Mobile apps have become a pervasive aspect of our lives. They are proliferating everywhere, from consumer- and medical professional-facing apps in healthcare, to multilingual news services, global travel/hospitality apps and locators, and multi-currency exchange apps.
But not all mobile apps are created equal. Not all are good or useful. Not all merit a second look or try, not even the free ones. Why? Because they are poorly designed, and do not always put user experience first.
In all products, including stand-alone desktop software systems, cloud applications, or web-based services, the user experience must come first. Mobile apps are no exception. They must be well designed, simple and fun to use, visually appealing, functional, and trustworthy.
A well designed mobile app is a joy to behold. It supports an easy to understand and follow navigational flow. It is secure. No one will use a mobile app that captures personal information, and then does not have proper security in place to prevent leakage or hacking. A well designed mobile app has great content that is relevant, accurate, personalized, and up to date. It is supportive and helpful for infrequent users, yet permits frequent users to power through.
A wonderful user experience brings the user back time and time again. Poorly designed mobile apps are downloaded, tried once or twice and forgotten, or worse, deleted.
MobileApps are unique:
There are a number of important user experience (UX) aspects to consider when designing a good mobile app:
- Mobility: Mobile app users today are typically on the go, walking to a destination, looking up the day’s weather, reading the latest news while walking, or searching for a music selection, radio station, or podcast. This means that content must be packaged into appealing, easily consumed, informational chunks – bold/distinctive, simple to understand/digest, and informative.
- One-Hand Touch Interaction: With many mobile devices, especially the ubiquitous smartphone, one-hand touch screen operation is becoming more common. Therefore, mobile apps need to take this factor into account when they are designed so that critical buttons, links, and hot areas can be easily accessed using one hand. This means that the buttons should be sufficiently large, and hot areas and links should be clearly discriminable.
- Responsiveness: Mobile app users are notoriously finicky. They expect excellent performance and speed from their device, and more so, from the mobile app that they are using. Whereas they might tolerate a relatively longer response time when using their desktop or laptop, they expect almost immediate responsiveness from their mobile apps. This is not always the case.
- Fewer Clicks are Better: Given that mobile users reply on touch screens with significantly less display screen size than their desktop/laptop counterparts, the fewer clicks that they need to make to achieve a goal, the better. Mobile users lose attention quickly, so getting them to the place that they want to reach in the least number of steps is critical.
- Accommodate Diversity: Mobile apps need to designed to accommodate different operating systems and platforms, and different (smaller) screen sizes and resolutions. The content also needs to adjust itself to different screen orientations. And, the UI must support single view on smartphones and side-by-side views on tablets.
The bottom line is – design mobile apps using the best available UI and UX practices, but don’t forget to pay careful attention to considerations unique to mobile devices and mobile users.