Mobile App Development UX tips and tricks

Back in 2013, (light years in the tech world) just 7% of companies had a fully implemented mobile app strategy in place, with 51% having absolutely none, this according to a survey by Feed Henry (bought by open source software provider Red Hat in 2014).

But the trend has flipped, according to Red Hat’s 2015 Mobile Maturity Survey which found that 52% of companies had fully implemented mobile strategy and only 11% have not. The survey predicts the 90 % of companies will increase mobile app investment in 2016.

Related research by Gartner forecasts mobile phone sales will reach 2.1 billion units by 2019. By the end of 2017, market demand for mobile app development services will grow at least five times faster than internal IT organizations’ capacity to deliver them.

There is much opportunity mobile development industry, so Menlo has developed this Quick Guide to Mobile App Development just for you. First of all….

1) The user is always right. Think about the profile of those who will use the app, their goals and challenges, and how your solution will help them. Design the mobile app with the user’s involvement throughout the design process, leading to a solution that your client will find useful and want to use.  Make sure you understand all of the key elements of the mobile users’ requirements. And remember that the user is a real person. “Usability is about people and how they understand and use things, not about technology,” says UX expert Steve Krug, the author of Don’t Make Me Think and many other great titles. 

Finally, use a design/UI tool that will allow the users to collaborate with the designer during the entire development cycle. Some tools that can be used include Invision, Balsamiq, Omnigraffle, Axure and Sketch. These tools allow the designer(s) to collaborate with users in real time, keeping the process iterative.


2) Keep it Simple. A mobile app must be easy to use or people won’t use it. Who is using the app, and to do what?  The design needs to help users achieve their goals in the most efficient way possible. Don’t assume that users will know to swipe content or understand where to tap and why. It’s up to you to make those interactions intuitive and easily understood.

Keeping it simple, however, is one thing. Creating simplicity is another. “Not everything can be simple. Not everything can be easy to use,” says Robert Hoekman Jr., author of Designing the Obvious: A Common Sense Approach to Web Application Design, ”Many apps and services are necessarily complex. All kinds of good design practices can be applied to make the complex appear simple—to create clarity in a design.”

Read Robert’s article in Wired Magazine “When It Comes to UX Design, Simplicity Is Overrated

3) Respect the platform. Don’t try to re-create a web app as a mobile app. Websites run on computers and are not meant for touch screen access. Aside from the touch UI, mobile platforms have a number of key differences: they offer location awareness, navigation capability, photo capability and other features which are available to create a powerful user experience. Mobile apps also have the advantage of access anywhere, any time, and from any mobile device for quick and responsive interactions.

“But isn’t a mobile friendly a responsive web site just as good?” is a common question. Mobile friendly responsive websites are more affordable. But a mobile app is designed for a unique experience; exclusive to the operating system it lives on. A mobile app will provide users with unique functionality and speed that can’t be achieve with a responsive website, but can be experienced on the operating systems you choose to design your app on.

4) Be mindful of limitations. “In spite of the modern trend towards larger-screen phones, what makes mobile phones so convenient and portable is their small size,” says RALUCA BUDIU of Nielsen Norman Group. “Compared with desktop and even laptop screens, phone screens accommodate a lot less content. As a result, screen size is a serious limitation for mobile devices. The content displayed above the fold on a 30 inch monitor requires 5 screenfuls on a small 4-inch screen. “

Read Mobile User Experience: Limitations and Strengths by Raluca here.

Mobile apps have unique capabilities, including photo, video and location awareness, but remember to optimize the design for strong performance. Carriers, locations, and devices can all have a pronounced effect on mobile web performance.

5) Stand out. The app needs to look great. Users have many thousands of mobile apps to chose from, and many millions more of mobile-optimized websites.

“The reality is that all apps are competing on two levels to gain a spot on a user’s phone,” says Bobby Emamian of Prolific “They’re competing for downloads against other apps in their category with similar features, and they’re competing with apps in every other category. That means that your app needs distinguishing features to make users adopt it over others.”

We couldn’t agree more. Users will stick with mobile apps that perform well, are intuitive and easy to use and that do such a great job that they wouldn’t they survived without them.

6) Your app will be scrutinized from the start. What is the second (or even third) thing that you do after you find the app of your dreams? You read reviews, of course. Learn from the feedback you receive and make enhancements as needed. Ensure that your product manager and development team are constantly reviewing the feedback and addressing the items in there as quickly as possible. You’ll need to include this feedback into your roadmap or the comments from the masses will drag your app into an abyss.