5 Things to Consider When Designing an App

January 28, 2019 - 8 minutes read

Mobile apps require superb functionality to provide a truly valuable solution to a user problem. But when there is competition between similar ideas, there’s often one differentiation that’ll decide who comes out on top: design. That includes user interface (UI) design, user experience (UX) design, and marketing material, like mock-ups, brand image, and even your app’s icon.

When a design is good, you barely notice it. But when the design is bad, lacking, or unfriendly to users, it’s impossible not to.

So are there certain rules all good designers know? Can you design a beautiful app without a graphic design background? Fortunately, the answer is yes. Just learning the basic principles of good design and applying them throughout your app development process should yield substantial improvements.

#1: The Integral Roles of UI & UX

App design relies on UI and UX design; UI design involves aesthetics, colors, graphics, and animations. A strong UI design attracts new users and can help retain existing ones.

UX design is geared more toward the overall app experience. What is the app trying to accomplish or solve for the user? Who is primarily using this app, and why? Does the current flow ensure the user’s needs are met seamlessly and efficiently? What can we do to enhance their experience with our app?

Because UX design involves big-picture thinking, it requires research, testing, mockup creation, prototyping, and above all else, time.

A lot of design involves how you make your users feel. It’s the reason why most fast food restaurants use yellow, red, and orange in their branding. When colors, a basic component of every design, can invoke psychological responses in users, you must heed the necessity of choosing the right color palette.

At the end of the day, all of the effort and budget that goes into app design is all for the user and their experience with your app. Make it count.

#2: Sustainable Designs

Designing a gradient-filled, shadow-littered app could be a bad decision if you’re trying to be trendy. Good designs stand the test of time, and it’s better to have a more classic, slightly trendy design with a smooth user experience than a beautiful app that glitches every two minutes.

Another design consideration is planning ahead; if the app layout needs to be reorganized during development to add a major feature, what can you do to prevent that timesink next time? When an app changes its flow, design, or purpose, a new UX evaluation is required.

For an app to remain a constant, dependable application for a user, it cannot make drastic changes in layout and design at the same time. Many issues from poor planning arise when your app needs a major makeover alongside a major code refactoring.

Doing your due diligence ahead of design implementation can save a ton of time and headaches. And employing a sustainable design that not only stands out but allows you to be versatile when other unexpected dilemmas occur is priceless.

#3: Don’t Try to Reinvent the Wheel

Good design principles are evergreen; they never lead you wrong, and they’re always applicable, no matter what the current trend is. So when you’re trying to design a beautiful, user-friendly app, try to stick to the tried-and-true basics.

Good designs:

  • Have a simple layout that you can understand at-a-glance
  • Take advantage of white space and above-the-fold content
  • Walk first-time users through a quick tutorial
  • Gift users some control
  • Present clear choices and exit options on every screen
  • Show data if, and when, needed

Bad designs:

  • Are plagued with cluttered UI that is difficult to quickly process
  • Lack padding and space to let content breathe
  • Push users straight into their app without any handholding
  • Don’t give users any control
  • Don’t give exit options or clear choices to follow
  • Show data all at once or show data that isn’t contextually relevant

Don’t underestimate the importance of a strong, simple, and sharp-looking UI. You should go through five or ten of the top apps in the app stores, compare their designs and new user orientations, and take a fresh look at your design. This method helps us when we’re experiencing designer’s block here at our mobile app studio in Los Angeles. If you can take what is useful and discard what is unnecessary, you’ll be one step closer to capturing a substantial amount of users.

#4: Assumptions and Risks

Most UX designers don’t have 24/7 access to the app’s ideal customers for quick questions, so they have to make a degree of assumptions. Whenever you assume you know the user and their thought processes while designing, you’re taking a risk.

If your competition’s already landed on the app stores, check out what users are saying in their feedback and reviews. Ask yourself how this feedback informs your own app’s design. Staying ahead of user’s complaints isn’t always possible, and you should be ready to adjust your app as more user feedback rolls in.

#5: The User is King

When you get a bunch of experts in one room to talk about the advancement and improvement of one product, it’s difficult to put aside egos and know-how to work together.

But if we can unite over the simple fact that the app, and as a result, we, serves the user first, designing and developing a successful app doesn’t sound so difficult anymore. And when you’re able to work together to create a beautiful end-product for the user, they’ll thank you for it by telling all of their friends.

The Bottom Line

You probably already have a great design sense, and you might be feeling a little nervous to use your intuition in designing. But the best designs are borne out of creativity, some persistence, and a strong cup of coffee.

So don’t settle for the unexceptional. Keep pushing yourself. Eventually, with a little effort, you’ll produce a design you’re proud of.

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