Does the perfect app design exist or is it just a myth created by developers and designers?
For many, this may seem like an impossible task.
Fear not! Creating the perfect design for your app is not such a Herculean task once you know how to go about it. We have laid down some concise and pretty concrete steps on how you can conquer this quest of the ultimate app design.
Keep in mind that designing an app is an iterative process that requires careful planning before anything else.
What is the perfect mobile app design?
It is absolutely critical to get this definition correct. The perfect app design is not the exuberant and flashy visuals that give users the wow factor. In fact, we consider the perfect design to be a design for growth. Users interact with this design in a way that adds value.
Is there a one-size-fits-all approach?
No. A typical mobile app design process follows similar patterns and steps, but there is definitely no single approach that works for all scenarios. It’s always better to get an expert opinion based on your specific needs. For instance, the design of a healthcare app will certainly differ from that of an e-commerce product. Keep your target audience in mind before moving forward with the design.
Before we go any further, let us take a look at some commonly used terms.
What are wireframes, mockups, and prototypes?
When talking about mobile app design, you will hear these three terms being used interchangeably. Even though most people think they are just the same thing, they aren’t.
Wireframes and Mockups
A wireframe or mockup is a basic blueprint or draft of the application. It’s the first thing to be made in the app design process. It’s a schematic drawing that shows the layout of your app as well as the positioning of its content. It can be drawn on a piece of paper with a pencil or pen, or on a computer using specialized software like Balsamiq, Justinmind and Moqups.
You can add content and images to your wireframe to make it more meaningful. With a bit more detail it pretty much becomes a static version of your app.
A prototype takes your mockup to the next level by enabling dynamic interactions with your mockup. This near accurate interactive representation of the final app provides a much needed insight into how the user will behave when using the app. It helps the designer to optimize the user experience.
The Mobile App Design Process
Broadly speaking, the whole design process can be summarized into three distinct steps:
The first step of the process is getting to know the app. It involves research and analysis. You need to carefully study the business goals of the app and create a basic technical blueprint. The technical blueprint includes choosing APIs, libraries and deciding how to accelerate the development process. Timelines are estimated and the idea behind the app is validated along with its feasibility.
User Experience Design
The user experience design is the most important phase of developing the app. In this phase, a basic version of your app is created using design tools and rapid prototyping tools like Invision, Adobe XD, Sketch or Figma. The features are then scrutinized and tweaked until a decision is made on what to include in the Minimum Viable Product or MVP.
Mobile app developers should be involved in this phase to provide feedback on possible barriers for the functions of the app. Often in the pursuit of creating an extraordinary design, we tend to fall into the dangerous trap of over-designing. This can be a huge snag that affects usability, time and app functions. This phase is a great time to mitigate the dangers of over-designing.
User Interface (UI) Design
The UI design phase extends the user experience (UX) that we created in the previous step. The UX is refined by adding iconography, branding, animations, and other visual enhancements. A touch of personalization is applied and the end result is a near accurate, interactive InVision prototype of the application.
These three steps summarize the whole design process. Now let’s take a look at other factors that come into play when creating the ‘perfect’ design.
A few points to consider while designing the app
App design is a whole field in itself. The science that goes into creating a flawless app can be intimidating for the uninitiated. A lot can be said on this topic but here we are just sticking to a few key pointers related to app design.
The importance of user testing
The road to achieving the ideal design is filled with constant iterations and re-dos. Extensive user testing is the most practical way of figuring out if the design works. Our definition of a design that works is one that enables the user to add some value in the form of engagement, subscription, purchases or any other intended interaction.
App design is not a solo mission
While the role of a Researcher, Graphic Designer, UX Designer and UI Developer is easy to understand in the design process, there are a few other cogs in the wheel that are often neglected. These are the app developers and the marketing team. The app developers are engaged in the UX design phase. They identify any possible roadblocks in the proposed design and help suggest alternative approaches.
Similarly, the marketing department helps focus on value extraction. They assist in evaluation as well as optimization of the design for maximum user engagement. Ultimately, it is a combined team effort that goes into creating a masterpiece.
Being aware of the industry trends
There is no denying the unprecedented usage and reliance of users on mobile devices. With this comes an ever increased importance of new and innovative mobile apps that constantly aim on providing maximum value to the user. Now, incorporating mobile app trends like Artificial Intelligence provide app developers with highly useful metrics that are immensely beneficial in creating strategies for maximum output.
It is vital to be aware of the latest happenings so that your app can leverage the full fruits of trends like AI, Augmented Reality, Machine Learning, IoT, Beacons and Cloud. Staying ahead of the curve will give you that much needed advantage in this highly competitive industry.
Catering to different devices
Designing for different devices and screen sizes is a constant struggle even for the most experienced and professional designers. Almost every day, some new device pops up in the market. Devices are being upgraded at a very fast pace with features like the latest edge-to-edge display, a taller 18:9 aspect ratio and notch design. For instance, take the new iPad. It comes with a totally new and different dimension. The current simulation tools do not have an option for this dimension. It is certainly a challenge to make your design pixel-perfect for every new and upcoming device.
Designers do not have the option to shy away from these advancements and must boldly embrace these hardware changes and adapt their designs accordingly.
Platform specific design: Android vs iOS
Another dilemma commonly faced by app designers is making their app feel the same on both Android and iOS platforms. While there are certain advantages of hybrid app technologies, staying true to native app development gives designers much more control in delivering a more fluid app experience by utilizing the full potential of the device capabilities. Both iOS and Android have some distinct design features that can be utilized for the best experience. It is better to follow the Human Interface Guidelines by Apple and the Material Design Guidelines for Android while developing your app.
Designing for scalability and longevity
As the age old saying goes, ‘If you can’t split it, you can’t scale it’. Every app should be designed with future scalability in mind. It may be a tough ask, but your app should be flexible enough to easily cater future use cases.
On the other hand, you should also consider the design to be practical enough for users for a long time to come. The core functionality of the app should be able to stand the test of time and stay true to the value proposition.
Our design approach
In Topflight, our approach to making apps has always laid primary focus on great app design. You may even call it a design centric approach to app development. There is no denying the importance of a user interface in an application. It is the means by which the user interacts and accesses the functionality. For an app to succeed, the design has to be perfect.
With years of experience and delivering exceptional products, our way of getting the job done has gradually evolved into a pretty robust design process.
The whole app design process is a very challenging yet exciting adventure. Knowing how to go about it will help you nail down a ‘perfect’ design. This is what makes the difference between an app that becomes a successful top grossing app and one that no one notices. We at Topflight Apps have perfected the app design recipe by spending countless hours studying, researching, innovating, designing, testing and iterating to perfection.
If you have an idea for an app you want developed, or want to get an existing app evaluated or redesigned, reach out to us. We’ll be happy to help.
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