Five Crucial Guidelines for Mobile Application User Interface Design

The growth of mobile phones and tabs has been exponential over the last few years and if you believe in the opinion given by the pundits, then mobiles will surpass the number of desktop computers in next two years. Mobile will soon become the primary device for accessing internet.

When we access web via a computer, we type the URL of a website to get information. On the contrary, when we use a smartphone, we use the app of the same website to get the information. For example, you may use www.bbc.com website directly from your smartphone, but 90% smartphone users prefer to use BBC app for getting the recent news.

So, in order to cope up with changing preferences of the users, developers should pay attention to mobile application development. These days, a high end smartphone or tab can perform the same tasks that a powerful PC can, but in terms of user experience, they are poles apart. Users don’t expect to see similarity in the user interface design of a website and an app. There are lots of differences between a smartphone and a PC and I am not just talking about screen space.

Here are the top principals of mobile application user interface design that every web application development professional should know. It’s not as simple as web design, but when you know the secrets, you can easily build user friendly mobile apps.

Think mobile:

In a mobile app, you can’t offer too many features. It must have one main purpose and the features should help users fulfill it. Think from a user’s perspective and keep the features that they would like to use. For example, if it’s a weather app, then users should be able to know the current weather condition of their city immediately. Make sure that the user interface design highlights what makes it different from other apps in the market. There are hundreds of apps in every category and you must give the users a reason to download your app.

Pay attention to mobile contexts:

Developers generally visualize smartphone users as busy professionals, but it’s not that simple. Smartphone users are busy, but not all of them. A user can access an app during three states of mind- he is either bored, very busy or lost.

If he is bored and sitting at home, then he will like an app that offers lots of interactive features like “Angry Birds”. On the other hand, if he very busy, walking at an airport and needs to check his e-mails, then the app should provide large touch buttons so that he can perform the tasks in one hand.

Finally, if he is lost, then probably he will search for his location and his phone’s battery can be low. In that case, your app should offer GPS facility and offline support to reduce battery consumption.

Follow universal standards:

Different apps serve different purposes and thus, need to be designed accordingly. However, there are some universal principals that every mobile application developer must follow.

The app must be responsive. Responsive means that the app must acknowledge a user’s every single action. It can take time to deliver the result, but the user must know that it’s working on the matter.

The next thing you must pay attention to is that the UI is thumb friendly. We use fingers to scroll an app, but technically, while typing or surfing the app using one hand, we use only our two thumbs. Therefore, every element on the screen must be large enough to fit a thumb. You don’t want users to touch something accidentally because their thumb is too big for the touch buttons.

If you need to put controls, for example- returning back to a page, then place the control buttons at the bottom of the screen. This way, users will be able to see the screen while touching the control buttons. Finally, avoid scrolling because discoverability is an issue on small screen, especially, if there is endless scrolling.

Consider navigation carefully:

There are mainly three types of navigation patterns and you can choose the one that suits your app.

  • No navigation:Single screen app where the main information is directly displayed. Example-weather app.
  • Tab bar: At the top of the screen, you can place 3-4 tabs and by clicking on those tabs users can view different content. Example- Twitter app.
  • Drill down: A list of content to maintain content hierarchy. For example, an e-commerce app that shows “electronics”, “apparel” and “books” on the home screen. When you touch on the “electronics” it drops down a list of different electronic gadgets such as “LED”, “Smartphone”, “Music System” etc.

Orientation:

Portrait orientation is most popular among users. Thus, optimize your app for this orientation first. If your app requires lots of typing by the user, then support landscape orientation so that people can use the larger keyboard. Finally, if you think that users won’t like sudden change of orientation as they will use your app for longer period of time, then include an orientation lock option in your app.

Follow the suggestions mentioned above while designing the user interface of a mobile application and you will be able to offer your target audience a satisfactory experience.

Nitin soni

Hi, I am Nitin Soni. I work as a web developer with Cygnet Infotech, an offshore software development company. For any query or help regarding  software or web development, mail me on inquiry@cygnet-infotech.com, if possible. And, I’d love to connect with you on Twitter @MkNitin

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