those UI design patterns and apply them to their projects. You probably know when you downloaded an app from one of the app stores and you get custom UI, and not only that, but you need to perform certain actions and know how to perform them in order to complete specific task. And this is very bad. Custom app design confuses users, slow down adoption, and put a significant obstacle in the way of engagement. Instead, you, as a mobile designer, should analyze specific platform UX and UI guidelines and design interfaces with those principles in your mind. For example, buttons sizes, colors, fonts, checkboxes, tables and etc.
5. Oh, look, a kitty…
Every mobile designer should also keep in mind that their apps are going to be interrupted by other: either it’s from a real life or by smartphones itself (causing another actions, service or even other app to open up). By keeping your app simple and clean, you help reduce the need for the user to disengage from your app to do other things. Like, petting a kitty. But, also, you should ensure that it’s easy to pick up from where they were ejected out of mobile app experience by an incoming call or their bus arriving – save their previous action and put context throughout.
6. No one is perfect
Eventually, you will leave some problems and gaps in your mobile UX, like slow hardware, unique external demands, other specific hardware issues placed on the user mean there is little room for overly flabby layout and feature sets that have crept into some parts of the desktop. But please don’t worry about them. You can’t control those issues, so make sure you did your best designing mobile UX and UI, analyze users, how they react to different problems or obstacles, change them and test again. And again. This way you will do your best to design best User Experience for mobile apps.