Mobile UX – Current Best Practices & Future Considerations
Yona GidalevitzMay 13th, 20157 minute read
Yona is Codal’s Technical Writer. At Codal, he is responsible for content strategy, documentation, blogging, and editing. He works closely with Codal’s UX, development, marketing, and administrative teams to produce all manner of written content. In his free time, Yona is an avid guitarist, cook, and traveler.
There are many metrics by which one can gauge the success of a mobile app. The versatility of the code, the quality of the UI, and the utility value of the app, are just a few examples of this. Collectively, these factors contribute to the user experience (UX) of an app.
UX design is among the most important considerations in mobile app development, as it dictates the way in which users interact with the software. Your choice to keep your mobile app in line with UX best practices can often be the deciding factor in whether or not you achieve success.
Does your mobile app employ best practices for UX design? We've compiled a list of vital considerations to help you get started answering this question.
Your mobile UX design should be consistent.
The importance of consistency in user experience cannot be overstated. In fact, there are two all-important ways in which your mobile UX design should reflect this: cross-platform consistency and ecosystem consistency. As a user experience designer, your mobile app should offer similar functionality across its desktop and mobile versions, at the very least. In doing so, you are able to ensure that users are afforded access to the same content across all platforms.
Additionally, elements of UI design such as the color scheme, typography, and content organization ought to be kept uniform across all platforms. This will give your app an identifiable style, and its users instant familiarity with it.
A well-designed mobile app should take stylistic cues from its native ecosystem. As a UX designer, you have access to style guides published by the likes of Apple, Microsoft, and Google, detailing qualitatively how to do this. It is critical to understand that your app does not exist in a vacuum, and therefore will not be judged objectively by its target audience.
Users have grown accustomed to a set of patterns and conventions prevalent in some of the most widely used apps. It doesn't matter if you think placing navigation buttons at the top of your app will make the most sense, because users have come to expect them at the bottom of the screen. The more consistent your mobile UX design stays, the more intuitive it will be for users.
Contextual information is key.
The context in which an app may be used is an important consideration when determining a UX strategy. Chances are, someone using the mobile version of your app has different needs than an individual using the desktop version. Your UX design should take into account these differences.
Consider Southwest Airlines: website users are more likely to be in the early stages of their trip–planning the trip, browsing ticket prices, and finally, purchasing a ticket.
Customers who open Southwest Airlines' app, on the other hand, are more likely to be farther along in the process–checking for flight delays, flight times, and the departure gate. Noting these differences, Southwest has designed their app to reflect the notion of contextual information. Their website has been designed to default to the "Book A New Flight" view, while the app has been designed to default to the "Upcoming Trip" view, providing relevant flight details at a glance.
Users demand learnability
It could be risky to assume that users have time to learn how to use your mobile app. Designing an intensive interface with a steep learning curve can turn off potential users.
As a UX designer, one must not forget that there are an almost endless number of similar apps competing for the attention of the user. As soon as learning how to use your mobile app proves too difficult for a user, they will not hesitate to delete your app and replace it with one that isn't.
In an attempt to combat this, UX designers have increasingly begun to rely on the use of "coach overlays," which detail how to effectively use an app on first launch. It is important to note that while this is a widely used technique, relying on this method can often be a good indicator that your mobile app is too complex. When designing the UX of an app, keep in mind that there already are highly prevalent patterns and conventions for a specific task in the ecosystem.
Designing a UX which follows these patterns and conventions may contribute greatly to the learnability of your mobile app.
Consider employing a minimalist approach to design.
In the early days of the World Wide Web, UX design began to follow an increasingly popular trend of complexity. Websites were often designed to showcase rapid developments in technology by relying heavily on elements such as background textures, gradients, "flashy fonts", and interactive content.
As options and methods continue to grow, minimalism has taken it's place as the cornerstone of reliability and comprehension in UX design. In fact, minimalism has become a highly influential trend, and can especially be observed in the evolution of Apple's iOS and Microsoft's Windows operating systems. Consider Microsoft's style guide for UX designers working on Windows 8 apps:
"Design your app's UI to showcase its content. Minimize distraction and help immerse users in the content by leaving only the most relevant elements on screen. Following these guidelines will help you provide a consistent, elegant, and compelling user experience."
Modern apps should reflect this trend in their UX design, in order to create a more cohesive experience for the end-user. Apps that are designed in this way can have an impressive effect on a number of different aspects of the user experience.
Minimalist UX design can drastically cut the time it takes to load content within the app. Content itself generally becomes easier to read and understand when it is laid out in minimalist fashion. Consider this style guide to help you get started.
Consider the weight of the app.
The weight of an app can heavily impact its usability and viability. An app that takes a long time to load itself or its content is as good as useless to users, who are likely on-the-go and in need of quick information.
There a few things you may want to consider if you are thinking about decreasing the perceived weight of your app. Take a look at your app's use of bandwidth. If your app uses a lot of bandwidth, it is likely that you are using too many APIs, or that your images are not optimized for the mobile-side of your responsive design.
Next, you should make sure that your app makes efficient use of the technology employed by it. For example, an app using a heavy, feature rich framework, while only using a fraction of that particular framework's capabilities, is not making efficient use of the framework, and is contributing to the added weight of the app.
Take a look at your app's use of bandwidth. If your app uses a lot of bandwidth, it is likely that you are using too many APIs, or that your images are not optimized for the mobile-side of your responsive design.
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