Mobile has become the way forward for businesses and marketers, which is why developers are now focusing their efforts on improving responsive design. This is particularly important when creating mobile applications—something that most businesses are regularly investing in.
Unlike mobile websites, which are generally resized versions of their desktop counterparts, a mobile application includes greater functionality and therefore requires better integration with mobile devices. But that doesn’t mean that a mobile application is created solely with responsive design in mind. They also need to be engaging, and they must give business users some value as an incentive to continue using them.
So, how can you build your own mobile application while enhancing the user experience and keeping users engaged for longer?
Follow these seven UX tips for designing better mobile applications:
1. Simplify Your Design
Put yourself in the user’s shoes: Would you want an application that has tons of functionality but is cumbersome to use? Would that increase engagement? Definitely not. As tempting as it is to pack your application with all the information available on the desktop version of your application, this will not appeal to your users.
Don’t be afraid of minimalism. Focusing your design on the most important facets of your product, and only those, can improve the experience of using your mobile application.
Ensure you keep your menus short, as well as your navigation (which we will discuss in more detail later), and avoid including too many buttons. You want to do everything to avoid confusing the user, so less really is more when it comes to responsive mobile application design.
2. Enhance Accessibility
The world has become more aware of the diverse needs of business users, and your mobile applications need to take these into account. Developers must keep accessibility and universal design in mind when building mobile applications—they should be easy to use for everyone.
Ensure you use fonts and colors that can be accessed by the visually impaired or by people with color-blindness. Include features for voiceovers that will make the application usable for anyone with hearing impairment.
More than anything else, keep your navigation as simple and intuitive as possible. Focus on universal design so that all your users can handle the application with ease, thus increasing engagement with your application and business.
3. Adapt for Varied Mobile Sizes
Different mobile device manufacturers create varying screen sizes, and your mobile application needs to be responsive to all of them. Remember that users generally have multiple devices on which they view the same applications. That’s why your layout needs to be consistent across devices so that users have a seamless experience regardless of where they are accessing it.
This means adapting your font sizes, images, buttons, and icons to work seamlessly, and identically, as much as possible—no matter the size of the screen. Adapting for different sizes will improve customer retention methods and usability.
4. Personalize Your UX
Your business already has a target market—a set of user personas who will readily engage with your application. Leverage these same user personas as you design your mobile application. You cannot expect all users to have the same experience with your application, which is why you need to personalize it for users’ needs. A personalized user experience will improve engagement and make your mobile application stickier.
What do you expect your user to do with your application? Is there some type of information they need to get to first? Give that information prominent placement on your application. Is there a particular functionality that they might navigate to more often? Make that function easily accessible by including an obvious button to it on every page.
Keep your user in mind at all times when designing your application and you will be able to create a more personalized and fulfilling user experience.
5. Pay Attention to Navigation
We have mentioned navigation several times already, but we cannot stress enough how important it is. Your mobile application can’t afford to be complicated—if a user has to search through pages and tabs to get to a page or back from a page, your application design is a failure. The more complex your design, the more frustrated your users will become, to the point where they may disengage with your application completely.
Plan out your navigation to and from every page you create and avoid including pages too many levels deep, as that will become disorienting for users. Remember, your mobile application is not your desktop application, so you can’t treat it the same way. Navigation should be simple, smooth, and quick—that will ensure users stay on the application and engage with it.
6. Enhance the Search Feature
Even if your navigation is simple, sometimes users will want to find something immediately, without having to click on the hamburger menu or navigate to another page. This is when they will use the search feature of your application.
First of all, ensure that you have a well-integrated search functionality. There is nothing worse for users than coming across a search bar that throws up incorrect results. Test out your search bar on several devices and on different networks to ensure that you catch all the bugs, and fix them well in advance of rolling your mobile application out into the market.
The search feature of your application will be used widely—make sure that it is well designed and functional enough for your audience.
7. Optimize the Thumb Zone
There is a key difference in the way mobile applications are used versus desktop versions. The human thumb is almost exclusively the only digit used to control mobile applications. You need to make sure that your mobile application leverages that “thumb zone” for better usability.
Users generally hold their phones in one hand and scroll with their thumb. If your application requires users to contort their thumb to gain access to functionality—or worse, use more fingers for any task—your application will be deemed unsuitable.
Optimize your mobile application and the responsive designs you create for the thumb zone. That means all navigation buttons and major areas of interest should be accessible by the thumb alone. For instance, check out how a good restaurant inventory application optimizes the thumb area for ease of use. In general, you should keep the number of inputs in your mobile application to a minimum. By keeping the thumb zone in mind, you will be able to reduce user input and maximize user engagement.
- Mobile applications are more than just responsive versions of their desktop counterparts—they are functional systems that need to be created with users in mind.
- Always keep your design simple for ease of use, and keep universal design in mind to ensure your application can be used by everyone.
- Mobile phones have different sizes, so your designs should adapt to different screens.
- You also need to know what your users want from the mobile application, and you should work toward personalizing the application accordingly.
- Navigation is a key factor—keep it simple and functional. The same with the search feature—it will be required and must be tested in advance.
- Finally, understand how users interact with your mobile application—using their thumb. Ensure your functionality is accessible within the thumb zone.
- With these seven UX tips, you should be able to design better mobile applications that will improve the user experience with your application and your brand.