Design is everything. Take shoes as an example. Can you tell where design as you know it ends and where engineering of sole, flexibility or breathability begins? Or smartphones. Are materials, buttons, size of the screen or OS, part of the design or engineering? To be honest, you can’t draw an exact line, both of them fold into one another. Same goes for mobile applications.
While designing your app, you should pay as much attention to its content or features as to its design. Users won’t use a beautiful app that is not useful, and the greatest user experience won’t make up for poor features.
Based on our experience, and thousands of apps on the market, we decided to put together tips, hints, and advice and give you them in a clear and to the point form.
Make sure to read it until the end, because somewhere in there is a free gift waiting for you.
Step into somebody’s… screen
This is something that IDEO (one of the best design studios in the world) called human centered design. It is taking into consideration the needs of the final user. It sounds obvious when you say it, but it is common for designers to forget about it. Haven’t you ever experienced a situation when you thought that the designer must never have used his own product because it is neither comfortable or convenient to use? I experience this all the time with transportation, especially buses.
Before you start designing your app, put yourself in the position of the final user. Where will he use your app? The home, outdoor, or the office? Will it be day or night, natural or artificial light? Is it just to check something quickly, or to use for long time? To read or to watch? This is just the tip of the iceberg; the list of questions is endless and different for each app. But if you put some thought into it, you will know what to ask. That also leads us to next point, which is…
Prototyping is a process that will lead you to right design once you decide to make it human centered. It is crucial for the final product, and when done correctly it will save you both time and resources.
We wrote a very comprehensive post about it; you can read it here.
Less is more
You have heard it a million times. It was especially popular because of Steve Jobs and his approach to Apple’s products, but what does it really mean? Again, it is not aesthetic action; it is thought process. It is understanding what is really important and allowing it to be as easy to use as possible. Let’s take an example.
You are designing a bottom bar for your app. You have many features and tabs in your app, so it is tempting to put many icons and links to them in that bar. On the other hand you know that 4 icons is the best number for a bar to be useful and clear. To do so, you have to understand, which of them are most important, and will be used from exactly this screen. Once you go thru this process, you will have 4 icons, which is less, but you will have high usability and a good looking app, which is more.
Colors and continuity
The 80’s are over, and so are disco and excess of colors. As Sonia Harris says, “In a ridiculous number of projects, three colors are all you’ll ever need, and two of them are already chosen (black and white), so you usually only need to find one color.” As radical as it might sound, she makes a really good point. Overload in colors, patterns and textures are a common mistake of inexperienced designers. Of course, as always, it is more like a landmark rather than a strict location, but keep it this point in mind.
Also, think about your app as a mosaic of screens, rather than separate paintings. It means that all of them must be similar to some point. They must have common elements or similar arrangement of content. Besides the aesthetics point of view, it is a key to usability. Your users want to feel in your app like in home; they want to know where everything is. They don’t want to have to look for it; they just want to reach for it like a habit.
Icons, icons, icons…
And icons everywhere. Sometimes it seems that the mobile world is made up of them – and that isn’t really all that far from the truth. Since icons pay a key role in app design, you should pay them extra attention. Make sure that all of them come from the same source, which is what we have said before, to maintain continuity in design.
But there is one more important icon, it is the one you are planning on using in the app market. Together with the app name and title, the icon is the probably the most important factor, deciding whether your app will be download or not. It is a crucial part of ASO.
To read more about ASO, check out this Ultimate ASO Guide.
It is very likely that the app store icon is also your logo. Make sure, it is made professionally, leaving no doubt what the app is about. Remember, that the quality of that icon, says everything about the quality of an app itself, so don’t go short about it.
Keeping things simple and intuitive is a key to great design, design where the users’ needs and his comfort comes first. To do so, you must take a whole new approach to design and implement it way before you start making your app. Start with dozens of prototypes, and finish with the one that fulfills all of the needs, aesthetic as well as functional. Then start making it, keeping in mind that a great app is simple and clear. And then wait until users start to fall in love with her.