Mobile app design moves at the speed of light. As smartphones become faster and capable of handling more data, mobile apps naturally offer more variety and detail than ever before. Even with all the changes in the last few years and those still to come, there are rules of creating a mobile app design that works.
According to Statista, the annual number of mobile app downloads globally is around 178.1 billion per year. There are around 2.47 million apps available in the Google Play Store and about 1.8 million in the Apple store, although many are crossovers of the same app covering the two platforms.
No matter what type of app you offer, you have some stiff competition. One way you can rise above the other offerings out there is through stellar mobile app design. Here are 14 tips to make sure your app is the absolute best it can be.
1. Keep Things Simple
People using mobile apps do so to automate tasks or save time or money. If you make your app too complicated to use, they will probably delete it and move on. Think about the most intuitive placement for elements such as navigation. Everything should be easy to find. You may be too close to the project to know for sure, so ask outside testers to look at your app and give advice for making it easier to use.
2. Add Accessibility
When looking at your mobile app design, keep in mind that you will have some users with limited abilities. For example, how does someone with a vision impairment interact with your app? If your current coding doesn’t mesh well with audio commands that will help everyone enjoy your app, it’s time to start over on your design.
3. Shrink Navigation
Researchers find the average person spends nearly four hours a day on their phone. Some elements that work well on a desktop device won’t translate well to mobile design. Think about elements such as navigation that need to fit in a smaller space. You may want to use a hamburger menu to save space, but still keep links accessible.
4. Use a Grid
One of the current trends is using a fluid layout in design, where elements overlap. However, for mobile app design, this approach doesn’t work. It just clutters up space and makes it difficult for the user to read the screen. A grid system keeps everything aligned, so every block of text is readable and all images viewable.
5. Revamp Your Fonts
Fonts are tricky. Some resize well for smaller screens, while others do not. You can start with fonts you know work well, but you may want something unique for your mobile app design. Test different fonts and see how they look as they scale up and down. Are they readable, or do they look fuzzy? The serif font that looks great on the desktop version of your site may look horrendous in your mobile app design.
6. Color It Up
When it comes to mobile app design, color makes a huge impact. You need enough contrast to make things readable, but if you use too much, the colors might be harsh and hurt the user’s eyes. Stick with expected colors for call-to-action buttons, such as red or green. These draw the user’s eye, and they almost know what the button is before they read the text.
7. Study Popular Apps
You can learn a lot about customer expectations by looking at the most popular apps today. Study WhatsApp, Helo and TikTok to start. Next, study apps that offer similar features as yours and are in the same category. If you’re creating a game, study game apps and see what works and what doesn’t. Adjust your mobile app design as needed to better match what else is out there. There is a reason people download those apps in droves.
8. Optimize for Different Sizes
There are many different sizes within the mobile world. People might use your app on a large tablet or a palm-sized smartphone. Account for the differences in among different phone models, and make sure your elements adapt and remain usable at any size.
9. Watch the Whitespace
Whitespace creates natural breaks in your text and gives the user’s eye a break. However, on a small screen, you don’t have nearly as much whitespace to work with. Instead, look for ways to separate blocks without adding in unused space. You might make your headlines all caps or a different color text, for example.
10. Cut the Clutter
You want to offer tons of amazing features to your users, but this can also lead to a bulky program that loads slowly and creates a bit of cognitive overload. Look at what elements people use most often, and remove the ones that don’t see frequent use. Remember the rule to simplify? You must continue to look at your app through the lens of keeping it simple and cut things from time to time, both in the user interface and aesthetics of the design.
11. Know the Goal
Although knowing your goal for your app is essential, understanding your users’ objectives is even more so. Mobile app design is about meeting a need the public has. If your app doesn’t offer a solution to a consumer pain point, you’ve wasted your efforts. Get down to the most significant needs of your users and offer the best quick fix possible.
12. Improve Your CTA Button
What action do you want people to take when they first download your app? It might be to register or to begin using the app. Make sure you guide them toward the action you’d like them to take. Your CTA buttons should contrast with the rest of the page, and the text should define a clear move for them to take. Use first- and second-person action statements such as “Get My Account” or “Solve My Finances.”
13. Design for Bigger Fingers
People have adopted a specific way of holding cellphones, with their hands near the bottom of the screen and thumbs on top. While all different sizes of hands will use your app, design for bigger hands as much as possible. If you create a tiny CTA button, users may have difficulty tapping on it without touching other functions. It’s better to err on the side of larger when it comes to interactive elements.
14. Nix the Background Services
Background services such as location detection may be a competitive advantage to retailers, but they drain users’ phone batteries. People may wind up disabling your app because of it. One option is letting them change the app’s settings to only use location services while active. This functionality keeps the app from draining people’s batteries, but still gives you the advantage of knowing when the user is near a designated location, so you can send push notifications.
Good design includes both function and symmetry. Users should know what to expect from your mobile app design, both because you use standard elements and because the app is so intuitive. With a little tweaking, you’ll end up creating software people can’t wait to download and continue using over the long term.
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.