Best Practices For Designing Mobile User Experience

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In the past year, iOS and Android consumers around the globe have downloaded over 204 billion mobile apps. The mobile application market is competitive but mobile apps are vital for business owners. Furthermore, designing a mobile app is challenging, and sometimes after many months of work, a project fails on the market. To minimize the probability that this will happen, we’ve prepared an article with the most popular mobile user experience design practices of 2020.

Put yourself in your users’ shoes

Being in your users’ shoes is one of the main principles of design. What is intuitive for designers isn’t always clear to users. Users are who a mobile application is designed for, and you must keep this in mind throughout the design process. If you want to better understand your audience, engage them in the design process. Conduct surveys and tests to find out their pains and desires. There are plenty of mobile user experience research methods. Each design team conducts tests and studies depending on the goals of the product. We won’t go into details, but it’s worth understanding that these research methods are divided into quantitative and qualitative.

The results of quantitative research are measured in numbers. Collected data can answer the question How many users ...?. To gain this data, you can conduct online and paper polls, A/B testing, or customer feedback studies. You can also use Google Analytics.

Qualitative research is based on observing user behavior. This kind of research helps designers understand why users do the things they do. Conduct interviews, information architecture testing, or usability testing to get better results of this work.

Insights obtained from quantitative and qualitative research will give you design ideas and help you create an application that users like.

Uber is an excellent example of a user-centric application. Its users have several pain points, and the application addresses them perfectly. One pain point for users is a lack of confidence in drivers. The Uber app eliminates this pain point by providing information about drivers including their phone numbers, names, reputations, and reviews from past trips. This helps passengers feel safe throughout the trip.

Another pain point is waiting. Not knowing when drivers will arrive and where they are at the moment is painful for users. To overcome this, Uber’s UX designers created a map where you can track a driver’s location, see the approximate time of arrival, and see how long it will take to get to your destination. This is a great solution for users who value their time. Uber’s designers took care of such details as a tracking-map and made it possible for users to know where drivers are and when they’ll arrive.

Uber mobile app
Uber app

Offer clear navigation

Navigation features allow your users to interact with and explore your mobile application. Without a well-designed navigation experience, users may run into problems with finding what they need and result in deadlock. Consequently, they may stop using your mobile application. What’s the point of useful content and functionality if a user can’t find it? Strive for consistency in users’ flow and take care of the user experience to create friendly app navigation.

To deliver the best navigation experience, here are some proven tips to follow.

  1. First of all, create an information architecture that will help you create wireframes and prototypes. If you make a mistake at this stage, all further development will be meaningless.
  2. Don’t create too deep of a navigation hierarchy. The more navigation levels the app has, the more false paths there are for the user. Adhere to the principle of minimalism. This will help you make your application intuitive.
  3. Use familiar navigation patterns. For example, you can use the well-known hamburger menu for advanced applications or tabs in the upper or lower corner of the screen. Also, use familiar icons to indicate actions. For example, use the home icon for returning to the main screen and a bell to view notifications.
  4. Don’t be afraid to invest in prototyping. The more details your mobile application prototype has, the more accurate the results of testing will be. Thus, you’re more likely to get a quality product with intuitive navigation.

Everyone who’s familiar with the Udemy education platform and has used the Udemy mobile application knows how easy and understandable it is. That’s all thanks to intuitive navigation. Udemy’s designers have created an application where everyone can always find what they need. Let’s consider the search screen of this application. It contains user-friendly navigation features like tags and categories to help you quickly find courses.

Udemy mobile app
Udemy app

Carefully place important elements

Understand what content in your app is important and arrange it so users can easily access main features. To do this, you need to know how people use mobile devices. According to Steven Hoober, 75% of users touch their smartphone screen with only one thumb. Thus, the most relevant content should be centered on the screen. This will facilitate access to important actions. Less important information can be placed at the top of the screen. But you should remember that the very top of the screen is difficult to reach, so you shouldn’t put important features there. Below are the interaction areas to keep in mind to create a better mobile user experience.

Mobile interaction

Provide a straightforward onboarding

Pleasant and clear onboarding is 50 percent of success. If users get a good first impression of your application, they’ll likely use it. You should engage users in a nice onboarding screen and there are several ways to create a great experience.

  1. Сreate a short guide where you talk briefly about the app’s purpose and how to use the app. This shouldn’t be a long instruction manual. Try to put each idea in a couple of short sentences so everything is understandable to users. Here’s how it may look:
  2. Mauritshuis app
    Mauritshuis app
  3. Minimize data entry. Don’t ask users to fill out a bunch of fields as soon as they launch the application. This may drive them away. Instead, give users time to get acquainted with the application, then ask them for data.
  4. Make a friendly splash screen. This is the first screen the user sees after downloading and starting the app. Here you can put your logo (and animate it) or put a short video. Everyone familiar with Duolingo knows the owlet who meets you every time you start the app.
Duolingo app
Duolingo app

Support gesture-based interactions

One of the trends in mobile development is that more and more smartphones are becoming buttonless. Therefore, more and more users are using gestures to interact with applications.

To make gestures fit seamlessly, you need to study Google’s Material Design guidelines for Android and Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines for iOS. This will help you create a native design that’s familiar to users so they won’t have to guess where things are or waste time studying your application. Here are some suggestions.

  1. Use multi-touch gestures. These gestures, such as zooming in and out with two fingers, are common to all applications with a map or image. Such a solution is perfect for marketplace applications, where users can enlarge product images. Or for a travel app, where users can explore apartments or view routes.
  2. Delete gesture. This gesture is familiar to iPhone users. All you need to do is shake the device to remove text. It’s perfect for instant messengers and note management applications.
  3. Liquid swipe. This approach has just begun to develop, but the bottom line is simple. For example, to switch from one image to another, you just tilt the smartphone to the right or left (depending on where you want to go) until you reach the desired image.

Gestures are a great tool to simplify some interactions. But you shouldn’t completely replace classic app interactions with gestures. Use them simply as an addition to the basic navigation functions.

Make your mobile app responsive

If you’re creating a mobile app UX design after you’ve developed a desktop application or website, remember one important rule: a mobile UX design is fundamentally different from a desktop UX design. This is due to many factors, the main ones being:

  • differences in screen size
  • different device usage contexts
  • differences in the capabilities of mobile and laptop devices (performance and power)
  • interaction methods (mouse for a computer and finger for mobile)

Note that mobile applications can contain all the functions of the desktop version. But the layouts, navigation, and appearance may vary. Be attentive to these details in order not to turn off users.

ClickUp is a time management application available for desktop and mobile devices, and it can store lots of information. On the desktop version, all this information is displayed in a broad view. All tasks, statuses, and assignees are visible. But in the mobile versions, due to the difference in screen size, the appearance is slightly different. However, all functionality is the same.

CkickUp desktop
ClickUp desktop app
CkickUp app
ClickUp mobile app

Simple design

The final principle of UX design is simplicity. There’s nothing better than minimalism. Minimalist templates are ideal for creating a pleasant user experience. Don’t overload small mobile screens with lots of unnecessary details. Users appreciate functionality and simplicity.

Try to design a screen for just one action. This will help you meet users’ expectations — especially in applications such as Zara where users make purchases. When you’ve selected an item in the Zara app and go to the shopping bag, each step of the checkout process is represented as a separate screen, and the user moves gradually towards the purchase. If all this functionality were placed on one screen, it would pose difficulties and some users wouldn’t be able to complete their purchases.

Zara app
Zara app

Google Chrome is a great example of simplicity. Every second user turns to Chrome to find information. Compared to the native Meizu browser, which stands out for its congestion, Google Chrome is dead simple. Users can immediately search and aren’t distracted by unnecessary details.

Google Chrome and Meizu
Google Chrom and Meizu browsers

Wrapping up

It doesn’t always work to avoid mistakes, and not everything works out the first time. This also applies to mobile design. If you want your product to shine, we hope the best practices and principles listed in our article will help you. If you have ideas for a mobile application but don’t know how to realize them, contact the UGEM design team.

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