Mobile apps have become an integral part of our daily lives — from ordering food and booking an Uber to catching up on the latest trends on TikTok and shopping online. With tons of competition in the mobile app market, designers must create an app that stands out. A well-thought-out mobile app design attracts users and guarantees their satisfaction and loyalty.
Below we’ll explore the best mobile app design practices to help you create a product that users will love. Whether you are a seasoned designer or a newcomer, these tips will provide valuable insights into what works and doesn’t in app design. So, let’s discover mobile app design’s do’s and don’ts.
The Dos of Mobile App Design
The dos of mobile app design are essential practices for designers. Here are the top tips to keep in mind when designing an app.
Prioritize User Experience
User experience (UX) is the cornerstone of successful mobile app design. When designing an app, designers should consider the end users and their needs. The design should be intuitive, easy to navigate and visually appealing. One of the best ways to achieve this is by conducting user research to understand the target audience’s preferences and pain points.
Another key aspect of prioritizing UX is incorporating feedback mechanisms into the app. Feedback can be in surveys, ratings or reviews, allowing users to provide opinions on the app’s usability and functionality. Designers can then use this feedback to improve the app and ensure it meets users’ needs and expectations.
Focus on Visual Hierarchy
A visually appealing mobile app is also crucial to design, and one of the key elements is a well-executed visual hierarchy. Visual hierarchy refers to the arrangement of elements on the screen — a way that makes it easy for users to understand the app’s content and navigate it seamlessly.
A strong visual hierarchy ensures users can quickly identify the most important elements of the app, making the experience enjoyable and efficient. Designers can achieve this by using font size, color, contrast and placement. For instance, you should display the most important information in a larger font or with greater contrast, while details of lesser importance should be smaller or less prominent.
Another way to establish visual hierarchy is by using a grid system. This technique ensures all screen elements are aligned and spaced properly, making scanning and navigating the content easier for users. It also creates a sense of balance and harmony in the design, essential for a visually appealing app.
Optimize for Mobile Devices
When optimizing for mobile devices, remember that each has different screens, resolutions and processing. Therefore, designers should adapt the app’s design to these factors to ensure a seamless UX.
When optimizing mobile app design, one best practice is to consider the screen size. The app’s design should be flexible and adaptable to different screen sizes, from small smartphones to larger tablets. Designers can achieve this through responsive design, which automatically adjusts the app’s layout and content to fit the user’s screen.
Designers should also optimize the app’s loading speed because mobile users expect fast loading times. Research shows that even a one-second delay in loading can lead to a 7% drop in conversions and decreases user satisfaction by 16%. However, designers can optimize loading speed by compressing images, reducing the number of HTTP requests and minimizing the app’s file size.
Once you optimize for mobile, consider testing the app’s design on different mobile devices to ensure it performs well on other platforms and screen sizes.
Give Users Feedback
When a user takes an action, make sure the result is what they expected. Confirm the form submitted correctly or clicking on the button resulted in a new page loading. Go through each clickable item in your app design to ensure it behaves the way you want.
User feedback is like a conversation between the app and the user. The best apps keep people highly engaged and moving through the buyers journey at a steady pace.
Put yourself in user’s shoes. When you click on the CTA button, what happens? Is it what you expected?
Study User Behavior
The better you understand your target audience, the more effective your app will be. Utilize the information you have to really get to know your users and create a strong buyer persona.
Dig into analytics such as how people behave if you move the CTA button to the top or bottom of the page. Run A/B tests and try out different colors, different wording and different features.
You can also survey your users and ask them what they’d like to see or which changes they prefer. Look at all the information and study the numbers to make an informed decision about what works best for your software.
Consider Touch Targets
Since people access your app via their smaller screen devices, make sure touch targets are easy to navigate and tap on. Have people with different size screens and hands test out the app on their smartphones.
Consider issues such as mobility or someone with arthritis using the app. Are the links and buttons accessible to people of all abilities? Test everything and then test it again.
Think about the placement of clickables. People often hold their phones with their thumbs on the front of the screen. Can they easily tap a target with a thumb or will they have to readjust to use the app effectively?
The Don’ts of Mobile App Design
In a mobile app design, there are certain “Don’ts” that designers should avoid to ensure a successful and user-friendly app. These common design mistakes can negatively impact the app’s UX and hinder its success.
Overcrowd the Screen
Overcrowding refers to the practice of including one too many elements, such as buttons, icons and text, on a single screen. Incorporating this “don’t” of mobile app design can make navigating the app and finding information challenging, leading to frustration and a negative UX.
To avoid overcrowding, designers should arrange simplicity and clarity in the app’s design. Therefore, the app should follow the mobile UX design best practices for clear visual hierarchy and responsiveness. For example, designers should create the app using enough white space to create a visually-pleasing layout and easy-to-use interface.
Another way to avoid overcrowding is to leverage progressive disclosure. This technique lets users gradually reveal information by tapping an icon like a hamburger menu. A hamburger menu is a collapsible menu that provides users with options to navigate different pages within the app. By utilizing this design tactic, users can access additional information without a cluttered screen.
Use Inconsistent Design Elements
Consistency is key in mobile app UX design. Otherwise, it can confuse users, make the app difficult to use, and reduce the overall quality of the user experience.
However, you can avoid inconsistency by establishing a visual language for the app. Therefore, designers should create a style guide with a color palette, typography and other elements to keep things consistent. This also includes consistent style across buttons, icons and other interactive features.
In addition to consistent visual design, there should be consistency in interactive design. Designers should ensure interactions, such as swiping, scrolling and tapping, are consistent throughout the app. For example, if swiping left deletes an item in one part, it should do the same in another part of the app.
Overload Users With Notifications
Notifications can be a powerful tool for engaging users and increasing usage. However, too many notifications can quickly overwhelm and annoy users, leading them to disable notifications or uninstall the app.
Avoid this “don’t” of mobile app UX design by being selective about the types of notifications the app sends. Notifications should be relevant, timely and valuable to the user. For example, a weather app might send a message when severe weather is on the radar. On the other hand, a social media app will update a user if they receive a message or friend request.
Another thing to remember is to give users control over the types of notifications they want to receive and how often. That way, designers can ensure users only receive relevant and useful messages.
Finally, the notifications should always be clear and easy to understand. For instance, each message should have a clear call to action and provide enough information for the user to take action without opening the app. Additionally, you should design the notifications to fit within the device’s notification center and are not too long or challenging to read.
Overuse Animated Elements
Adding in animations and moving parts is a lot of fun for developers and brings interest to your design. Unfortunately, it can also slow down your app and frustrate users when they don’t load correctly.
Limit the number of animations in a mobile app. You might use a moving arrow to point the way but lose the background video.
You’ve likely noticed a lot of websites with animation in the header, such as a background video. When you pull up the mobile version of the site, the animation disappears. Some of the reasons for having a different desktop and mobile experience include improving loading speeds and keeping a small screen less busy.
Keep the Clutter
In the early days of developing your app, you likely had some interesting and unique ideas. Maybe you created a fun animated character to move the user through onboarding. Whatever elements you added, you now have to consider what you must have to make the user experience the best it can be and lose the rest. Your app needs to be intuitive, load quickly and cut out any unneeded clutter.
Designers tend to fall in love with the unique elements they include in their designs. It’s challenging to give some of them up. It might even behoove you to seek out a third party or run a poll about what elements are utilized most frequently and which ones users don’t care as much about.
Focus on keeping a clean interface with plenty of white space. Think about the goal of the app. Does every feature on various screens point the user to the objective? If it doesn’t, lose it.
Ignore the Competition
If you’re like most creative types, you will be so enthused with your mobile app you won’t even worry about what anyone else is doing. However, understanding the unique value proposition (UVP) of your competitors ensures you don’t miss a crucial component users need to be successful.
Take the time to download apps in direct competition with yours. What is better or worse about them? Make a list of what you like and consider whether your app design offers the same or better.
Where is the competition advertising? Even though you might be more in the creation mode with your mobile app design, you will need to get the word out to grow users. Be unique but be smart and competitive.
Best Practices and Pitfalls to Avoid in Mobile App Design
Mobile app design is a complex process that requires careful consideration of user needs and preferences. By following the best mobile app design practices, designers can create effective and engaging apps that meet users’ needs. That way, they positively impact people’s lives and increase the success of downloads, user engagement and satisfaction.
About The Author
Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dogs, Bear and Lucy.