5 Design Tips For Creating Killer Apps

“A gorgeous app with poor UX isn’t a gorgeous app — it’s an invitation to frustration.” — InVision

This powerful quote points to the significance of a good user experience and user interface. It will literally make or break your app. The following article goes over app design tips that will enhance the usability and appeal of your app. Even though some of seem obvious, there are plenty of bad apps out there that prove the opposite. Stand out with an app that is both gorgeous on the inside and out.

1. Apply the rules of interaction design

Even though the screen is a lot smaller, the rules of good interaction design still apply. Interaction design is an important component within the giant umbrella of user experience (UX) design. According to DesignModo, “Interaction design is a process in which designers focus on creating engaging web interfaces with logical and thought out behaviors and actions. Successful interactive design uses technology and principles of good communication to create desired user experiences.” So when you start building your app, keep the Five Pillars of Interaction Design in mind:

  • Goal-driven design: User research, such as interviews and surveys, helps you design for the right user. Uncover personas and user scenarios to create a complete picture of the experience with your app, as it will allow you to tailor your app’s workflow to suit users’ needs.
  • Usability: If anything, your app needs to be easy to use. “Usability makes a product useful, which is the first step in being desirable”, says The Next Web
  • Affordance & signifiers: The affordance is the function; the signifier hints at the affordance. For instance, blue, underlined text (signifier) indicates that it is “clickable” and will take you to a linked page (affordance). Signifiers need to be used correctly, so users don’t need to think about what each UI element does.
  • Learnability: Users should be able to intuitively navigate your app. Using familiar mobile patterns will help (new) users acclimate to a (new) app — more on this later in the article. 
  • Feedback & response time: Feedback lets a user know if an action was completed, whether through sound, image or text. This feedback needs to happen in a timely manner, as well as be user-friendly.

2. Don’t reinvent the wheel

Besides following basic design rules, do not try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to your app’s interface. There is a reason why many (successful) apps look similar, they build off of established mobile patterns that users are familiar with. Users shouldn’t be required to learn a new pattern every time they open a different app. This would cause instant abandonment of the app. Therefore, use patterns that you see in popular apps, including the colors, icons and gestures. For instance, use red for errors and an envelope icon for your email feature. Furthermore, touch devices are defined by gestures, including swipe, double-tap, zoom and pinch.

According to TNW, you should “use common UI patterns as a baseline for usability, then layer on your own creativity. In doing so, you’ll ensure that your app design matches user expectations without feeling boring.”

3. Remember accessibility

We’ve all experienced the frustration of accidentally hitting the wrong button on our phone, and ending up on a random screen. Fingers are a lot bigger than precise mouse cursors, so make sure you build a ‘finger-friendly’ design. Allow enough space for users to tap with their fingertip to minimize annoyance as much as possible. Fingers are about 45-57 pixels wide, which is bigger than most design guidelines state for hit targets. Apple’s recommendations (44×44 pixels), for example, are actually too small.

Also consider that people hold their phones in different ways: one thumb/one hand, two hands/one finger or two hands/two thumbs. Keep this thumb and finger placement in mind when adding important touch buttons.

4. Know your colors

Different colors convey different meanings and emotions, so it is crucial to pick the right ones for your app. As the guide shows, blue can convey trust and strength, whereas orange can signify cheerfulness and confidence. The color palette should, of course, also match your current company colors.

According to Envato, “we have seen a shift in trends from heavy use of colors throughout mobile app elements, to more minimal use of color, with much more focused palettes being used. As well as this, there has been a move towards using more white space alongside high contrast, experimental colors.” Most importantly, you need to use color contrasts that facilitate a better reading experience.

5. (Con)text is king

Text and design go hand in hand, so make sure not to skimp on this element. Some even argue that words are the most important part of interaction design. Crucial is that your copy is easy to understand. “The first step to any writing endeavor is to know both your audience (your target users) and your medium (web page content, sidebar, pop-up, etc.), says Fast Company. In other words, the writing needs to be tailored to who will be reading it, when they will be reading it, what they need to complete their goal and so on. Here are some tips for writing compelling app copy:

  • Phrase labels positively to make users feel in control. Users are coming to your site to do something to achieve their goals, so create copy that encourages interaction. 
  • Use the most important words first. Mobile users are especially impatient, so make sure the point comes across as fast as possible. 
  • Use consistent wording across each screen. Besides being a stand-alone product, the app should be an extension of your company’s brand.

Time to go (back) to the drawing board with these app design tips!


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