Designing mobile applications is at the core of almost every UX/UI discussion. In the past, mobile design was a cute little cub. Nowadays, it’s a total bear – and oh by the way, that bear better know how to dance.
In lieu of that, we wanted to share some of the most common questions we hear from our clients, along with our answers.
Can a mobile application feature everything my desktop has?
Challenging, but yes. In fact, as people rely on mobile for more, and more often, most apps offer an even richer, more robust experience than their desktop counterparts. This is in large part thanks to our ability to design experiences that utilize and maximize everything smartphones have to offer – including their native Operating System and built-in features (camera, GPS, fingerprint identification, body sensors etc.).
What does Mobile First really stand for?
Mobile First means that when you’re designing for many different platforms (phone, tablet, desktop etc.) you must always start with Mobile. Operating in a smaller space forces us to make important decisions about the hierarchy of the design. Once we’ve landed on something that works great in mobile, we can guarantee our design will translate seamlessly in other, bigger screens.
Does the platform (Hybrid, Native or HTML) affect the design approach and UX?
Most native applications will be planned and designed with predetermined rules. On the contrary, HTML applications allow for more freedom in designing unconventional components, and make implementing changes on-the-go easier and smoother. Think about it this way: would you rather assemble existing pieces, or build something from scratch?
Can I use generic code to convert systems and websites into mobile applications?
Some generic code platforms can turn websites into mobile apps, but usually that means lots of compromises when it comes to making a good product.
Mobile is a different beast – smaller screen, different user attention and habits, a touch screen – so it’s hard to meet the goal of every interaction.
Not to mention, your type size, buttons, banners and the differences of interacting with a touchscreen should all be taken into consideration if you want a great user experience.
What are the guidelines for designing a mobile application?
Apple and Google have design principles that are a good starting point if you’d like to learn about micro-behaviors, but in terms of principles, these are our mantras:
Simplicity is king – provide users with a familiar, intuitive environment.
Focus – a focused UX with high usability is more important than functionality. “Slim” applications are often as successful as (if not more than) “robust” ones.
Versioning – make sure everyone agrees on the Minimal Viable Product.
Perfection – users have zero patience for incomplete, inconvenient experiences. It’s better to launch a slimmed down version with optimal UX and usability, than to have a richer experience that’s buggy.
Layout – keep it clean, seamless, and flexible enough for future enhancements.
Buttons – “Big buttons are good buttons” (Say it with us, once a day every day).
Context – making sure the design matches the industry/product and everything it stands for. A messaging application should be simple (i.e. Whatsapp) whereas a content application should be rich and engaging (i.e. NYT).
Execution – make sure all UI definitions are clear, and that your designs and graphics are built accurately by the dev team.
Consistency – maintain icons (and their respective functionality) in your app design. Keeping users in a familiar environment will smoothen their transition from desktop.
I already have a mobile application. How do I make it better?
Having an existing application is a huge asset, because it allows you to re-skin certain elements and, more importantly, launch A/B testing for things you’re considering. If you already have an existing style guide and an established brand voice, enhancements and solutions are even easier to come by. Another option to consider is hiring a UX company that specializes in apps as a consultant. A UX audit could, once implemented, dramatically increase your user experience.
When should I start planning the UX of my mobile application?
Good UX design comes from your product. So it’s best to start by writing down all the features you’re envisioning, and thinking through flow and hierarchy. It’s also never hurts to check your competitors and note what you like in their designs and functionality. Once you’ve established your essentials, draw the app while considering the guidelines we provided in this article.
You should strive for a working prototype as soon as possible, which will allow you to examine if the experience you envisioned is coming to life – and if your marketing model can be sustainable.
With a prototype at hand, you can start evaluating development costs and timelines, as well as reach out to investorsand users for some user feedback.