The smartphone era is upon us. It only takes a quick look around to realize how important mobile devices have become for us all. People are completely hooked on their phones and spend an impressive amount of time on websites and apps. It’s no wonder there’s a tough competition when it comes to creating a great app that people will want to download and use.
The boom in apps means that people are spoilt for choice and they are increasingly demanding. Users nowadays have higher expectations than ever – they want apps that load in the blink of an eye, are easy to use, look great and have zero glitches. Even if creating an app might seem quite easy, decent doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s either amazing or it’s not worth it.
If you want to build a killer app, you have a tough mission on your hands. You must know what sets a great app apart from the rest. The answer usually lies in acknowledging the importance of user experience (UX). When you create an app, you must always think about how every aspect of design will impact user experience. All elements of app design must come together to provide users with a smooth and memorable experience. So here are some essential app design guidelines to help you improve your game and build successful apps.
Fast and easy is what every user wants. Everything that feels like a considerable effort from the user’s side should be simplified or eliminated entirely. An app’s purpose is to make people’s life easier, not put them to work. Admittedly, filling in some information is not the hardest thing in the world, but users will be bothered if they have to perform the same tasks again and again, when there’s a better alternative to it. You should scan the app and find the tasks that can seem like a nuisance and come up with better options. Simple things like saving users’ preferences or their details after the first time they filled them in can make a significant difference.
Clutter is bad, both in the real and the digital world. Simplicity is the best policy when it comes to good app design. An interface that has too many things going on can overwhelm and confuse the user, to the point where he has no idea what he has to do. It’s bad enough to have a cluttered app on desktop, but it’s even worse for mobile apps where screen space is much more limited. So if your interface looks like there’s a battle for supremacy between buttons, images and icons, you have no choice but to do some design spring cleaning. Users don’t need that much information anyway. Try to stick to essential elements and give users only what they need to make navigation easier.
Cognitive load might sound like a fancy psychological term, but it’s a relatively simple concept. It refers to the amount of working memory resources needed to use an app. Our brains can only process a limited amount of information. A higher volume of information and a greater complexity will obviously make it harder for anyone to process it. So when designing an app it’s important to avoid overwhelming the user with too much data. If he’s being flooded with content, notifications, instructions etc. from all sides, he’ll most likely abandon the task immediately and look for something that requires less mental effort.
Some tasks are more complex than others and you can’t change that. But what app design can change is the way you approach these situations. That means that you can break down the process of performing a certain task into smaller parts. If the user has to follow various steps, don’t throw them all at him at once. Instead, present the user with a sequence of steps in a logical order, to make things easier to process. Let’s take e-commerce apps as an example. When the user places an order, he is first directed towards the order review, then he has to fill in his address and then he is required to provide payment information. The last step is the overview of the order and that’s it, he made it through, one step at a time.
Many times developers want to come up with new and attractive designs to make their apps stand out. It’s important to be creative and give your product a personality, but it’s just as important to know how to use your creativity. In some cases, it’s best to leave things as they are or limit yourself to minor changes. That’s the case with standard screens. They can be considered the building blocks of all successful apps.
Standard screens eliminate the learning curve, as users are already familiar with them and know exactly what to do. They make the connection with prior experiences using similar screens and that makes the interaction infinitely easier. Besides, familiar screens also look trustworthy and professional. So there’s no need to be overly creative and try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to screens such as Search results, User profile, News feed or Shortcuts. Keep them simple and classy and users will be happy.
Consistency is the golden rule of app design. An app that integrates more design styles can spell confusion for users. It can be extremely uncomfortable to go from screen to screen and come across different design elements every time. So, when creating an app make sure you keep the same design style throughout and resist the urge to add unnecessary elements that can look like they’re from a different story. This is what you have to keep in mind when it comes to consistent design:
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