Chris Brummel

5 Tips for Designing Great Mobile Apps

Creating a mobile app must be easy. With more than a million apps available in the App Store alone, designing and launching an app is just as simple as building a website or a desktop app, right? Wrong! Context changes everything and an app that can be accessed from anywhere, anytime brings with it a layer of complexity that fundamentally changes the way it must be built.

Here are five tips that we adhere to at L4 Digital to create applications that take into account the importance of when, where, why, and how the app will be used – not just what features it will showcase. By thinking of these design strategies up front we can create apps that are thoughtful and resonate with consumers:

1. Don’t reinvent the OS wheel

Utilize familiar OS native traditions. For example, on an iOS list view if something can be deleted, users have come to expect that it should be possible to delete items by swiping the table item. Don’t ignore their expectations.

2. Consider the convergence of physical with virtual

Think of your touch targets in relation to how they translate to their physical form. For a usable experience, a minimum of 9mm is needed for most finger sizes. See our table for how 9mm translates to pixel dimensions.

3. If you are explaining, you’re losing

Avoid “coachmarks” as much as possible. Coachmarks provide a quick tutorial to the user on how to use a new control or application on the device. The best experience is often one that is easy enough not to be explained. Only use coachmarks when all other means of simplifying your application or subtle indications (such as UI animations) fail.

4. Be maniacally focused

Be ruthless about what features your customers need. With focus and brevity as the lifeblood of a mobile application, your users don’t need to know the weather when using your grocery store app.

5. Give good feedback

Every intended action should deliver some feedback to the user. For example, dragging past the edge of an app’s boundaries shouldn’t feel like hitting a brick wall — it should tug beyond the edge and bounce back (this is known as “rubberbanding”). Tapping an actionable item should have a pressed state or highlight. Present a quick notification that an action has been recorded by the server (i.e. “Saved to Favorites”). Show progress status for long operations. Use sound and animation to convey feedback.

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Image courtesy of Joanna Kosinska for Unsplash.

Chris Brummel

Chris Brummel is responsible for overseeing the user experience of L4 products. Chris takes projects from basic requirements, and forms them into fully-realized products, taking each platform's distinct differences into account. Chris has over 20 years of experience in UX/design, starting with the web and switching over to mobile after the iPhone's smartphone revolution in 2007. Since then, Chris has designed award-winning mobile applications that have reached millions of users, including Foursquare for Android.

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