It seems like just a few years ago, site owners were desperately altering their pages to make them mobile friendly. Users were shifting to embrace small screen browsing and shopping habits, and companies that functioned on a desktop exclusive platform risked profit loss to frustration, shopping cart abandonment, and more tech savvy companies that knew how to build a mobile-friendly site.
Today, much of the same still holds true – both regarding user habits and the potential risks of design failures – but the balance has shifted. Now, businesses risk losing out to companies that have mobile-exclusive apps that are faster and more intuitive than their pared down mobile web pages. The technology has taken another step forward.
Regardless of whether you’re thinking in app or website format, many of the same rules apply – but when you shift from a website to an app, design problems are only magnified. Ready to improve your company’s mobile app?
Think Process Not Product
You’ll never develop a great app if you think only about the final outcome. Rather, you need to look at the app design process as something that that will take you from concept and prototyping to post-launch support. Really, when you consider factors like bugs and operating system updates, there really is no final phase. You’ll need to reconsider aspects of your design every time the host devices update or you add a new feature, and you should have a supportive company backing you up.
If you look at a company’s app, it’s rare to find one that embraces every feature and page you’d find on the desktop version. In fact, if you were to find such an app, the most likely reality is that the website in question is either barren or the app is overwhelming and borderline non-functional. You can’t have a ton of features and an efficient app.
Instead of stuffing your app with every feature you can think of, focus on what will provide users with the most efficient experience. For example, Habitica, a popular website and app that helps users track tasks and build positive habits, follows a game-like model on its website and transfers some of those features over to the app. The app, however, emphasizes the task-oriented features and dramatically simplifies the more entertainment- and community-oriented aspects.
Minimize Visual Clutter
One of the biggest problem that app designers encounter is the desire to push desktop features onto their apps, including busy, data-heavy design features like animation. Yes, animated, interactive pop-ups are currently very popular in web design, but they’ll weigh down your app, making it slow and difficult to use. Keep the animations to a minimum.
In fact, overall, the visual impact of your app should be fairly simple. A quick look at Samsung’s S Health app shows a white screen with a few metrics and simple symbols used for activity, calories consumed, and sleep. Just because you’re depicting an action, say, doesn’t mean you need animations to emphasize your point.
Maybe in a few years – especially if phone screens continue to grow in the manner of the iPhone – everyone will want apps that feature the full range of design possibilities they’d see online, but we haven’t yet reached that juncture.
For now, the best rule is one of simplicity – an Occam’s Razor approach to design. The simplest solution, the one that flows and functions without added fuss, is the best solution.