When it comes to designing mobile apps, you should never compromise on the quality of the user experience for the sake of expediency. With so many people using mobile devices to assist them in nearly every aspect of their lives, there is heavy competition in app marketplace for their attention. This leaves us no room for shortcuts when creating the mobile user experience or UX.

“There are three responses to a piece of design– yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.” — Milton Glaser

It’s important to recognize that the desktop experience does not translate directly to the mobile experience. Without a mouse, large display and a physical keyboard, designers must reconsider how we design for apps and for the Web. Designing for the mobile experience means taking into account gestures such as tapping, flicking and swiping, as well as integrated GPS service, built-in cameras and accelerometers that track the device’s position and orientation.

Things to Consider First:

  • Traffic Does Not Equal Conversion – The mere fact that you have a lot of traffic will not guarantee you any certain percentage of user conversion. It’s not just a numbers game. In the world of mobile apps, it’s more about quality.
  • Optimization Equals Conversion – Successfully optimizing your app is the real key to conversion. The more transparent the experience is for users and the quicker they can get to the information or entertainment they seek, the better your chances of engagement and conversion.
  • Hardware Platforms Are not Created Equal – Designers shouldn’t try to build their apps for tablets and smartphones in the same way. The UX and methods of interaction differ greatly between each type of device. Consider a platform’s unique characteristics when building your app.

 Multiple Devices - Different UX

Because excellent UX is what distinguishes successful apps from failures, even small startup design firms can take on the big players in this field, developing apps and mobile websites that are more compelling than those built by highly established brands.

You don’t need to know all the principles of UX or be directly involved in the nitty-gritty of the design process, but your familiarity with the basic concepts will serve you well as you give feedback to the developers you hire.

1. Consider the Context

Don’t assume that people will use your mobile app or site the same way they would with a desktop computer. They will likely be accessing you while on the go, and may need information such as contact information and directions. Figure out what other things they might require, such as the ability to do quick comparisons of goods or services, and integrate it into your UX.

2. Remember the 80/20 Rule

Keep in mind that on average, 80 percent of users will only use 20 percent of an app’s functions. Study how potential customer use your app or mobile site and use your analytics to adjust the number of features you offer accordingly.

3. Make the UX of 2014 and Beyond:

  • Employ Flat Design – Pioneered by Apple with iOS 7, icons and other images are simplified, with no extraneous features such as shadows, styling and texture. Focus on functionality.
  • Pulling Down to Refresh – Apple invented the pull-down gesture to refresh data, such as new mail or social media updates. This design principle leads to increased user engagement.
  • Targeted Gestures – People now routinely swipe, shake, tilt, pinch and tap the screen when using many of the top apps today. Examine which gestures the best apps in your industry use to serve your demographic and implement them in your app.

4. Thumbs Up on Interactive Displays

People increasingly hold their mobile device in one hand and interact with it using their thumb instead of all their fingers. Make sure that your UX accounts for thumb-based interaction, including the strategic placement of navigation and control icons in the lower right section of the screen. Consider subway riders, exercisers and busy parents making do with just a thumb to use your app.

5. Keep Things Simple

Mobile users are busy. They don’t have time to read a FAQ or instructions on how to use your app. Use clear iconography. Restrict features to the essentials. A screen free of clutter, a single, clear goal and quick paths to get the user where he or she wants to go are essential. Make it extremely obvious how to use your app as soon as it’s launched.

6. Guide Your First Time Users

First time user experience

Consider the notion of an elevator pitch. You have 30 seconds to explain your idea to an investor before he either says “yes” or exits the elevator, leaving you in the dust with no deal. Make your app as easy and quick to understand as an elevator pitch.

Don’t make users read a lot of screens about how to use the app. Design it so it is intuitive and simple. For example, give them a list of which gestures do what, and provide context to show how to perform the basic tasks of the app.

When building a mobile site, assume the user may be disoriented because it is different from the desktop site. Guide users to the menu and navigation tools so they can immediately get to the page they want.

7. Ignore Platform UX at Your Peril

Remember that users are working with a smaller screen on smartphones and larger displays with their tablets. Are users going to use their thumbs more while holding the device in one hand? Apply the UX conventions developed by such brands as Google and Apple, since so many people use them every day.

8. Easy Navigation is Critical

Keep the most crucial navigation items in easy view or at the very least provide users an easy way to tap for more options. Typically, users will want to see a main menu when they launch the app or visit a mobile site. Be consistent with your icons and consider including a footer that links to the main page or screen.

9. Prepare for Interruptions

Assume your mobile users are snacking on information, often being interrupted by other pressing tasks and distractions all around them. Their attention is not 100 percent with your app, so make sure each task is simple and short so they can easily resume their work when they return their focus.

10. Keep in Mind that Your UX Won’t Be Perfect

Developers know that you can’t expect perfection in the UX design no matter how much time, capital and personnel you throw at the app. It’s healthiest to regard your app as a work in progress even as you release its first iteration. Use analytics and feedback to continuously improve your app or mobile website, and soon enough, your UX will be better aligned with your organization’s goals for conversion.

The developers at OpenXcell have the experience and knowledge to develop a mobile UX design that will be seamless and keep your users engaged even when they are busy, on the go or just have one hand free to interact with your app. For details on how we can help, please contact us today.