Earlier this year the UK Daily Mail shared that 2021 was ‘record breaking’ as people continue to embrace a mobile lifestyle. The results from the same research show that people spend over 4.8 hours a day on their mobile apps, on average.
Or in other words, 88% of mobile time is spent on apps.
Having said that, it’s obvious that the mobile app industry is thriving without any signs of slowing down in the foreseeable future. As a result, more and more businesses are embracing the power of mobile apps to better serve their customers straight from their favorite gadget – the smartphone.
For many businesses, having a mobile app it’s no longer an option, but a necessity.
While this is encouraging news for anyone who plans on developing an app, it’s not that easy. And in order to be successful in this space, two other events need to happen.
- People need to discover and download your app;
- Then, the ease of usage has to be met for them to continue using your app.
And that is next to impossible without a flawless UX design process.
Thousands of new mobile apps go live every day on app stores, propelled by the high demand for new content and functionality. But that high volume equals= lots of competition, which makes it way more difficult even for “good” apps to make an impact.
As a matter of fact, according to Gartner, less than 0.01 percent of all consumer mobile apps are considered successful in terms of producing revenue.
So, if you’re thinking about building a brand new mobile app for your business, it’s key that you make it as user-friendly as possible. And that’s why today we’re going to talk about user experience (UX) when building an app.
What is App UX Design and why is it so important in the mobile app development process?
UX design is all about making the user’s experience with the product the best it can be and is one of the most important stages of the mobile app development process.
How your app works and looks is the ultimate, determining factor in whether your customers will use it and continue to do so in a highly competitive market.
To attract users’ attention and maintain their loyalty, the UX of your mobile app must constantly prove its value. You should always strive to simplify usage and navigation, create more meaningful and contextual experiences, and solve each challenge that comes along the way.
Focusing on these qualities is what differentiates good from great mobile app UX design.
In writing this article we worked closely with Eliza, our chief UX/UI designer, to make sure it is filled with real-life experience and expert knowledge on the subject and gives you actionable takeaways.
“The most important aspect of UX design is to be laser-focused on the end-user. During the app UX design process, you must have clarity about what your target users want to achieve and how your app can best help them in doing so. But this is more difficult than it sounds because we’re instinctively prone to bias.
When processing information, our brain naturally creates mental shortcuts. These shortcuts reduce the cognitive load for our brain, so every time it must process new information, it simply uses existing shortcuts to do it faster. It’s easy to think of cognitive biases as something that helps us make sense of the world.
However, this “feature” can cause many problems because, under certain circumstances, mental shortcuts can easily lead us to incorrect assumptions.Being crystal clear of your users’ needs is one of the most important aspects of app UX design and maintaining your focus in that direction is crucial.”
Having a solid UX design process will help you bridge this gap and give you a better chance of creating a product with great value and usability. Actually, a well-defined and well-executed UX design process is what makes it possible to craft amazing experiences for mobile app users.
The UX design process of creating a Mobile App — from the perspective of our chief designer at 2Coders
Before developing a new mobile app, you need to design it first. Visual design is how your mobile app looks, but UX design is, essentially, how it feels.
The UX design starts much more before the coding process. All the information that we receive from a client, plus our additional research is a part of the UX stage.
When we have collected all the insights we need to start creating an app, we start with a sketch of the product, and then it converts to a low-fidelity prototype.
The next step is a high-fidelity prototype when we make the product visually attractive. After all these stages are successfully completed, the product is handed over to the developers to build it.
The process will depend on the type of product we are designing. Different projects require different approaches. It’s a long process, but each step is so important to reach the perfect product for your client.
Here is what my UX design process usually looks like:
In the first stage, we talk with the client to understand what key business goal they strive to achieve, what is the Minimum Viable Product they want to create, and the overall context of the project as well. MVP is defined as the product with the minimum features for validating and learning purposes. In this phase, we brainstorm with the client on the highest level to have a concept of the product.
Once we have completed this phase we start to conduct our research and brainstorm our ideas. Target audience and competitor’s research depth can vary depending on the project and how long it lasts, but we have to know everything about the market and the options that exist. This phase can really help save time and money down the road.
In this phase, we focus on the user and we confirm that the team’s most important assumptions are correct. To confirm this information we use tools like pain points, user personas, user stories, or user journeys.
This phase already incorporates UX and UI design. In the beginning, we make wireframes of the workflows to be sure that all the concept and architecture information of the product is correct and accessible to everybody on the team.
Then we start with an interactive prototype of the product. It’s like a simulation of the real product. When the design of the product is ready, we create a design specification. It contains all of the visual design assets required for developers to turn prototypes into working products.
Validation is an essential step in the design process because it helps teams understand whether their design works for their users. Normally we test with the finished prototype because when users interact with the product simulation it is more likely that they’ll give valuable feedback.
After the Design Process, the design goes to the development team.
(Image source: Dribbble/Ghulam Rasool)
What are some of the biggest challenges of a UX designer?
The most common challenges UX designers face range from time and budget constraints to deciding which problems to solve first to bridging the gap between design and development… but if we had to pick one?
According to Eliza, “the most challenging projects are those where the client is not completely sure what they truly want and as a result, they don’t know exactly what they need.
In this case, the Empathize phase is really important and it might take time to make the idea and purpose of the product clear for everybody on the team.
In such scenarios, it’s especially important to follow the Design process, because without it we will be lost. We wouldn’t be able to align on the main objectives as a team and create the product their users will love.”
4 Best practices to optimize your App UX Design
#1. Evaluate and choose the best app development option according to your business objectives
- Native apps are specifically developed for one platform – Android or iOS. Think Swift for iOS vs. Kotlin for Android. Hence they are faster and deliver superior performance on the chosen platform. A native iOS app cannot be used on Android devices and vice-versa.
The native app has a look and feel consistent with most of the other native apps on the device. Therefore, the end-user is more likely to learn how to navigate and use the app faster. Besides, native apps can utilize the built-in capabilities of the user’s device e.g., GPS, address book, camera, gallery, etc.
- Hybrid apps are created to work on more than one operating system or platform. They’re usually built using a combination of HTML5 and languages like Java. Hybrid apps are typically easier and faster to develop than native apps, and that’s one of their main advantages.
#2. Research before designing & create a user persona
While it’s tempting to skip the research process and jump straight into drawing your new mobile app design, that can cost you dearly in the long run. Because you’re not your user, and you can never be 100% sure that the app will be as easy to use for them as it is for you, without proper research.
Start by brainstorming on Who will use your app?
Who is the target user you had in mind when you came up with the app idea? What are their demographics, firmographics, and behavioral data?
Will they use your app for pleasure, to improve their lifestyle or it will help them to be more productive at their job? What’s their preferred system, iOS or Android? Do they already use a similar app on a regular basis?
When doing research, don’t forget to include interviews and surveys with your existing customers, and collect customer data and insights.
Focus on understanding your user’s needs, and what opportunities can you offer to meet their goals? Consider what challenges they might face while using your app, and try to mitigate them upfront.
To master the UX design you must always think from the perspective of the user, and the only way to get their perspective is through working with real people from your target audience when performing in-depth user research.
#3. Prioritize features
To make a mobile app more appealing to customers, product designers naively try to add as many features as possible. Little do we know that this is the exact opposite of providing a great user experience. Nothing is more perplexing for new users than an app with too many features. The most popular apps on the market are narrowly targeted and offer a restricted range of functions.
That’s why you need to prioritize what are the most essential features your app needs to have and limit additional features which may be nice to have but not crucial.
Focus on perfecting the user experience around your core business goals.
Understand what is the core purpose of your app and optimize for the features that are directly connected to delivering that objective. Investigate which features are most used in a similar app and put the most effort into making that experience intuitive.
#4. Be concise. Cut out the fluff
Overcrowding a user interface overwhelms the user with too much information – each additional button, graphic, or line of text complicates the screen. On a desktop, clutter is bad, but on mobile devices, where consumers have a limited screen area, it’s even worse.
Anything in a mobile design that isn’t absolutely necessary should be removed because less clutter improves comprehension and user experience.
Prioritize one primary action per screen. Try to keep each screen focused on just one objective at a time, with only one call-to-action. This makes it way easier for the user to learn as well as utilize your app. Few clean pages are much better than one overcrowded screen.
(Image source: Dribbble/Ghulam Rasool)
Keep it minimalistic. Remove redundant elements that do not support user tasks and concentrate on the content that is valuable to your users. Keep the interface light and open by using minimal visual elements like gradients and drop shadows.
The biggest trends in the UX Design industry right now
Eliza is constantly keeping up to date with the latest industry innovations and trends to stay inspired and provide the best possible user experience for each in-house mobile app we create. These are the top 4 UX design trends on her radar currently:
Voice user interface
Lately, there is more importance placed on voice interfaces and more use of voice programs, and therefore, more need to create a smooth experience between the user and the voice application or software.
Personalizing user experience is a trend that’s increasing each time. With a lot of content that users can access on the internet, more and more apps and websites personalize the experience to each individual user, for example, personalized suggestions.
Emotive interaction design
Emotional design is all about creating experiences that bring up an emotional response in users. Thanks to these experiences, users build a deeper connection to the product and have more positive and memorable interactions. For example, there can be some animations and other effects that create experiences that are similar to human interactions.
In the times of the data, data visualization has increased so much lately, that it is an absolute, essential part of some experiences. As we are surrounded with data, the data visualization UX design trend explores ways in which this experience can become visually pleasing, easily digestible, and more exciting.
Which tools are best for app UX design and why are they useful?
The oil that keeps the wheels turning during mobile app development are the UX design tools. Every designer has their own style and approach, but without the right tools and a workspace to put it all together, they won’t be able to use their skills to the best of their ability.
Apart from the essential tools needed for any type of design, such as Adobe pack, here are Eliza’s favorite design tools:
“The are many apps that I use to use during my days, but the most important are:
Figma – to make prototypes of the products;
Miro and FigJam – it’s a whiteboard to brainstorm in a team and make all the diagrams that we need to understand the user;
Notion – to organize and coordinate my time.
Of course, the app that I can’t imagine working without is Figma! I love it! I have tried other similar software like XD or Sketch, but I stay with Figma. They always make updates with useful tools and it’s really intuitive to use.”
Before you go, one last piece of advice
“Find a mentor that will guide you into the beginning stages of the UX/UI way. I remember many times being confused about what direction to take and what resources I’ll need. Creating an overall UX design strategy and executing it step-by-step is much more difficult without a mentor who went through the process many times before and is eager to share their experience.”
Or, leave the UX design of your new mobile app to us!