If your mobile app analytics are less than encouraging, odds are that your mobile UX or UI design leaves something to be desired. UX architecture, or user experience architecture, should be established first during the mobile app development process. The user interface, or UI, should be informed by the issues that were addressed during the UX architecture stage. If either aspect isn’t given its due, your app is sure to miss the mark.
Short of hiring a mobile UX/UI design professional, what can you do to ensure optimal results for your mobile app design? Knowing a few surprising facts about mobile UX/UI design should help, and we’ve rounded up five particularly important ones for your convenience.
It’s All About the User
The letter U that appears in UI and UX stands for “user.” All too often, people envision mobile app users as nameless, faceless, generic entities and give little thought to the types of people who are actually going to use their apps. This is a recipe for disaster. Therefore, the first step in the mobile UX/UI design process is identifying your audience and developing a unique user persona around which to base your design principles.
Ask yourself where, when and how your app is likely to be used. Is it likely to be used when someone is bored and trying to kill time, or is it likely to be used by busy, on-the-go people seeking quick answers? In the former case, aim for an immersive user experience that’s conducive to longer sessions. Provide fast access to broad information, allowing users to browse around to their hearts’ content. If busy folks are more likely to use your app, design an interface that’s easy to navigate using one hand. Aim for large targets and a bold, easy-to-read design.
Not sure who uses your app and how they use it? Analytics applications can help. They reveal the kinds of activities users engage in while using your app, allowing you to optimize and adjust your UI and UX architecture to be as effective for your target audience as possible.
UX/UI Design Fundamentals Matter
After using so many apps yourself, you probably think you have mobile UX/UI design principles down fairly well. Some things seem obvious but are easily overlooked, though, so it pays to brush up on the fundamentals. A few things to keep in mind include:
- Details – The big picture matters, but pay attention to small details and make sure they are up to par too.
- Controls – Always position controls at the bottom of the screen, below the content.
- Responsiveness – Make sure your app responds immediately to all interactions.
- Thumb Friendly Targets – Design with thumbs in mind. Ideally, targets should be around 44 pixels in size.
- Content – Content trumps everything else. Keep sliders, buttons, checkboxes and other distractions to an absolute minimum.
- Scrolling – Avoid scrolling whenever possible.
Communication is Key
Feedback should be provided instantly for all interactions to avoid confusing users. There are several ways to go about doing this. A simple vibration lets a user know that whatever action they just performed has been “heard.” It’s also a great way to give a user a head’s up about a potential problem. Visual communication, such as highlighting buttons that have been pressed or swiped, reassures users that their actions have been detected by the app. Sounds work too, but remember that people often mute their devices. If you use sounds, make sure they’re not irritating, and use them sparingly.
Don’t overdo it with the communication, either. For instance, only use alerts when absolutely necessary. Make them friendly and reassuring to avoid alienating users. Confirmations can be used more liberally, especially if the user has to perform steps that can easily lead to confusion. Just make sure that the likeliest response is the default button to minimize the risk of “mis-clicks.”
Keep Platform UX in Mind
Don’t try to reinvent the wheel when mapping out mobile UX/UI. App designers trying to stand out from the crowd often give little or no regard to the underlying principles of the native operating systems being used. For instance, iOS users expect certain actions to cause certain results. They like knowing what to expect. Don’t pull a fast one on users by changing what certain actions do.
Familiarize yourself with today’s most popular operating systems, platforms and devices. Study up on the guidelines in use for various platforms, and make sure your app respects those UX principles. Use mobile data analytics to zero in on potential issues. For instance, analytics may reveal that iOS users seem to “bounce away” from your app quickly. This might be because you inadvertently made the app counterintuitive to use on that platform.
Turn Lemons into Lemonade
Delays are the kiss of death for any app. Unfortunately, you can’t eliminate them completely. After all, you can’t control network speeds or bad connections. Therefore, it’s crucial to convey delayed actions in a less problematic way. This is most easily accomplished by optimizing UI flows. Instead of making users sit there wondering what’s happening during a long process, guide them through it through a series of short steps. For instance, have tips load on the screen while the underlying process unfolds, or use animations to keep users entertained in the meantime. The delay will be perceived to be a lot shorter than it actually is, making your app all the more user friendly.
Ultimately, mobile UX/UI design is an ongoing, give-and-take process. By using high-quality mobile analytics tools, you can keep an eye on how, when and why people are using your app. These tools will reveal shortcomings and other issues in your mobile UX/UI design, allowing you to address them with subsequent updates. In this way, you can eventually arrive at a mobile app design that goes the distance for users.