Mobile App Design Archives - BuildFire

Top App Design Challenges and Their Solutions

Mobile apps and smartphones have become a crucial part of daily life in the modern era. Mobile usage is at its all-time high with no signs of slowing down for the foreseeable future. 

People are getting push notifications on their screens every day. Their favorite mobile app is just a click away from their pocket 24/7/365.

According to new research, there are more than 8.93 million mobile apps available worldwide. But not all of these apps are successful. If you want to create apps, the app design needs to be a top priority.

At BuildFire, we’ve developed over 10,000+ mobile apps on our platform. We know everything there is to know about mobile app design. Our experience working with so many different developers has taught us some common challenges faced by mobile app designers on a daily basis. 

We created this guide so you can identify these challenges ahead of time, avoid them, and fix them. Let’s dive in.

Why is Mobile App Design So Important

First and foremost, what makes mobile app design such a high priority? 

For apps to have success, the end-users must have an enjoyable experience. This is directly related to your user interface and other visual design elements. A great app design will draw people to your mobile app. You can use your design to build customer loyalty and establish your branding strategy as well. 

In simple terms, people don’t want to use an app if the design has flaws. Poor design will lead to high abandonment rates, low retention rates and crush your conversion rates. 

The data backs this up. In fact, studies show that up to 90% of users have stopped using an app due to a poor experience. 68% of people say they stop using an app if it has a poorly designed UX (user experience). 

On the flip side, 74% of people are more likely to use your app if it has an attractive UX. 

11 Common App Design Mistakes (How to Avoid & Fix Them)

Based on our experience, these are the most common mobile app design problems that people make every day. You and your development team can avoid these issues and fix them by following our solutions and best practices.

#1 — Design Compatibility Issues

You need to understand that your mobile app doesn’t operate in a vacuum. It lives on a user’s device alongside dozens of other apps. 

In fact, the average smartphone user has 80+ apps installed on their mobile device. 

A major design flaw in apps is failing to ensure compatibility with other apps on a user’s device. 

For example, contract tracing apps have skyrocketed in popularity due to obvious global events. These apps take the geolocation data of other apps on a smartphone and use that information to see where users are and if they were exposed to a virus. But if your app doesn’t function and play nice with other software, those features will fail. 

Solution

Take advantage of compatibility testing tools when you’re designing an app. Compatibility testing is normally used to ensure your app works across multiple platforms and devices. But you can also use it to test its compatibility with other software.

In this case, the software you’d be testing against would be other apps. This is especially important if you want your app to integrate with other tools on the market. 

For example, look at an app like Slack. It integrates with other apps like Google Drive, Gmail, Twitter, Box, and more. 

#2 — Complicating the User Interface

Look at the best apps on the market today. What do all of them have in common? They all have a simple user interface. 

Lots of app designers get carried away during the design process and try to get too creative. Oftentimes, this creativity spirals out of control and hinders the user experience. 

A complex user interface makes it difficult for people to perform common user tasks within the app. Something as simple as navigating to your product page, scheduling an appointment, or making a reservation becomes a hassle.

Solution

When you’re designing an app, think about the core features and how those features impact the design. Each time you make a change to the design that impacts the user interface, ask yourself this question—does this decision have a purpose? 

If the answer is no, then you’ll likely want to rethink the decision. Try to simplify the user interface into a handful of basic screens, so it’s extremely obvious how to navigate the mobile app.

#3 — Poor First Impression

First impressions can make or break the success of mobile apps. In fact, 60% of people won’t even scroll beyond your first impression before making a decision. An additional 50% of people make decisions about app usage based on first impressions alone. 

Alternatively, a good first impression increases conversions by up to 35%.

Here’s something else to consider, 77% of people abandon apps within three to seven days of the download date. When someone opens your app for the first time, you have just 20 seconds to impress them with your design. 

Solution

Don’t let creativity hinder your design success. Users expect apps to look and feel a certain way. So don’t get carried away with the design process.

Think about what a user has to do when they first open your app. Do they need to create an account or register? How can you make this design as user-friendly as possible?

Keeping the design elements simple here and allowing them to register through a social media integration can ensure they have a positive first experience. 

#4 — Trying to Copy Your Competitor’s Mobile Apps

Many mobile app designers make the mistake of trying to mirror other apps on the market. While you can definitely use other apps as inspiration, copying those designs alone won’t be enough to nail a great design. 

Mobile users can spot copycats a mile away. If you can’t differentiate yourself from other players in the app industry, then it’s going to be a problem for the long-term growth and success of your app.

Solution

Lean on the design community for ideas, trends, and inspirations. But don’t copy the design of other apps. 

Instead, learn to follow app design best practices. Look to see what other apps on the market are doing well, and use that information in your own mobile app design. 

#5 — Design Inconsistencies

As previously mentioned, your mobile app doesn’t live on its own planet. Not only do you need to ensure the design is consistent throughout each mobile screen and device, but you should also ensure the design matches other brand touchpoints.

According to a recent study, brand consistency can boost revenue by up to 33%.

Color alone can make a huge difference here. In fact, using a signature color for your app can increase brand recognition by 80%.

It might sound obvious, but too many designers get this wrong.

Solution

If you want to be a great mobile app designer, make sure you take other design elements from your brand and incorporate them into your mobile app.

Here’s a really simple example to showcase what I’m talking about. 

We’re all familiar with Starbucks. Without even showing you a picture, I’m sure you can associate a color with this brand. So when you land on their website, it’s no surprise to see that color all over the page.

But what if you went to the Starbucks mobile app, and the color scheme was yellow and red? This decision wouldn’t make sense.

For a big brand like Starbucks, this might seem obvious. But every mobile app designer needs to take this same approach, regardless of the app they’re creating. 

#6 — Failing to Get User Feedback

There’s no such thing as the perfect app. But all successful apps do market research with real users. This is a crucial aspect of the UX design process. 

You can’t just assume that your app design works well. Lots of apps have design flaws, and users abandon the app based on those types of issues. 

Solution

Gather user input during the initial design stages, before the app launches. Then you can continue to gather feedback once your app is on the market.

Learn to spot navigation patterns as users perform relevant tasks using your app. 

Making adjustments will lead to a positive user experience and ultimately improve the UX design of your product. 

#7 — Not Understanding App Architecture

App architecture can be defined as the patterns and techniques used to create mobile apps. So being a graphic designer alone won’t be enough to help you ensure the app performs well.

App architecture involves interface elements, compatibility with different mobile devices, OS design guidelines, and so much more. 

Solution

Start thinking about the app architecture before you design the app. Map out the user flow and think about how everything will make sense from a technical perspective before you worry about the visual aesthetics. 

Think about the user’s memory load as well. Working with a UI designer for this process will make your life easier. 

#8 — Poor Timeline and Budget Planning

Having a clearly defined timeline and budget before you start the development process is crucial for success. Too many development teams overlook this step, and it causes them to run into problems down the road.

While it would be great to launch your app overnight, that’s not how this works. Most apps take at least four to six months before they can launch. 

The design phase of your app project needs to be taken into consideration here as well. Understand that app design is a continually evolving project and likely won’t be done after your app launches either. You’ll still need to make design changes down the road, so make sure you have funds in your budget allocated for this.

Solution

If you want to get your app to market as soon as possible, consider using an app builder like BuildFire. Our solution has beautifully designed templates that you can customize with ease.

Anyone can use BuildFire to create an app without hiring a designer. We’ll help you get to market faster while staying under budget—without sacrificing quality or performance.  

#9 — Unclear UX Designer and UI Designer Roles

UX design and UI design are often used interchangeably. But the two terms are actually very different. 

UX designers are responsible for ensuring the overall style of the app translates to a seamless experience for users. This goes beyond graphic elements and transcends to the emotional connection an app has with your brand. 

It’s the UI designer’s job to focus on the user interface. The UI elements of your app will ultimately impact the user experience as well, which is why it’s so important for UX and UI designers to work closely together. 

Solution

If you’re hiring a design team, make sure you establish clearly defined roles for UX and UI.

The UX designer will handle things like market research, creating customer personas, creating wireframes, prototyping, and designing user flows. UI designers will focus more on graphic design, animations, interactivity, and all aspects of the user interface.

#10 — Product Display Issues

This is a problem that commonly occurs with ecommerce sites transitioning to mobile apps. The product pages on your site may not always be compatible with your app.

Even if it does render ok from the app, it’s still tough for users to tell what they’re buying from such a small screen. 

Solution

Use an app builder that seamlessly integrates with ecommerce solutions like Shopify. This ensures a smooth transition from your ecommerce site to the app without having to worry about mobile design flaws related to product display.

Then you can take advantage of in-app notifications and other marketing tools to ensure you’re getting high conversion rates. 

#11 — Bridging the Gap Between Mobile App Design and Mobile App Development

App developers and mobile app designers both play crucial roles in the final outcome of an app. But the roles are very different. 

Your mobile app design is useless without development, and development serves no purpose without design.

A designer might create something because they think it will improve the user journey. But a developer could see this design that’s inefficient from a technical perspective on the app.

All too often, we see developers and designers working in isolation. This ultimately creates gaps in the development process, causing product issues and design problems. It can also create friction on your team and cause projects to run past the timeline and over budget. 

Solution

There needs to be a clear line of communication to bridge the gap between developers and designers. Daily or weekly standups with your team to get everyone on the same page is really important. 

Both parties need to share their knowledge and opinions openly, in a way that’s productive for the final product. This will help identify potential conflicts before they arise.

Final Thoughts

Mobile app design isn’t always easy. But if you can identify the top challenges ahead of time, you can prevent them from causing problems with your app down the road. 

Some app design best practices are obvious, like ensuring the app works on both Apple and Android devices. Others are a bit more complex, like reducing the user’s memory load by making buttons and icons visible on the screen. 

But if you follow the advice in this guide, you’ll be on your way to a successful mobile app design.

What’s the Difference Between UX vs. UI Design?

UX (user experience) and UI (user interface) are two terms that are often used interchangeably. But this is a common mistake, as they each mean very different things. 

Lots of people new to the world of design and development struggle to understand the differences between UX and UI, so they just lump all of the visual elements of their design into a single category.

In reality, UI designers and UX designers are two different jobs. Both play a key role in the design process, user flow, and final product of any software project. When you’re creating a website or designing a mobile app, you need to understand UX design and UI design alike.

Whether you’re interested in becoming a UI designer, UX designer, or just want to sharpen your skills related to graphic design, this guide is perfect for you. This beginner’s guide on UI and UX focuses on their similarities and differences in the tech industry.

What is UX Design?

UX stands for “user experience.” As the name implies, UX design encompasses the end user’s interaction with a product. When we define UX, we’re referring to the interactive elements and responsive design of the user journey.

What happens when they click this button? Is there a smooth transition from this page to another? Are there rigid points or problems with the way a user navigates on the page?

The primary goal of UX design is to improve the user experience. It doesn’t matter how hard you work on your product or how well you think it’s going to be. If the end users aren’t happy with it, then it’s going to have problems. 

UX designers work closely with marketers and product teams to understand the ultimate needs of the customers. Great UX design doesn’t happen overnight. The UX design process usually involves user testing and user research. It’s common for UX design to continue even after a software project has launched. You can use surveys and interviews to collect user data and truly understand the user expectations. 

This will quickly tell you whether your target audience thinks you have a bad UX and focus on what needs improvement. 

When you look at the top skills for UX designers, you’ll see that this subject goes above and beyond basic design capabilities. You need to be really well-rounded to get UX design done right. 

As a UX designer, the business goals, technical constraints, and user needs must all be taken into consideration. The user’s journey and creating a positive experience need to be a top priority. 

Here’s a simple example to help you understand the concepts of UX design.

Let’s say you’re building an ecommerce app. If you’re already in the ecommerce space, you know how important your shopping cart and checkout process is to your success. While your checkout flow might seem like it works well in theory, that process may not translate well to the design.

For example, maybe the “buy” or “checkout” button isn’t on the screen where it should be. Users have to scroll before they proceed through the checkout process. This seemingly small frustration can really hurt the user experience and ultimately crush your conversion rates.

So a UX designer maps the user journey to ensure the user experience is smooth throughout the transaction. 

What is UI Design?

User interface (UI) design is a bit different from UX design. The UI design process is a bit more technical, which means UI designers need to have a solid understanding of information architecture and command line interface code.

UI designers create the user interface design and graphical user interface. Similar to UX design, UI designers still need to prioritize the end users when they create interfaces. But the approach to the visual interface elements is different. 

UX design usually comes first during the initial software development stage. Then UI designers work closely with the UX designer when it comes to things like color, typography, responsive design, buttons, icons, and similar features of the product. 

A UI designer might start with a sitemap or create wireframes that clearly establish a content hierarchy. Then the design must convey that hierarchy through the use of visual design elements. 

In short, UI design encompasses the look and feel of a software product. It ensures the user interface is intuitive, considering all of the visual and interactive elements on the page. 

This role is all about the interaction between a user and the design elements of an app or website.

Similarities of UX and UI Design

When looking at UX and UI design side-by-side, it’s easy to spot the differences. But despite these differences, UX and UI actually have a few things in common. 

Both UX and UI are all about the user (hence the names user experience and user interface). Whether you’re referring to interaction design, user interfaces, customer analysis, mobile app design tools, or any part of your software project involving the entire user journey, both UX and UI are a factor.

UX designers work closely with the UI team. While a UI designer focuses on the technical aspects of a user interface, UX designers still play an important role in the UI designer’s job. As previously mentioned, it’s common for the UX design to come first. So the UI designer can’t do their job until the user experience design is complete.

It’s also worth noting that both UX and UI design are used for similar projects. They both play a prominent role in mobile apps, web design, graphic development, and other digital products. 

Here’s a nice graphic that also shows the overlap between UX and UI design elements:

As you can see, UX and UI are intertwined in so many different ways. But the roles are still very different.

If you’re looking at job boards or open job listings for designers, you’ll see lots of skills for UI and UX designers alike. This is usually because the hiring managers don’t understand that these can be two different roles. But if you really want to further your career as a designer, then it’s worth mastering both skill sets. This can make you extremely valuable as you’re building mobile apps or websites for clients. The best UX professionals also have a firm grasp of user interfaces.

Differences Between UX and UI Design

Now let’s focus on the differences between UX (user experience) design and user interface (UI) design. Here’s the simplest way to distinguish UX and UI from each other:

UI focuses on the technical components that allow users to interact with websites and mobile apps. UX design emphasizes the user’s overall perception of their experience with the software. 

Let’s focus on the mobile app aspect of UX and UI design. An app user interacting with the design elements falls in the user interface (UI) design category. It could involve the ability for target users to navigate on the screen, click on buttons, read content, and things of that nature. If a button is in an awkward location or the menu color is too similar to a background color, that’s all related to the product’s interface. 

On the flip side, UX design is all about the final takeaway of your target users. If the user’s experience is compromised due to design flaws, then the UX designer needs to make changes.

For simplicity’s sake, let’s say you’re creating a new mobile app that offers a search engine feature, like Google. The home screen has a simple design, making it really easy for users to use the search engine. This is an example of a great UI design. But now let’s pretend that the search engine took 10-20+ seconds to load results. This would really hinder the user experience and therefore fall into the UX (user experience) category.

Key Differences of UX vs. UI

Aside from the obvious differences between UX vs. UI design, here are some other key takeaways about the differences:

  • UI design determines how a website, mobile app, or software product will look and feel.
  • UX focuses more on how the product will solve problems or pain points for the user.
  • UI design solely involves what’s happening on the screen of a computer, smartphone, or tablet.
  • UX (user experience) goes beyond the screen and includes all brand touchpoints and interactions with target users.
  • User interface (UI) design puts heavy emphasis on software performance. User experience (UX) design transcends to the enter customer journey. 
  • UI design prioritizes on-screen elements about the product’s interface.
  • UX design involves prototyping, user testing, market research, and development. 
  • UI design encompasses colors, images, buttons, typography. 
  • UX design focuses on a user-friendly software experience.
  • The goal of UX design is to ensure mobile apps are easy to use and efficient for users.
  • UI design ensures that the software is optimized for different devices and screen sizes while maintaining an aesthetically pleasing appearance.
  • UX design involves the feelings and emotions that a user feels when they’re interacting with a website or mobile app.

This graphic from Medium.com does an excellent job highlighting the biggest differences of UX and UI.

At the end of the day, UX and UI complement each other because they both focus on the user.

Understanding the Roles of UX Designers and UI Designers

Another way to grasp the differences between user experience and user interface is by focusing on the different design roles. Seeing how the jobs and responsibilities of a user experience designer vary from those of a UI team will add clarity to these terms.

What Does a UX Designer Do?

Here are some of the most common responsibilities of a UX team:

  • Design research to ensure the strategic plan aligns with the stakeholder’s goals. 
  • Conduct user research and create user personas on an ideal customer.
  • Handle information architecture on organizing the content of a mobile app or website.
  • Create wireframes and handle prototyping for the app.
  • Designing the user flow to ensure the customer journey is optimized through the design elements.
  • Conduct testing with real users to validate ideas and make adjustments.
  • Work directly with product managers and the research team to analyze the results of tests to decide what happens next. 

The best UX designers understand everything there is to know about the users. This role goes beyond basic design principles. You need to have an analytical mind and be a great researcher to nail UX design.

UX Planet has a simple graphic that explains how a UX designer takes the user persona, identifies a problem and then finds a solution in the design.

If you can accomplish this process, then you’ll make a great UX designer.

What Does a UI Designer Do?

User interface design is a bit different. Let’s look at what UI designers would typically be responsible for:

  • Handles design research about the look and feel of the product.
  • Provide insights into the latest design trends
  • Handle the product layout and all visual aspects of the user interface.
  • Responsible for achieving appropriate branding for the software product.
  • Use creative tools to organize pattern libraries and style guides to ensure design consistency across the brand.
  • Responsive design, graphic design, animation, and interactivity. 

A good UI designer has great problem-solving skills and pays close attention to the details of the design. They must also have great communication skills as they work closely with designers and engineers. That’s why UI designers also need to have a technical background and understand how the tech industry works. 

How UX and UI Design Work Together

Let’s get back to the initial thought that we introduced at the beginning of this article. Why are UI and UX always assumed to be synonymous when they’re clearly so different from each other? It seems like you can’t mention UI without UX being brought up in the next breath.

Here’s why.

Any quality software product must include both UX and UI design to be effective. If the UI design doesn’t work well, then the user experience is instantly compromised. Even a great user interface is useless if the end users walk away dissatisfied with their experience. 

It’s nearly impossible for the user to walk away with a pleasant experience if the usability of an app or website isn’t user-friendly. No matter how great your interface is, people won’t come back to your app if the UX isn’t on point. 

Let’s say your UX designer does amazing user research and testing to optimize the UX. But the buttons on your app are too small or light, so people can’t navigate. In this scenario, great UX won’t be enough to outshine poor UI. 

In simple terms, you can’t have good UX without good UI, and you can’t have good UI without good UX. These two design specialties are seemingly joint at the hip.

How to Make a Great UX Design and Smooth UI Design

So how can you achieve a good UX/UI design for your app? These are the factors you need to prioritize:

Research

You can’t design anything until you’ve done market research and user research. How is the design going to be received by real users? How will you solve their problems or pain points?

This must be a priority from the beginning. 

It’s also important for you to understand how your design elements will impact the business goals of your product. So UX and UI designers both need to be informed about the long-term and big-picture aspirations of an app or website.

Consistent Design

The design elements need to be the same as users interact with the software throughout the entire journey. For example, you can’t have the “buy” button at the top right corner of one product page and the bottom left corner of another page. 

You can’t make the screen layout compatible for portrait mode on half the pages but only work well in landscape mode on other pages. 

There should be smooth transitions from screen to screen, and the user shouldn’t have to play a guessing game with the design elements. 

Design Clarity

Every aspect of the design must be as clear as possible. This includes buttons, images, text, typography—everything.  

You’ll also want to think about how clear it is for users to achieve their goal using your product. Look at an app like Uber. What’s the goal here? Users want to book a ride.

So when they open the app, the design makes it easy for them to schedule a ride with just one or two clicks. They don’t have to navigate across three screens and go through a long onboarding process to convert. 

Responsive Design

To ensure a good user experience, the user interface needs to be responsive.

If someone clicks a button and nothing happens, or the app has sudden crashes after an action is made, then it’s bad news for both UX and UI. 

There shouldn’t be downtime or lags between pages loading. If there’s a transition happening, you could keep users informed with a rotating clock or something to let them know the action was received. 

Familiar Design

Use a familiar template throughout the entire product. Not only should this template be familiar from screen to screen, but it should also be familiar with existing products on the market.

For example, where do you expect a menu to be when you land on a website? I’m guessing you expect it to be at the top of the page, horizontally. 

Imagine if you landed on a page, and the menu ran diagonally from the bottom middle of the page to the top right corner of the screen. This attempt at creativity doesn’t match the familiarity a user expects when they’re interacting with a page.

Final Thoughts on UX and UI Design

UI design is about the product’s performance, and UX design goes beyond the screen. UX and UI are very different from each other, yet they both need each other to survive. 

To build a successful and user-friendly mobile app, you need to have a clear grasp of both UX and UI design alike. 

If you want to create a stunning app without having to hire UX and UI designers, sign up for a BuildFire free trial. You can start with a beautifully designed template that encompasses all of the UX and UI best practices. Then you can focus your efforts on building your app without getting caught up with all of the design technicalities. 

For those of you with complex needs who need a customized solution, reach out to our team here at BuildFire. We’d be happy to create something unique for you that addresses all of your design needs.

You can also download our free ebook, The Definitive Guide to App Design, for more design tips and best practices.

Mobile App Design: 24 Of The Best Tools For App Designers

Mobile app designers are always looking for the right tool that will make their designs worthwhile for the end user experience. Developing a valuable mobile app requires top notch skill, creativity, and of course the right tools.

Could this be the reason why companies are investing more money into user-friendly mobile design and UX designers? I’m sure.

What would these companies expect to get from this bold step? Well, according to DMI, “In 10 years, a $10,000 investment in design-centric companies would have yielded returns 228% greater than the same investment in the S&P.”

While it’s still essential to sketch your wireframes and products prototype on paper, app designing software are making it easier less tedious and easy to share finished or unfinished jobs with clients, developers, and designers.

But with so many design tools everywhere nowadays, it can be challenging to choose the best tool for your particular type of app. Whether you’re an app design pro or a complete beginner in the world of mobile app design, this is a great article that will have a huge impact on your skills.

Good news is, I’ve distilled the 24 tools mobile app developers prefer to use. I’m confident that you’ll find the right tool with the functionality you need from this list of practical recommendations. Continue reading “Mobile App Design: 24 Of The Best Tools For App Designers”

15 Mobile App Development Trends of 2021

The mobile app development industry is continuously evolving. Technology advancements, consumer demands, and a wide range of other factors have a direct impact on mobile app trends.

Staying up to date with the latest trends is arguably the most crucial aspect of success in this space. As a member of the Forbes Technology Council, I’m constantly researching patterns and communicating with other tech leaders about gaining an edge. 

Mobile app resellers need to keep up with new trends to better serve their clients. The same goes for content creators and producers ready to take their brands to the next level with mobile development. 

Are you prepared for the mobile app development changes in the coming year?

The list below is more than just a hunch or my personal opinion. I’ve used fact-based research to come up with the top app development trends that will dominate 2021. 

1. Internet of Things (IoT) App Integration

The IoT is far from a new concept. But the rise in mobile penetration across a broad range of sectors and categories has created seemingly endless opportunities for the Internet of Things.

People have grown accustomed to using technology to improve their everyday life. 

The IoT describes the growing network of devices connected to the Internet, providing convenience and automated control to consumers. Smart home technology is a perfect example of the rise in IoT and mobile app development. 

Mobile apps can be used to adjust the thermostat in a house from a remote location, lock or unlock a front door, and connect to home security systems. Refrigerators and other household appliances can also be connected to mobile apps. 

The global Internet of Things market is expected to reach $222 billion in 2021. $161 billion of that estimate will come from software, like mobile apps. 

Global IoT revenue

That’s a 14% increase from 2019. As you can see from the graph, the IoT is poised for steady growth in the coming years with software leading the way. The number of IoT devices out there is growing, 

According to Statista, the revenue from technology associated with the Internet of Things will eclipse 1.6 trillion by 2025. 

In 2021, I expect to see more mobile app development with the IoT in mind. Household devices, automobiles, display devices, smart devices, and healthcare are all markets to keep an eye on. 

2. Apps For Foldable Devices

It feels like a lifetime ago, but one of my first mobile phones was a flip phone. Mobile phones have clearly changed over the last decade. Touch screens with one or no buttons have taken over the market. 

But over the last couple of years, foldable devices have begun making a comeback. 2019 saw the release of foldable devices like the Samsung Galaxy Fold, the Huawei Mate X, and the new Motorola Razr. 

These smartphones fold to compress or expand the screen size based on user preferences. For example, a user might make a call with the device closed, but watch a video on a larger screen by unfolding the device. 

From an app development perspective, resellers and content creators need to account for these devices when building or updating an app.

The idea is that an app should seamlessly adjust its display as the screen folds or unfolds. 

Right now, foldable devices are just a sliver of the overall smartphone market share. But this will change in the coming years. According to a 2019 study by USA Today, 17% of iPhone users and 19% of Android users are excited about buying a phone with a foldable design. 

According to Statista, roughly 3.2 million foldable phones were shipped in 2019. This forecast is expected to reach 50 million units by 2022. For that growth to happen, 2021 will be a big year for foldables, which means app developers must plan accordingly. 

3. 5G Technology

The rollout of 5G will have a major impact on 2021 app trends. For developers, resellers, and creators, this technology is poised to change the way mobile applications are used and created.

Take a look at the expected growth of 5G smartphone connections over the next four years.

Worldwide 5G Smartphone Connections

2021 will have roughly 3.5 times more 5G connections than in 2020. These connections will nearly triple by 2022.

What does this mean for mobile app development?

Speed and efficiency will drastically improve. In fact, 5G is expected to deliver a 10x decrease in latency, while boosting network efficiency and traffic capacity. Compared to 4G, 5G will be up to 100 times faster, depending on the mobile network operator. 

The penetration of 5G will ultimately boost the functionality of mobile apps. This will allow developers to add new features to apps without negatively affecting the app’s performance. 

Developers and mobile app resellers should also use 5G network speed during the testing and development stages of building an app. 

4. Development For Wearable Devices

Wearable technology has been trending upward for years now as well. This isn’t necessarily a breakthrough in the market. We’ve seen smartwatches, trackers, and fitness bands for a while now.

But wearable devices have yet to reach their full potential. 

Take a look at this graph from eMarketer about the penetration of wearables in the United States. 

US Adult Wereables Users

While we’re not seeing a staggering jump year-year-over year, the growth is still steady. The wearables trend has changed and will continue to change the way that mobile apps get developed.

For instance, Apple made a big announcement about wearables and app integration at WWDC 2019. The new watchOS 6 has brought the Apple App Store to Apple Watch. Independent apps are being built specifically for these devices. This has created an enormous opportunity for app resellers and content creators.

In 2021, more mobile apps will be made with wearables in mind. Users will be able to download tens of thousands of apps directly from their wrist. 

We’re just beginning to scratch the surface with wearables and mobile app integration. The coming years will be exceptionally progressive in this category. 

5. Beacon Technology

Beacon technology has been embraced by a wide range of industries. From retail to healthcare and hospitality, beacons can add advanced functionality to nearly any mobile app.

The first mobile app beacons were developed back in 2013. But over the last few years, significant advancements have been made to this technology. 

Here’s an example of how beacons work with mobile apps. Let’s say you’re a mobile app reseller that builds apps for retailers. Your clients can install beacons in their stores that connect with a user’s smartphone via Bluetooth if the app is on their device. When a user passes by a beacon, they can be instantly notified about a sale or special on products in that store.

Beacons can also help track buyer behavior in stores. They can detect if a user is spending a significant amount of time in a particular aisle. The app can automatically trigger a push notification to entice a sale at a later date related to those products. 

The main benefit of beacon technology is proximity marketing. It ultimately improves the customer experience within a mobile app.

According to Statista, the beacon technology market is increasing at a compound annual growth rate of 59.8%. The estimated market value will reach $56.6 billion by 2026. That’s more than ten times higher than the $519.6 million worth from 2016. 

6. Mobile Commerce

I can’t make a list of 2021 app trends without mentioning mobile commerce. This trend has been dominating 2019, 2020, and will continue to thrive in 2021.

It seems like everyone is leveraging mobile apps to increase revenue. From large retailers to individual content creators and personal brands, there is plenty of money to be made in this space. 

Mobile ecommerce functionality is a top feature for mobile app resellers to showcase during client pitches. It seems like every day another business is launching an app to drive sales.

We’re not quite at this point yet, but we’re almost reaching the age where you need a mobile commerce app to stay competitive. Every single person and business selling online is competing with giants like Amazon. To keep pace, you need to replicate what makes those brands so successful; an app is at the top of that list. 

By the end of 2021, more than 72.9% of total ecommerce sales will come from mobile devices. Apps play a significant role in the current and future success of mobile commerce.

Mobile Ecommerce Growth

I could go on for days listing dozens of trends about mobile commerce. But in an effort to keep things brief here, you can check out our complete guide to mobile ecommerce statistics. 

2021 will continue to be a big year for ecommerce app development. Plan accordingly. 

7. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial intelligence and machine learning both penetrated mobile app development years ago. But we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface with how these advanced technologies can be used. 

When we first think about AI, virtual assistants like Siri or Alexa come to mind. However, the use cases go far and beyond this for app development.

Last year, Apple released Core ML 3. This latest version of the iOS machine learning framework was built to help developers embed AI technology into their apps. 

Examples of AI features that can be implemented into a mobile app include:

  • Image recognition
  • Face detection
  • Text and image classification
  • Sentiment recognition and classification
  • Speech recognition
  • Predictive maintenance

Artificial intelligence can make apps smarter, and ultimately improve the performance at every level. From the backend development process to the frontend user experience, AI will change the way apps are built-in 2021. 

8. Mobile Wallets and Mobile Payments

We’ve already discussed the role of mobile commerce for app development in 2021. But the way people pay using their mobile devices is evolving as well.

Mobile wallets like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay are trending upward. 

According to a recent report, there was $6.1 billion worth of transactions from mobile wallets in 2019. This is expected to reach $13.98 billion by 2022. 

In short, the mobile wallet market should double in the next two years. 

Smartphone users are slowly but surely adopting mobile payments. They’re even leveraging app functionalities for payments on connected wearable devices. In coming years, all the mobile apps out there need to account for mobile pay.

Mobile wallets must be taken into consideration for app development in 2021. Wallet integration should become a standard feature for every app that processes transactions. Currently, that’s not the case. But the mobile wallet penetration rate in apps will grow significantly in the coming years.  

9. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality

Augmented reality will continue trending upward in 2021. Mobile apps can use AR features for a wide range of use cases.

Pokemon Go paved the way for AR in mobile app gaming. But today, the applications for AR have become more practical for other apps as well.

L’Oreal Paris uses AR for their Style My Hair app. 

Augmented Reality Examples

The app uses AR technology to showcase different hair styles and colors directly on the user. L’Oreal has also created a virtual makeup app using AR to see what makeup looks like on the user’s face. 

Even Google Maps rolled out a feature called “Live View” where users can see turn by turn directions in real-time on real-world imagery. By pointing the device’s camera at buildings and street signs, the app can figure out exactly where a user is. 

While these examples may not necessarily be useful for the majority of apps developed in 2021, there are plenty of other ways to use AR in mobile apps. 

For example, workforce apps can use AR-based training programs for employee learning. 

AR adaption is a top app development trend for content creators. You can use this technology to get creative as Instagram and Snapchat do with face filters. 

Virtual reality is also shaking things up in the world of mobile application development. This is especially true for gaming apps. VR technology can connect with phones, apps, and wearables to enhance the gaming experience of fully functional mobile apps. In terms of virtual reality and AR, these mobile application development trends cannot be ignored if you’re in the industries mentioned above.

10. Chatbots

Chatbots have been around for more than a decade. I remember my first interactions with these bots in the late 1990s on AOL Instant Messenger.

Over the years, chatbots have evolved and become much more advanced. Chatbots on websites have increased in popularity due to consumer demand. It’s becoming the new standard of customer service.

But of the millions of apps available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, just a small fraction actually use chatbots. This will change in 2021.

Since chatbots are driven by AI technology, their responses are becoming more human-like. We already discussed how AI will continue to trend upward, and this is one of the reasons why.

The global chatbot market is growing at 24% each year. It’s expected that 25% of all customer service tech interactions were facilitated by virtual assistants in 2020. For this to happen, chatbots need to penetrate the mobile app development market. 

11. Superior App Security

Everyone is susceptible to cybercrime. From singular content creators to multi-billion dollar enterprises, nobody is immune. 

Malware attacks designed to harm mobile devices increased by 54%. More than 60% of fraud originates from mobile devices. Of that figure, 80% comes from mobile apps. 

From an app development standpoint, you can’t afford to take any shortcuts when it comes to securing your app. If you’re an app reseller, security needs to be a top priority for your clients as well.

App users are well aware of security risks. So moving forward, people think twice about sharing passwords or providing sensitive information to third-parties, like app developers. 

Developers will start implementing features like Sign in With Apple to mobile apps. 

Rather than forcing app users to fill out form fields with their name, email address, and password, they can simply create an account and sign in using their Apple ID. These accounts are protected with two-factor authentication, and Apple won’t track the activity. 

12. Predictive Analytics

Here’s another mobile app development trend that will shake things up in the mobile app industry. By leveraging technology for machine learning, AI, data mining, and modeling, predictive analytics can forecast events using data. 

Tech giants have been leveraging predictive analytics for years now. A simple example is Netflix. The platform offers TV show and movie recommendations based on what users have previously watched. 

In 2021, predictive analytics will be implemented on a more mainstream level, for a wide range of mobile apps. The primary purpose will be to enhance the UI/UX with an app.

Take a look at how businesses across the globe are using AI technology.  

Predictive Analytics

19% of companies use AI for predictive analytics, which ranks first in the marketing category and fifth overall. 

The idea here is that no two users will have the same experience with an app. Product suggestions and preferences will be presented differently based on each user’s actions and behavior history. 

13. On Demand Apps

On-demand mobile app development is trending upward in 2021. Apps like Airbnb and Uber have shown how successful apps in this space can be. 

Users spend $57.6 billion per year using on-demand services. These are some examples of how apps can transform the on-demand industry:

  • Laundry service
  • Doctors on-demand
  • Virtual tutors and coaches
  • Food delivery
  • House cleaning
  • Maintenance services
  • Fitness on-demand
  • Pet care
  • Barber and beauty salon

The opportunities for on demand apps are seemingly endless. As a mobile app reseller, this is a huge opportunity for you to widen your customer base. By leveraging on-demand capabilities, your clients can add advanced functionality to their apps, which will increase profits for everyone. 

14. Cloud Computing Integration

While cloud technology is not new, it hasn’t quite penetrated the mobile app industry to its full potential just yet. But this is a mobile app development trend that you definitely need to keep an eye on. Cloud computing has a wide range of possibilities for mobile development, which will be exploited in 2021. 

Cloud storage technology can improve the performance of mobile apps at the user’s end. Apps can store data and carry out complex tasks on the cloud, as opposed to storing information directly on the user’s device.

Not only does this streamline development operations, but it’s also a cost-effective development solution. 

By the end of 2021, 83% of enterprise workloads will be cloud-based. If your agency is building business apps or internal workforce apps, you need to keep an eye on cloud computing trends in 2021. 

15. Instant Apps

Android Instant Apps launched a few years ago. But we’re going to see a rise in usage and development in 2021. 

Android Studio allows developers to build instant app experiences to improve their app discovery. Users can try the app without installing it. They just need to click on the “try now” button.

Instant Apps

Instant apps have size restrictions, so it won’t necessarily be a full version of the app. But these limitations could change in the coming years.

App users demand a better experience. Allowing them to use an app without downloading it is a great way to give them that. 

Hollar, a mobile commerce app, was able to increase conversions by 20% by launching an instant app. 30% of their entire Android traffic comes from the instant app. 

If you’re developing apps for the Google Play Store in 2021, you need to have an instant version as well.

Conclusion

Mobile app development is constantly changing. If you’re building apps today using information from two or three years ago, you won’t be able to stay competitive. Mobile app industry trends can make or break the success of your project.

As a reseller or mobile app development company, you can treat the 2021 mobile app trends like your bible. This is how you can gain an edge in your space. All of the mobile app developers on your team need to understand mobile app development trends and incorporate them into the app development process.

You don’t necessarily need to implement every single trend into every app you build. But you need to have a general understanding of how the market is shifting so you can adapt accordingly. 

Based on my extensive research, the 15 app development trends that I outlined above will dominate 2021. 

How to Perform User Testing For Your App

With so many stages involved in an app development project, user testing is often overlooked.

But this step is crucial to the performance and success of your app. It’s something that you should be doing throughout the development process, as well as after your app has finally launched.

Overall, user testing helps eliminate problems, find bugs, and optimize the UX for your app.

Unless you’ve been through this process before, getting started with app user testing can feel like a daunting challenge. How do you conduct user testing for your app? When should you start user testing? What should you be testing? These are common questions that have probably crossed your mind.

Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place. I created this guide to explain everything you need to know about app user testing and how it works.

You’ll even find a step-by-step guide to user testing as you continue below. So regardless of your app type, industry, or experience level, this resource will steer you in the right direction for app user testing. Let’s dive in!

What is User Testing?

Before we continue, let’s start with the basics to make sure we’re all on the same page. User testing can be defined as the process of testing the interface and functions of an app, product, website, or service.

The purpose of these tests is to determine if the product in question (an app in our case) is ready for launch.

You’re essentially checking the usability of your app as real people perform specific tests in a realistic testing environment. Can your app be used naturally by a person who isn’t familiar with it? The only way to answer this question is with user testing.

As someone who has been involved throughout the development process, you can’t unbiasedly test your app’s usability on your own. Tests must be conducted by people who are neutral and don’t know how the app is supposed to work.

From a UI and UX design perspective, user testing is an absolute must. Even if you think the design and layout of your app are perfect, you’ll need to run usability tests to confirm your hypothesis.

While user testing should be conducted prior to launch, it shouldn’t stop once your app is live.

User testing is a continuous process. It’s one of the best ways to continually improve your app’s UI/UX design, especially as you come out with new updates and changes.

How to Conduct App User Testing in 6 Simple Steps

User testing isn’t really a one-size-fits-all process. But with years of experience conducting user tests, I’ve been able to narrow down the core steps to include in your testing.

Whether this is your first user test or 100th user test, the step-by-step guide outlined below will be the best way to conduct the user tests for your app. These steps are explained in a way that can be customized to fit any type of app or development project. Here’s what you need to do:

Step #1: Define Your Goals

Like any experiment, the first step to user testing is defining your goals. What exactly do you want to test? You can’t start until this question has been answered.

Your usability testing goals will change depending on where your app is in the development lifecycle. For example, some developers will run tests before the actual development phase begins. These types of tests will be centered around the discovery, exploration, and user research of your target market and what they expect in your app. Since you won’t have a functioning app yet, the goals of this type of test will look very different from a test being run just prior to an app’s launch.

Concept testing and card sorting are two popular ways to see how users will interact with the features, structure, and hierarchy of your app—even without a functioning product.

As you run tests during development, your goals should be centered on validation related to the user experience.

While things might look good and make sense on paper during the wireframing of your app, you need to test those theories from a UI/UX perspective once your design team has actually implemented those elements.

Usability testing is not about gathering generic feedback for your app. You should be using these tests to identify specific problems. So focus your goals around this concept.

For example, let’s say you’re testing an ecommerce app. To determine if your navigation is intuitive or not, you can ask yourself questions like:

  • Can a mobile user easily search for a specific product?
  • Can users easily add items to their shopping cart?
  • Can users complete the checkout process with minimal friction?

These types of questions will help you focus on specific goals for app user testing.

Step #2: Determine the Testing Method

Next, you’ll need to figure out exactly how you’re going to conduct the tests. There are lots of different ways that this can happen. But for the most part, user testing can be segmented into the following categories:

  • In-person moderated
  • In-person unmoderated
  • Remote moderated
  • Remote unmoderated

There are pros and cons to each. For starters, moderated sessions typically offer deeper insights because you’ll be able to ask questions, and get feedback, and follow-up with testers in real-time.

Here’s an example. A user might make a comment such as, “this is surprising,” and say nothing else. During a moderated session, the moderator could follow-up by asking, “what was surprising?” You won’t have this option in an unmoderated session.

The downside of a moderated session is that it’s unnatural for users. If you’re trying to emulate real-life scenarios, app users wouldn’t have any guidance or real-time communication with a third party while using the app.

In-person testing has its challenges as well. It’s more labor-intensive, and you’ll have to deal with scheduling. Some test participants feel pressure to “say the right thing” when they’re being watched in-person, whereas they’d be more candid with feedback remotely.

Unmoderated remote sessions are the easiest way to get the most possible tests done for the lowest cost. You’ll also get to test users in a more natural environment. However, you lose the ability to communicate in real-time.

So which option is the best?

There’s really no right or wrong answer here. It all comes down to your personal preferences. You may ultimately decide to conduct user testing in multiple environments with a combination of these methods mentioned above.

Step #3: Select the Participants

Now it’s time to find real users to participate in your tests. Don’t just select random people, or you won’t get accurate test results.

Hopefully, you’ve already identified a target market for your app by now. But look beyond the demographics like age, sex, marital status, and location. Behavioral targeting is much more valuable here. So look for users who are already using apps that are similar to yours.

Recruiting participants that have some interest and prior experience in what your app is trying to accomplish will have much more value than a random user who happens to be a certain age and gender.

UserTesting.com is a great platform for finding participants and conducting tests. They even have specific solutions for mobile app user testing.

The platform supports multiple testing methods. It’s a popular choice for mobile app prototypes, unreleased apps, apps already available in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, AR/VR apps, home testing, “out in the wild” testing, and more.

There are plenty of other similar alternatives on the market, but UserTesting.com is definitely one of the most popular solutions for finding and testing participants in one place.

How many testers do you need for an accurate user testing experiment? According to a famous study from the Nielsen Norman Group, five is the perfect number.

The concept here is pretty simple. If you test zero users, you’ll find zero usability problems (obviously). But as you test more and more people, the number of issues you encounter will start to flatten out.

After a handful of tests, you’ll see the same thing over and over again. So there’s no reason to continue observing things that you already know.

Based on this curve, 15 users is the absolute maximum number of participants you’d need to uncover all usability issues. But most experts recommend between 5-7 participants. Some will say up to ten is ok too.

You might need to offer an incentive to recruit participants. The compensation amount should vary depending on the type of test you’re running. For example, an in-person moderated session could be valued at around $50-$100. But an unmoderated remote test might be worth closer to $15.

Step #4: Prepare the Testing Materials and Testing Environment

Once you’ve recruited testers, it’s time to prepare for the test itself.

What exactly are you going to be testing? Refer back to the goals that we established back in step #1. You’ll use the goals to create objectives for the user to complete. You’ll ultimately create a list of tasks, which is sometimes referred to as a testing script.

Set up a realistic scenario for your users. For instance, here’s an example of some objectives you could list for an ecommerce app test:

  • Search for a blue dress
  • Add a medium-sized red shirt to your shopping cart
  • Create a user profile
  • Complete a purchase that qualifies for free shipping
  • Save your billing details for future purchases
  • Complete a purchase with your card saved on-file

In these scenarios, you’re not telling the participants how to complete the tasks. Instead, you’re just telling them what you want them to do. There’s a big difference. The idea here is to give your participants clear instructions but allow them to naturally engage with your app and its usability—this will provide you with the best usability testing results.

You should also prepare follow-up questions and debriefing questions.

If you’re running tests in-person, you’ll also have to prepare a testing environment. Is the test taking place at your office? Are you going to run it in a third-party testing facility? Where will the participants be sitting? Where is the moderator sitting? You must have all of this stuff in order before the test itself. Otherwise, you’ll be scrambling around during your appointments, which will ultimately impact the quality of your tests. Make sure the testing environment doesn’t interfere with the user experience.

Earlier I mentioned UserTesting.com as a platform for remote app user testing. But Lookback.io is another popular testing tool and perfect for both moderated and unmoderated app testing.

Just make sure you find a platform and finalize your testing environment before you proceed.

You’ll also want to run some practice tests before you start testing actual users. Running into problems or glitches (unrelated to the app itself) during an experiment will definitely de-rail the accuracy and effectiveness of your results. So work out all the kinks associated with your testing environment ahead of time.

Step #5: Run the Test

This step is pretty self-explanatory. After all of your hard work, it’s finally time to conduct user testing for your app!

Surprisingly, this is the easiest step in the process. If you followed everything else I’ve explained to this point, there’s really not much for you to do here. Your participants will already be recruited and have the testing materials to complete your desired objectives.

With moderated testing, you might need to remind participants to think out loud as they complete tasks.

For example, a participant might furrow their brow or tighten their lips throughout the process. In many cases, these actions could indicate some type of frustration or pain point. But it’s better for the user to verbally express those challenges, instead of forcing you to play a guessing game.

Every test should end with debriefing and follow-up questions. Even if the test is remote and unmoderated, you can get those questions over your participants via email or through the testing platform. This is an important part of the design process that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Follow-up questions and feedback need to be completed immediately after the test, while everything is still fresh in the participant’s mind. If they answer these questions at another time, the results will be skewed and not as accurate.

Step #6: Analyze and Adjust

The experiment isn’t over after the test is complete. You still need to go back and analyze the results.

What similar problems did testers encounter? What friction or pain points were associated with your objectives?

Aside from the direct feedback from your participants, you should also go back and observe measurable data. For example, how long did it take them to complete one step of a particular task? The length of time it takes someone to complete an action is a good indication of how difficult it was. In some instances, the amount of time completing a task could also be an indication of how engaged a participant was with your app. These metrics are always helpful.

Once these observations have been clearly identified, it’s time to create an action plan with your team to improve the app. You’ll likely need to make some UI/UX design adjustments to enhance your app.

App Usability Testing Tips and Best Practices

As someone who has conducted countless user testing experiments, I’ve learned quite a bit of useful information over the years. While you’re following the steps above, make sure to keep the following tips in mind:

  • Always record your tests (even for moderated sessions), so you can go back and watch
  • Don’t make assumptions; provide your participants with SPECIFIC instructions
  • Ask mobile users what type of experience, features, and functionality they expect
  • Don’t make tasks too complicated (not all participants are tech-savvy)
  • Avoid technical terms in your testing script (most people won’t know terms like hamburger menu, UI/UX, etc.). So use common language.
  • There is always room for improvement (even if you have a great UX designer)
  • Moderators should remain neutral (no positive reinforcement or critiquing during the test)
  • Moderators should say as little as possible (to mirror real-life scenarios)
  • Run tests on multiple platforms (iOS and Android)
  • Participants provide better feedback when presented with comparable options
  • Always note visual cues (furrowed brow, smiles, hand to chin, facial expressions etc.)
  • Continue conducting user tests for different goals (this is an ongoing process)

If you’re having participants perform tasks that involve transactions, you should always use real money. Fake or monopoly money won’t give you the same results. When real money is at stake, users will take the time to shop around and get the best deal (like they would in the real world)

Following these tips will improve the accuracy and results of your mobile app user testing.

Conclusion

User testing is crucial to the success of any app. It’s one of the most important steps in the design phase of your app as well.

Don’t underestimate the value of user testing. Whether you’re still prototyping or getting ready for launch, you’d be surprised at how helpful these insights will be to the UX of your mobile application.

If you’re struggling with the concept of user testing and don’t know where to start, just follow the step-by-step process outlined in this guide. For those of you who still have questions, feel free to drop a comment or reach out to our Pro Services team here at BuildFire. Good luck and happy testing!

The Top 20 Mobile App Plug-Ins That Will Make Your App Successful in 2021

The Internet is flooded with mobile app design tools. How can you possibly know which ones are the best for building an app?

If you’ve never gone through the app development process before, this can feel a bit intimidating. But with the help of app design plug-ins, it’s easy to design an app on your own in 2021. 

What’s a mobile app plug-in?

Simply put, a plug-in adds a feature or functionality to your app. Installing an app plug-in is much easier than trying to develop an app design element from scratch.

So for those of you who don’t know how to code but want to build a business app on your own, plug-ins will quickly become your best friend. 

What are the best mobile app tools and plug-ins to use in 2021? I’ve identified the top 20 for you to consider. I’ll even cover some app design tips as we continue through this guide.

Thousands of apps have been built using these plug-ins and mobile app design tools. Your business can become the latest to do the same. 

1. Home Page Grid Layout

The design of your homepage can make or break the success of your app. Not only does it need to look clean and professional, but it must also perform well.

With the Home Page Grid Layout plug-in, you can build a highly responsive home page design that’s fully customizable to your app and its needs. 

The home page buttons will point your app users precisely to where you want them to go. You can make this homepage as straightforward or as complex as you need with the grid design layout. 

One of the best parts about this plug-in is that it’s free to use. If you’re new to app design, getting started and set up with Home Page Grid Layout will be a breeze. 

 

2. Cascade Gallery

The Cascade Gallery plug-in is a unique way to enhance your mobile app design.

Using Cascade Gallery, you can display an image surrounded by five customizable rings. The image is followed by a seamless transition into a tailored gallery of responsive images.

A popular use-case for this plug-in is for a restaurant app. The featured image can be the company logo, and the gallery can be used to display different sections of your menu, such as lunch, dinner, happy hour, or drinks. 

With that said, the plug-in can be used for any menu or navigation that incorporates images into the design of your app. Leveraging images and other visual content is a top app design tip for 2021.

Cascade Gallery is available for a modest $19.99.

3. Image Gallery and Info Slider

The Image Gallery and Info Slider plug-in is another top mobile app design tool for 2021. 

Some plug-ins are explicitly made for images, while others are made for showcasing information. This plugin does both.

You can use the Image Gallery and Info Slider to showcase images or photos in your app. It’s highly responsive, so you can display those pictures one at a time while the user navigates from image to image.

Alternatively, the plug-in is also a great way to provide slide-by-slide instructions with information or a combination of images and instructions.

Consider using Image Gallery and Info Slider for a workforce app. It’s a great way to showcase employee training steps from a mobile device. 

This plug-in is 100% free to use and install, so it’s at least worth trying out during your app design process. 

4. Google Slides

If you’re looking for another free way to present images and information in your mobile app, check out the Google Slides plug-in.

Google Slides stands out amongst other app design tools for its versatility and a wide variety of presentation themes. The plug-in comes with hundreds of fonts, animations, and the ability to embed video content in your slides as well. 

Like most of the app design tools on our list, Google Slides is free to use when you’re building an app on your own.

5. Text WYSIWYG

WYSIWYG

Most people don’t realize it, but written text is a crucial component to app design. Aside from the text itself, the style and placement have a significant impact on the success of your app.

To embed text into your app design without any coding, you can use the Text WYSIWYG plug-in.

But don’t let the name fool you. Text WYSIWYG offers much more than just text. The plug-in allows you to embed images, videos, and forms into your mobile app as well. 

This is one of the most versatile app design tools on the market today. You can even use it as an HTML editor, which will give you the ability to customize the plugin in any way that you desire. 

The fact that it’s available for free is another huge bonus. 

6. Choice Homepage

We already checked out a couple of homepage design tools earlier on our list. But the Choice Homepage plug-in adds another layer of functionality to your app.

With Choice Homepage, you can design a question prompt to appear on the screen before a user enters the home screen. This is the perfect way to allow users to customize their app experience.

Once a user selects an option, the choice is automatically saved. So users won’t be promoted again each time they open the app.

Allowing the app user to choose their preferred language or time zone are two popular use cases for this plug-in. Although the capabilities are seemingly endless. 

You can even design what gets rendered on the homepage based on what the app user selects.

7. WebView

The Webview plug-in adds a unique design element to your mobile app. 

Historically, there has been a disconnect between mobile apps and mobile websites. I’m sure you’ve experienced this first-hand with some of the apps you personally use on a regular basis. You click a link within the app, and it opens up a third-party web browser, which can take forever to load and takes you away from the app itself.

This is not convenient, and it’s definitely something you need to keep in mind when you’re designing an app in 2021.

Webview allows you to externally link online content while maintaining a native app experience.

This is perfect for linking web pages, documents, and pretty much anything else you can think of. You can use this app design tool for free.

8. Youtube

Leveraging video content is one of the best ways to have a successful app. But rather than reinventing the wheel, you can sync your YouTube channel to your app with the YouTube plug-in by BuildFire.

This is the easiest way to embed video content into the design of your mobile app. 

Each time you upload a video to your channel, it can automatically be shown within your app. This gives your app users a fresh viewing experience for all of your new content,

which is perfect for those of you who are building a media and entertainment app

People can view your new video content without having to leave the app itself. 

Whether you want to sync your entire YouTube feed or just display a single video, this plug-in has the design tools you need to make it happen. 

9. Optimized Format Media RSS Feed

Proper optimization is a common problem in mobile app development for new designers. You want to add all of these different elements into your app, but it can hurt the performance of your app if they aren’t implemented properly.

That’s where the Optimized Format Media RSS Feed plug-in can help you.

This plug-in will automatically optimize the content for your standard media RSS feed, just as the name implies. 

Now your app elements can be displayed in a standardized and computer-readable format. 

10. Webview Popup Service

The Webview Popup Service plug-in by Pixel Plugins is an alternative option to the Webview plug-in by BuildFire (#8 in this guide). 

There isn’t a significant difference between the two plug-ins, at least not on the user end. 

Both plug-ins allow your app to open and display external links automatically within the app. You’ll notice some differences while you’re using the plug-in from a backend perspective, but nothing significant enough for me to give the edge to one over the other. 

Webview Popup Service costs $4.99, which is about as inexpensive as you’ll find for a paid app development tool in 2021. Although Webview by BuildFire is free. The choice is yours; you won’t need both. 

11. Questionnaire

Questionnaire

The Questionnaire plug-in was developed to improve user engagement within the app. It allows you to create quizzes or polls, which can be used for a wide range of purposes.

Business owners can use this plug-in to collect user feedback about the app or about the customer experience and satisfaction with the business itself. 

Educators can use this plug-in to build an app for a school or university. Use Questionnaire as a tool for practice tests or study materials. 

From a design perspective, Questionnaire adds a high level of quality and performance to your app. The plug-in integrates seamlessly with the app, so it’s highly responsive while users are completing the questionnaire or filling out a poll. 

In addition to the design benefits of this plug-in, it’s also an excellent way to collect data and analyze user behavior. 

12. On The Go Push

Push notifications are a key component of any successful mobile app. That’s why On The Go Push is one of the most popular mobile app tools in the BuildFire marketplace. 

This plug-in lets you design and send a push notification to app users from anywhere. You won’t need to log-in to your app dashboard or computer to send notifications. Simply open the app, type the message, and hit send.

One of my favorite features of On The Go Push is the ability to schedule notifications for a later time or date automatically.

The right push notification paired with the right app design tips will drive engagement and increase revenue from your app users. No matter what type of app you want to build, you’ll want this tool available at your fingertips (literally). 

13. Drip Notification

Drip Notification

Drip Notification is another mobile app development tool that’s made for sending push notifications to app users. Although this tool is a bit different from On The Go Push, which we just discussed.

This plug-in is designed to reach mobile app users who haven’t opened the app in a while.

You can set the parameters for when a message should be triggered, and then design what it should say. 

I like this plug-in because it allows you to attach actions to each drip. This can guide your app users to specific features or functions in the app. Overall, the transition from the notification to the app’s actions will be fluid and responsive from a mobile app design perspective.

14. File Manager

As the name implies, The File Manager plug-in can be used for basically anything related to files in your mobile app. 

The interface is exceptionally user-friendly. You can easily organize your files with lists or other parameters. 

The use cases for File Manager are seemingly limitless. Use it for invoices, contracts, training videos, or even orientation packages for new hires. 

No matter what the plug-in ultimately gets used for, you can rest assured knowing that the design of your app won’t be compromised.

15. Large Icon Home Page

large home page

If you’re looking for an alternative to the Home Page Grid Layout plug-in, this will be a top choice for you to consider. 

Large Icon Home Page can also be used as a home folder within your app.

I like this plug-in because it’s versatile enough to meet the needs of any home page, regardless of the type of app you’re building. 

Unlike Home Page Grid Layout, the Large Icon Home Page is not free to use. But with that said, it’s incredibly affordable to install. The plug-in costs just $9.99, which is a small price to pay for a mobile app design tool. 

16. Google Sheets

If you’re familiar with Google Sheets, then you already have an idea of the capabilities for this mobile app design plug-in. 

For data-intensive apps, Google Sheets will enhance the design of your app with colorful graphs and charts. This is a much better way to display numbers compared to written text.

The Google Sheets plug-in comes with built-in formulas, pivot tables, and conditional formatting options. As a result, you can save time and simplify common spreadsheet tasks.

If you’re building an ecommerce app or traditional consumer app, you probably won’t need this. 

Mobile apps for events and conferences will definitely benefit from the superior design and organization the Google Sheets plug-in brings to the table. Workforce apps will also find Google Sheets useful for a wide range of circumstances. 

This is another free mobile app design plug-in that was developed by BuildFire. 

17. Action Items Folder

Navigation is a crucial mobile app design element. Every app needs a way for users to get from one screen to the next. 

The Action Items Folder plug-in simplifies this entire process.

This plug-in creates a searchable list of items and displays a pre-description of the object. The list is expandable, with a link button that can navigate to the actual screen within the app.

Think of it as a menu with an expandable preview for functions like calling a phone number, sending an email, opening a map, or opening an external link. It starts with the list item and expands to a detailed view of the object.

The Action Items Folder plug-in is an app design tool and navigation feature built into one extremely useful resource. 

18. Time Release Content

The Time Release Content plug-in adds a unique design element to your mobile app. As the name implies, this plug-in allows you to schedule content for a specific date and time to become available in the app. 

This can be used for categories, app features, content, or app elements. 

From a design perspective, the plug-in lets you to grey-out buttons and content that are unavailable, which creates anticipation and excitement for the user, while simultaneously following app design tips and best practices. 

Writers could use this to release one chapter of a book at a time. Restaurants could use this plug-in to release menu specials and discounts in real-time. 

19. Contact Us

Every app should have some type of contact form. The Contact Us plug-in makes this easy for you to build in your app.

You’ll be able to provide contact information like:

  • Phone numbers
  • Emails
  • Social media profiles

Furthermore, the Contact Us plug-in is perfect for including hours of operation and instant directions to physical locations as well.

Instead of just using a text editor to display this information on a screen, the Contact Us plug-in creates a beautiful and highly functional design for these purposes. It’s free to use as well. 

20. Realtime Chat

Realtime Chat

Realtime Chat is the best plug-in for allowing app users to leverage live chat in real-time. 

Users can chat privately with each other or start group chats as well. This plug-in is perfect for those of you who want to build a workforce app for employee communication

Your staff can communicate using the app without having to use a third-party platform, resource, or web portal. It’s great for in-house communication as well as communicating with deskless workers, field employees, and other remote staff. 

Conclusion

Building an app on your own is easy, especially with plug-ins and app design tools in 2021. 

For the purpose of this guide, I focused on plug-ins that were design-oriented. But you can check out the full list of plug-ins on the BuildFire marketplace. These tools will really make your life easier when it comes time to build your app.

Apps are one of the best ways to solve problems and pain points associated with your business or day-to-day life. Check out our customer success stories and case studies to see how versatile the BuildFire platform is for app development. 

If you’re ready to proceed in the app development and design process, request a free consultation or start a free trial with BuildFire. 

Keep checking back or subscribe to get the latest information and resources about building an app. 

21 Design Tips For Award Winning Apps

Do you want a great mobile app?

Based on your app development strategy, the app might perform well, but that’s only half of the battle. If you really want your app to shine, it needs a killer design.

Whether you’re designing the app yourself or hiring a designer, I’ll give you some advice to make your app look like it’s an award winner.

This guide is also a great reference for designers who are working on multiple apps for various clients.

Apps that aren’t designed well simply won’t succeed. You might be able to skate by for a while, but ultimately users will get frustrated and stop using it.

Follow the advice that I’ve outlined below to make sure that this doesn’t happen to you.

Here are the top 21 design tips that everyone absolutely needs to know. Let’s dive right in.

Continue reading “21 Design Tips For Award Winning Apps”

How to Use Auto Layout to Craft Advanced iOS Animations

The design components are crucial to the success of your mobile app.

You should be thinking of your app as a product. Consumers don’t want to buy something if it has a subpar or incomplete design.

Well, the same applies to your app. If the design isn’t done well, then users won’t have an enjoyable experience, which will impact your bottom line.

For iOS apps, Auto Layout is a great design tool for advanced animations.

In a perfect world, you want to be able to design without too many restrictions.

It’s possible that you may have done some simple animations before as a developer or even as a designer. If so, you were probably able to get away with just updating constraints and animating.

For basic animations, this strategy is sufficient. But for more advanced animations this tactic doesn’t work as well.

If you’ve been searching for other Auto Layout guides on the Internet, you’ve probably seen the same instructions over and over again.

I decided to dive in a little bit deeper on this topic and cover advanced animations.

But before I get to that, I’ll give you some useful and informative tips about Auto Layout.

Let’s get started.

Continue reading “How to Use Auto Layout to Craft Advanced iOS Animations”

Mobile App Design Process – The Ultimate Guide

For some, the thought of creating a mobile app from scratch sounds like an uphill task full of corny, complex coding activities.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! Before developing a new mobile app, you need to design it first. It’s critical to plan every step, and at some point, you might want to retreat and examine what you’re building.

If you’re in a customer-first business (every business is), then you need a mobile app. It’s no longer an option, but a necessity.

Global app downloads surpassed 218 billion last year. Businesses that made the mistake of not creating a mobile app will continue to suffer in the coming years too.

Having a mobile strategy is essential, because this research shows that users spend 90% of their time in apps as compared to surfing the internet.

It’s great to have a mobile responsive website backed by a solid mobile marketing strategy with major resources being allocated to cross-device reach. In today’s competitive era, not having a mobile app has severe implications.

A mobile app helps businesses reach more customers, improve marketing strategies, provide value to the customers, increase brand awareness, increase customer engagement and loyalty, and create one or more competitive advantage(s). Plus, mobile apps can improve your bottom line.

When average user spends more time looking at a mobile phone than watching television, or using desktop or laptop, what excuse does your business have for not having a mobile app?

The question remains, where and how to start?

There are two phases of any mobile app design.

  1. Mobile app design strategy
  2. App design process

The following guide will cover both phases in detail with additional resources, mobile trends, and tips.

Mobile App Design Strategy

It starts with a strategy. It defines the future and the path to reach your destination.

Business Strategy

The issue, however, is with creating a mobile app design strategy. You simply can’t create an app just because your competitor has one. Your competitor might have a different business objective and mobile strategy which are quite different from yours.

Developing a mobile strategy links back to the company strategy and has four stages:

i).   Understand the business strategy

ii).  Business mobile app strategy

iii). App strategy

iv). Product management strategy

Mobile Strategy Stages

Let’s explain each stage in detail:

 

1. Understand Your Business Strategy

Understanding the overall business strategy should form the basis of your mobile app design. Misalignment between company strategy and the mobile strategy might be suicidal.

Recent statistics from the Harvard Business Review shows that 70% of employees don’t have enough information about their company’s strategy or their perception of strategy is much different than the actual strategy.

There are several benefits of creating and executing a mobile strategy that’s derived from (and supports) the overall company strategy.

  • It maximizes ROI as much as 74%.
  • Reduces training needs.
  • It leads to customer satisfaction.
  • Decreases integration requirement and bugs.
  • Improvement in quality, value, productivity, employee efficiency, and customer engagement.

Align target to your goals

In its simplest form, a successful mobile strategy is the meeting point of business goals, mobile opportunities, and user needs.

Successful Goal Map

How Do You Define A Mobile Strategy For Your Business?

It should, technically and logically, start from the understanding of the company’s strategy, market conditions, competitors, customer journey, threats and weaknesses, and where stakeholders want to see the company in the future.

Defining mobile strategy

Starting at the highest level will make things easy and well integrated.

To get started here is a short checklist that will help you understand the business strategy. This checklist will show you the current standing of your company in terms of its strategy, and where it wants to be in next five years.

Follow these steps to fully understand your company’s objectives, current standing, competitors, and why and how mobile strategy will fit in.

  1. Your business’s mission statement, its competitive advantages, objectives, and where you want to see it in next 5 – 10 years.
  2. Define customer journey on the mobile. What the app will do? Will customers be allowed to buy from the app directly? Will they be able to check the status of their order?
  3. Create competitor profiles. Who are your competitors? What do they do. What are their strengths and weaknesses in terms of mobile strategy and app? Identify what they do differently, and what they offer on mobile.
  4. Define the strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities (SWOT) of your business. It will show all the areas of success and opportunities. It takes time but it’s worth it.

Livebackup.com, a company that offers solution on how to backup iPhone data to Computer, uses a mobile app strategy to trounce its competition.

In the same vein, Asda successfully launched a mobile app with a powerful mobile app strategy which aligned with the company’s long-term objective of having stores without walls.

ASDA

The successful mobile app strategy showed results beyond expectation.

  • More than two million app downloads.
  • More than 90% of the mobile sales are attributed to the mobile app.
  • The app users are two times more likely to become repeat customers.
  • The buying frequency for mobile is 1.8 times higher than desktop and laptop.

It’s made possible because it started from the highest level – the overall business strategy.

 

2. Business Mobile App Strategy

Your mobile app strategy is your surefire path to achieving success with your mobile app design and marketing in general.

Yes the success or failure of the app depends on the strategy, since everything will be linked to the strategy. It will be easy to create if you have answers to these two questions:

  1. What is the purpose of the app?
  2. What is the benefit that the end-user will drive from using the app?

The simplest way to chart your app strategy is none other than:

“We will build this so that our customers can do that.”

The strategy has to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. Anything that’s too vague or looks seemingly unachievable, strike it out. For example, having more downloads than WhatsApp isn’t a practically achievable goal.

Develop Smart Goals

Create A Roadmap

Breaking the entire app idea into distinct components that will be executed in different time slabs is a step towards building a solid mobile strategy. It is known as a roadmap. Helpful tools like this will make your life much easier.

The entire app strategy will be distributed into small tasks that are represented visually. Who will complete the task, how much time it will need, and how these tasks interlink are all stated in a roadmap.

Create a Roadmap

A roadmap will keep your team on track, and it will help stakeholders keep a track of the app strategy.

Budget Allocation

How much your business is willing to spend on the app will determine how quickly it can be designed and launched. The budget allocation includes capital, operating cost, human resources, and allocation of other resources.

This is how a budget plan looks like.

Budget allocation

Allocating resources to the app and creating a budget plan is linked to your company’s budget and current standing. The budget, in return, is linked to the roadmap.

So if you intend to complete the app quickly, increase the app’s budget and fuel it with more resources, which can only be done if your business has enough available resources and budget.

You see, your mobile app strategy cannot exist in isolation.

Other Requirements

If you think a functional app idea, a roadmap, and the budget allocation are all what you need for the strategy, think again.

There are several other non-functional requirements that will be needed. They include:

  • Access points
  • Network availability
  • Maintenance costs
  • Architectural support
  • Payment processing
  • Security solutions
  • Access to tools
  • CDN
  • SLAs

These requirements are mostly useful for the IT team. Your IT team will share these requirements with you in the form of a visual layout also known as technology stack.

Mobile Technology Stack

The basic idea is to document everything and make sure that the app performs as smoothly at the backend as it does on the frontend. A clear and concise technology stack is what you need.

Parse wanted to improve the speed and scalability of high-throughput and MogoDB clusters. They used Amazon Web Services (AWS) since it’s the only cloud service that handles their requirements. Parse used the following architecture on AWS.

 

Web servers

This resulted in reducing the end-to-end latency from 400 milliseconds to 100 milliseconds.

3. Defining The App Strategy

Now is the time to define clear use cases on the basis of the customer journey. This calls for a clear definition of the single app strategy.

A use case is at the center of defining app strategy. It’s defined as the list of actions that define the interaction between a role and the system. The image below represents a simple use case that defines the actions of the buyer and the seller – the roles.

App Strategy

Ashish Toshniwal, YMedia Lab CEO, says:

“The number one secret is to focus on one or two main use cases. Let’s not overwhelm the user, but really focus on one or two use cases and do them really, really well.”

The best app strategy is one that uses not more than two use cases. Think of Instagram, people use it when they have to share a photo. This is a perfect example of a single use case.

Initial Design

A use case includes quite a few things such as the happy path, the intent of the use case, alternate action paths, and testable actions.

Define use cases

Defining use case is just the first phase of defining the app strategy.

Target Audience

Who will use your app?

I know, you may say your customers. Okay, but which type of customers in particular. What are their needs, gender, age, demographics, etc.

The fact is, you can’t create an app for your entire customer base. The simple rule of thumb is to design app for 80% of users.

The best approach to defining the target audience is to use personas. Buyer personas help you understand your target audience better. It helps in categorizing and grouping them.

Define your target personas

List down all the following information about each type of your potential user.

Persona Example

Define Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

What value the app delivers to the business is the question that stakeholders ask a lot.

Defining KPIs for the app will help monitor the performance and at the same time, it will help set realistic goals for the app to achieve year after year.

Setting KPIs for app is not enough. Linking and aligning the app performance metrics with the business’s KPIs is a must.

If the metrics for your business are revenue, cost reduction, and market share, then the KPIs for the app must lead to one of the business’s KPIs, else the app will not add any significant value.

If the app fails to perform, the business will suffer and if it performs, business will grow.

KPI Definition

The most crucial app performance metric is the number of new users. Other metrics are app rating, an increase in usage and sessions, customer retention, repeat customers, session length, customer lifetime value, active users, and downloads.

Focus on use not installs

Some other important questions to be answered during this phase include:

  • Type of app required. Do you need a hybrid app or a native app?
  • Should your business build app in-house or should it be outsourced?
  • Which platform to target first – android or iOS?

Finally, start promoting your new app at this stage because you now know what it is, who is it for, and what it will do. This is the right time to create early buzz and engagement.

Mobile app marketing plan

4. Define Your Product Management Implementation Strategy

Once the mobile app strategy is defined and documented, it’s time to implement it.

Define your implementation methodology

 

Understand The Minimum Viable Product!

Implementation strategy begins with defining the minimum viable product. MVP is defined as the product with the minimum features for validating and learning purposes.

Define an MVP

Instead of throwing all the features right at once, you should prioritize the features and start from the minimum acceptable features. All the best apps and products go through this phase.

Do you think Twitter offers the same features from day one? The first Twitter homepage was totally different from what you see today. It look like this:

First Twitter homepage

Same is the case with Facebook.

First Facebook homepage

Define minimum viable product by listing all the possible features for your app, prioritize those features, sort them on the basis of priorities, and add the top few must-have features in the first version. The remaining features should be added over the course of a few years.

How to define an mvp

 

Develop A Testing Strategy

Yes you need to test your app. Because every app has bugs – yours will have too.

You may not get rid of the bugs completely, but you can minimize these issues by creating a workable testing strategy. It’s an outline that clearly states the testing approach.

Testing Strategy

The test strategy should be defined before the coders get to work. Here’s what to include in the test strategy:

  • What is the scope of the app?
  • What is not in the scope?
  • The features
  • Individual cases
  • Outcome
  • App versions and integration

Know The Required Tools

What tools do you need for development, testing, and for maintenance? Though, it mostly depends on the budget allocation.

List all the tools required at every stage of the development and post-development.

Some of the tools that you may need include:

By the end of the mobile app design strategy, the strategy document with all the mandatory details will be ready.

 

Basic App Design Process

Benji Hyam, the co-founder of Social Proof Interactive, stated that before you approach an app designer, you must have the following things ready:

  • Understanding of your target market and the end-user
  • List of things that a user might want to accomplish with the app
  • Initial wireframes
  • Budget

This is, more or less, what we have covered in the previous section. Having a mobile app strategy will make app designing super easy.

Mobile app design strategy is an in-house process while app design process can be outsourced or done in-house.

The basic app design process consists of following steps:

  1. Setting the scope
  2. User/market research
  3. UX wireframe
  4. Prototype
  5. UI design
  6. Animation
  7. Software architecture
  8. iOS development
  9. Testing
  10. Release

Let’s roll.

 

1. Setting The Scope

The scope refers to what needs to be done, what you want to achieve from the app, and how large/small it has to be. The scope may include all of the following:

  • The nature of the app
  • Target audience
  • Most crucial functions and features of the app
  • App’s visual design features
  • Potential technologies to be used
  • Consistency with the business strategy
  • Specific preferences

Did you notice that consistency with the business strategy is just one part of this process?

In order to document the scope of the app, it’s crucial to identify all of the following:

  • Objectives and goals of the app
  • Phases and subphases
  • Tasks and resources
  • Budget
  • Schedule

Based on the scope, the design and flow of the app will be prepared.

 

2. User & Market Research

This is the phase where the UX and UI designers will get to work based on the scope of the app and on the app strategy. It involves market research and user research.

Market Research

The job of the designers is to come up with the best UX design that will help your app stand out from the crowd.

UX Strategy

 

How is it Done?

Start by conducting an in-depth market research and analyze the existing apps in your industry. If you’re going to create an image sharing app, you’ll have to look at the existing image sharing apps, their color schemes, patterns, flow, etc.

The user research will reveal colors and themes that will help you develop an emotional connection with the target audience.

What type of colors and styles will the end-users prefer? You can use different methods to collect data from the potential users such as surveys, focus groups, design workshops, etc.

UX Venn Diagram

Here is a tip – don’t let users make all the decisions. If you do, you will end up designing an elephant like this

Horse

 

3. UX Wireframe

The visual representation of the user interface is known as UX wireframe. You have to create a structure of the user interface, transitions, and interactions. It must be based on market research, user research, competition, and strategy.

You can use wireframing software or you can create a simple outline on a paper. Lay down the user flow as you want it to appear on the actual app.

UX Wireframe

Sure it’s enough to wireframe the user interface on paper. No need to do extra work. The simpler it appears, the better it will be.

Wireframe sketch

The purpose of UX wireframing is to define the flow of the app such as the number of windows, buttons, where each button leads the user, the registration process, the login screen, and everything related to the front-end of your app.

 

4. Create A Prototype

Prototype lets you see and feel the app. It must be created as early as possible. Once you have the UX wireframe, creating a low-fidelity prototype is easy.

Create a prototype

The low-fidelity prototype is the sketchy prototype that can be created right away as the wireframe is ready. There is no need to waste money on expensive prototypes.

Not only does a high-fidelity prototype consume resources but it takes time.

A simple physical prototype will show you how the app looks. The purpose of a prototype, by any means, is not to test or improve the functionality.

Physical prototype

A lot of experts recommend using low-fidelity prototypes to save cost and time. Instead of wasting money creating expensive prototypes, spend money on app functions, features, and on coding.

Mozilla used low-fidelity prototypes to tweak its support website. They used multiple prototypes and all of them were created on paper. They quickly selected the best user-interface elements that worked for the users.

Mozilla low fidelity prototype

 

5. UI Design

Do not confuse UX wireframe and prototyping with the user interface (UI) design.

The UX research, wireframing, and prototyping are about how the app works while the UI design is about how the app looks.

Once the UX has been tested, tweaked, and several prototypes have been tested and finalized, you have to move to the UI designing phase.

At this stage, you have to deal with the visual representation of the concepts, color schemes, fonts, shapes, buttons, font size, images, forms, illustrations, animation, etc.

You have to test multiple designs to see what works best for your users. The color schemes, skins, themes, and all the visual elements have to be tweaked several times to find what works.

It’s somewhat similar to A/B testing with difference being that in case of UI design, you have to make the judgments yourself. You cannot bring customers on board at this stage.

UI Design

Just like prototyping, the UI designs can be sketched on paper.

Paper Prototyping

Or, you can use a simple app for it known as Paper App. You can sketch different versions of your app and see which looks better.

Paper App

Or, you can use a UI solution.

UI Solution

 

6. Interface Animation

Animation should be applied and tested with the UI design phase, so as to test different styles of animation in real-time.

Animation refers to the user interface animation such as how new screen will pop out and how gestures are defined, and so on.

Interface animation has the power of grabbing user attention, as pointed in Google’s material design principles:

“Motion design can effectively guide the user’s attention in ways that both inform and delight. Use motion to smoothly transport users between navigational contexts, explain changes in the arrangement of elements on a screen, and reinforce element hierarchy.”

Animation should be functional instead of a simple design element.

Anatoly Nesterov has shared seven types of animations for mobile apps. You can choose from the following list.

  1. Visual feedback
  2. Function change
  3. Element hierarchy
  4. Orientation in space
  5. Condition of the system
  6. Visual prompt
  7. Fun animations

 

7. Software Architecture Planning

This is perhaps the most crucial part of the entire design process. The core purpose of software architecture planning is to scale the app, make it better in terms of functionality and design.

It takes place as a parallel stage of designing.

It involves the entire team including the designers, programmers, and managers. The idea is to improve the frontend and the backend processes by constructively tweaking the software architecture.

It calls for regular constructive discussion on platforms, frameworks, abstract layers, design platforms, technology, components, etc.

Architecture Planning

The purpose of architecture planning is to define a structured solution that meets all the technical, operational, business, user, and system requirements.

Purpose of architecture planning

Some of the best practices include:

  • Build to change.
  • Understand the end user needs before designing and redesigning.
  • Do not hesitate to invest in architecture.
  • Identify key interfaces, layers, and subsystems.
  • Use an iterative approach to designing.

Peter Eeles has explained the software architecture process and method in simple form, where phases are divided into iterations which are then broken down into activities which are further divided into tasks.

Key Method Concepts

 

8. App Development

This is the phase where coding begins and the developers start creating the app.

This is something that developers have to do, so make sure you deal with the best coders. The app can be developed for android or iOS depending on your choice.

Instead of creating the app for multiple platforms simultaneously, the better approach is to create the app for one platform first.

Why?

Because developing an app for a single platform from an expert will cost you tens of thousands of dollars. If it turns out to be a poorly coded app, you will find yourself in the middle of nowhere.

Better yet, choose android app development first, since it’s cost-effective as compared to iOS.

iOS Development Cost

By the end of this phase, your mobile app will be ready (i.e., scalable, aligns to the strategy, has all the perks, is well-designed, and works smoothly).

 

9. Testing

When the average failure rate for app testing for android is 16.4%, you can’t afford to launch your newly created app without testing.

The purpose of testing the app is to ensure there aren’t any bugs and the app works as expected.

There are several stages in an app testing process. This type of rigorous testing process will ensure that your app works smoothly.

Testing

There are different types of testing and a decent approach is to test for all the types.

  • Functional testing
  • Memory testing
  • Performance test
  • Security test
  • Interruption test
  • Usability test

The app can be tested in-house, outsourced, or the developers can do the preliminary testing. The app testers should not be your developers or partners of the developers.

 

10. Release

Finally, it’s time to release your app once it has passed the tests.

The app must be submitted to the appropriate app store. It will take time since most of the apps are reviewed before they are published. It can take up to a week for the app to get approval so plan your release accordingly.

Most of the developers believe that a proper release strategy should be used for app launches.

Developers Release Perception

Partnering with the right business is the best approach that worked exceptionally well for David and Goliath. They partnered with the David Eckstein for the launch of their app which turned out to be a huge success.

This is one approach.

There are more on the list.

Mobile Design Trends

A report revealed that the number of mobile phone users in 2018 is 5.135 billion, up 4 percent year-on-year

In another study, half of the mobile phone users will switch to smartphones by 2017.

With this exponential increase in smartphones and the internet users all over the world, the following mobile design trends are expected to catch on:

1. Creative Gestures

According to Google, the gesture is a touch mechanic where each gesture is used to accomplish something such as opening the messages, sending an email, etc.

Some of the common gestures include tap, double touch, pinch open, drag, and two-finger touch.

Creative Gestures

As the number of mobile phones and the mobile phone users keep increasing, the app designers have to use more intuitive gestures to make user design better. Expect a lot of creative gestures to be introduced in the coming years.

 

2. Native Apps vs. Mobile Internet

Luke Wroblewski conducted a research that shows native app users spend 18x more time than mobile internet users.

Native vs Mobile Friendly

On the other hand, the mobile web audience is much bigger than the native app audience. Mobile web receives 8.9 million unique visitors a month while native apps receive 3.3 million unique visitors a month.

Monthly unique visitors

Native apps and mobile internet will grow in the future.

Native apps will grow at an exceptional rate and the designers will work on creating apps with better UX and UI to increase the average time per user.

 

3. Failure Mapping

According to UX Magazine, the journey maps and the user flows are the most important aspects of UX design. These flows and journeys are designed to cater for an ideal user but misses the non-ideal users.

A failure mapping is used to anticipate, understand, and then map the non-ideal users of the app. The failure mapping is considered to be one of the leading mobile design trends of 2017.

4. Micro-Mini Interactions Will Grow Significantly

A micro-interaction refers to a single task that has a single interaction with the app, product, or the website such as commenting on a blog.

Recently, there are a few apps that have transformed these micro-interactions into smaller single time interactions, Chase Buckley calls them micro-mini interactions. Yo and Knock Knock are good examples of apps that use these granular micro-mini interactions.

Chase Buckley believes that these micro-mini interactions will storm the internet in 2017.

5. Animation

According to Web Designer Depot,

“Animation is no longer a novelty for web designers…it’s becoming the basis of effective interaction design.”

Designers know that movement gets noticed, it keeps the users hooked, it is helpful in telling a story, and above all, it helps with app UX.

Bugaboo uses moving animation to let its customers view the strollers from all the angles. The moving animation works on both mobile and computer version of the store.

Bugaboo

Animations will be used in apps extensively in years to come.

When creating an app for your business, keep these trends in mind and share them with your team.

 

Mobile Design Tips

The following mobile design tips will help you in achieving your set goals:

1. Iterate user interface designs: This tip comes from the Amanda Cline, who is a developer with intensive experience under her belt.

She says:

“It is an excellent idea to iterate the interface design options so as to achieve apps that are fully engaging and retain the attention of targeted users.”

Every single iteration will help you learn a valuable lesson that might not be useful for this project, but it can help you in another project.

2. Understand your users: There is only one rule to designing better apps – understand your users. The best mobile app developers collect user feedback and apply it to the design. This is a crucial part of the mobile application design process. 

There are three ways to understand your users.

  • Create personas – characters developed to represent your target audience.
  • Experience maps – help you explore all the possibilities for a single interaction.
  • User scenarios – how a persona acts based on different UI designs.

3. Design for future: Yes you should look beyond today and design for the future.

Jeff Haden says:

“When I decided to put speed radar on a mobile device, the capability really wasn’t there, but I knew it would be.”

While designing an app, keep the future in mind. Never design for today because by the time you will finish designing the app, the hardware will have upgraded and when you launch the app, you will always be behind.

Resources For Mobile Design

Here are a few of the best resources to jumpstart your mobile design project:

Pttrns: A library of more than 3K iPad and iPhone UI patterns.

UX design for mobile developers: Learn techniques and best practices for creating awesome user experiences for your apps.

Hack design: Learn all about mobile designing.

Mobile patterns: It has a collection of screenshots of android and iOS apps.

Sketch: A designing tool for app designers.

Tethr: iOS design kit for designers that features a lot of elements ranging from media to social to PSD and more.

Pixel love: Free icons for both iOS and android designers.

Pop: iOS animation library.

BuildFire: Create and manage android and iOS apps.

Blog post: A beginner’s guide to designing interface animation.

PDF: Software architecture process guide.

Blog post: Seven ways to test a mobile app.

Blog post: More than 200 mobile design resources.

Understand the Mobile App Design Phase

Generally speaking, app development can be segmented into several different stages. The number of steps in the app development process will vary, depending on who you ask and how you group various tasks.

With that said, every “mobile app development stages” list you find will have a design phase.

Your app’s design will play a crucial role in its success, which is why it’s so important to allocate enough time, resources, and effort to designing your app. If you rush through the design phase, the final product will undoubtedly suffer.

It recently dawned on me that most people interested in developing an app don’t really understand how the design phase works, which is what inspired me to write this guide.

As you continue below, you’ll learn more about what the design phase entails and why it’s so crucial to your development project. We’ll also dive into design guidelines solutions that you can leverage as a bundled service, along with other aspects of development. Let’s get started!

Pre Design Stages

Before we jump into the app design phase itself, it’s important for you to understand some of the other key steps in the app development lifecycle. There are three stages that I’ll quickly cover in greater detail below—competitive analysis, system architecture, and wireframing.

Each of these elements will ultimately be linked to the design (even though they technically aren’t included in the design stage).

To have a stunning and functional app design, you need to get these right first.

Competitive Analysis

Like any business venture, the first thing you need to do is identify your top competitors. By analyzing the big players in this space, it makes it much easier for you to know what makes an app successful in your industry.

Follow the apps that have paved the way by mirroring proven practices. You can also find vulnerabilities from your competition and use this information to improve in areas where they lack.

For example, let’s say you wanted to make a fitness app—specifically designed for wearables. Running a quick market share analysis in this industry would be the first step.

Market Share Analysis

Rather than blindly designing an app from scratch, you can take some of the top elements of existing apps and incorporate them into your design. Your app will still be unique, but it’s definitely smart to use existing apps from industry leaders as inspiration for the design of your own app.

Look at the home screen of each one. Analyze the UI design and UX design.

Ultimately, you can use bits and pieces of each one to create a design that blows all of them out of the water.

Screen examples

Where do you find any friction or pain points within your competitors’ apps? Make sure to avoid those mistakes and improve in these areas when designing your own.

System Architecture

This stage is often overlooked in the app development process. But taking the time to understand your system ensures that you can grow your business without outgrowing your app.

The best apps are scalable, reliable, and secure—but also achieve your goals.

Without a system architecture analysis, something will eventually get lost in the shuffle. So make sure you understand the various entities of your system. Figure out the different data flows between each entity as well.

What workflows will be required for each process? Do you need third-party integrations? What are the technical requirements on the backend?

Create a functional spec sheet that details all of the data flows and flow charts. This information can ultimately be handed off to your design team. A designer will need to understand your system architecture to create a design that makes sense for your specific app and its goals.

Wireframes

Your wireframe will be another crucial tool for your app’s design. Anyone can create a wireframe—you don’t need to be a designer to accomplish this.

Think of your wireframe as a rough sketch of your app’s usability. These can be super informal. I’ve even seen some wireframes sketched on napkins or pieces of paper, although most people today will create a digital version.

A wireframe is a vision of your app from screen to screen. What will the user journey look like as they go from the homepage to an interior page of your app?

Let’s continue with the example of a fitness app. Here’s what a section of your wireframe could look like:

Wireframes

From the “My Workouts” page, users can navigate to a “Chest & Back” page. Within the “Chest & Back Page,” there will be a link to specific workouts such as “Bench Press” that would open in a new page altogether.

Again, you’re not actually writing these workouts or composing the page elements. The idea here is to just focus on the user journey.

It’s much easier to figure out the wireframe ahead of time. These blueprints can easily be modified before the design and development stages officially begin.

Wireframes can eventually be used to perform a click-through analysis. This step ensures that your users can navigate throughout your app with the least amount of friction, ultimately boosting the UX.

Design Phase For Mobile App Development

All of the steps we covered above are critical for the design of your app. Once those stages have been completed, you can use that information for the design phase.

Here’s a brief overview of what should be accomplished during the design stage of your app:

Mood Boards

You should always start your design phase with a mood board. These design tools are the best way to evoke particular styles or concepts of your app. Mood boards are commonly used in various fields, including fashion, interior design, web design, material design, and graphic design.

A mood board can establish a strong foundation or starting point for your design. It will ultimately get you and your designer on the same page.

Mood boards will also clarify the vision for your app’s design and make it easy for multiple people and stakeholders to work collaboratively.

Let’s say you are planning to launch an app with a partner. How can you and this partner convey your ideas for something intangible (like a design)? Mood boards ease the design process.

Check out these snippets of different app styles:

Design Phase

It’s clear that all three of these are unique.

One is light and airy. Another is dark and modern. Conveying these styles to a designer verbally would be challenging. But showing a mood board with different theme elements to a designer has a more impactful effect.

It also reduces the chances that you’ll have to go back and forth with the designer multiple times for design changes. This is inefficient, extends your app development timeline, and ultimately adds to the cost of your app.

Color Palettes

While the two go hand-in-hand, color palettes and mood boards are not the same things. Your mood board will be used to convey the look and feel of your app’s design, but the color palette is necessary to ensure consistent and coherent branding throughout your app.

The color palette should include your brand colors, primary color, a secondary color, warning color, success color, text color, icon color, and more.

Here’s an example showcasing color palettes for different brands:

Brand Color Palette

Make sure the colors you choose aren’t too contrasting. They should complement each other well and look visually appealing on the screen together.

For example, yellow text on an orange icon would not be a good color palette choice. While orange and yellow are two colors that would typically fall within the same palette, combining them like this would be a nightmare for users. It would be a strain on their eyes to try and read yellow text on an orange background. So make sure you keep this in mind as you’re choosing the color scheme for your app.

Mobile Devices

The design of your app will vary from device to device. You need to understand how different screen sizes and device types impact the way your app looks on the screen.

What will the design look like on an Apple iPhone 6 Plus (iOS) compared to a Samsung Galaxy Note 20 (Android)? How will the design change from an Android tablet to an iPad mini?

Mobile Devices

Android apps will have different designs than iOS apps available on the Apple App Store. But you need to also think beyond iOS vs. Android or mobile phone vs. mobile web. There will even be design differences for devices using the same OS.

The colors, mood, and on-screen elements will essentially remain the same from device to device. There will just be subtle variations in the design depending on the screen size, OS, and device manufacturer.

Strategic Consulting

It’s worth noting that strategic consulting isn’t something that comes standard with most app designers. You’ll need to find a design team with a vested interest in your success to get this benefit.

For example, let’s say you try to hire a designer on a platform like Upwork or Fiverr. Those UX designers get paid to do a job, then move on to the next project. They won’t really have too much thought or input in the project beyond what you tell them to do.

But a strategic partner challenges your ideas and offers alternative solutions, resources, and design tools. They’ll help identify any vulnerabilities in your idea and design as well, including UI/UX.

Strategic consultancy services help separate average and ordinary apps from highly successful apps.

High Fidelity Mockups and Prototyping

Before you develop the final version of your app, you need to create high fidelity mockups and prototypes. Live prototypes will provide you with an accurate representation of how your app will perform once it’s completely built.

You’ll have a deeper understanding of the app’s design, functionality, and usability during this stage of the development and design process.

Mockups and prototypes essentially combine your wireframes with the design phase.

High fidelity mockups and wireframes

Click here to check out an example of live app prototyping.

The prototype will be the first step towards creating an MVP (minimum viable product). You’ll be able to click through different screens and components of your app from a web-based interface while seeing the design first-hand. This is crucial for UI/UX abd interaction design as well.

BuildFire App Launch Kit (Getting the Design Right)

As you can see, there’s a LOT that goes into designing an app. This process can be extremely overwhelming, especially if you’ve never done this before.

Rather than trying to tackle something so daunting on your own, you can partner with an expert design and development team to assist you. Here’s an overview of what you can expect when you use BuildFire’s white-glove services and app launch kit.

This package allows you to manifest your ideas so you can better share them with key customers, partners, and even investors. Your app will be designed with world-class standards, to not only meet your expectations but exceed them.

We’ll pair you up with a team of highly skilled individuals comprised of a project manager, designer, lead engineer, quality assurance manager, and software developer.

The project manager (based in San Diego, CA) will be your point of contact to ensure you have full visibility into the process and progress of the architecture and design of your app. The designer will bring your ideas to life through a beautiful user interface and a seamless user experience.

A senior software engineer will handle all aspects of the application that require security, scalability, and reliability. They’ll even handle potential compliance with federal and local laws.

Once you’ve been paired with the perfect team, we’ll go through a system analysis to dissect the process, procedures, and workflows of your application. This gives us a full understanding of the ideas you’re trying to implement. Our strategic consultants will challenge your ideas to make sure your app is robust and resilient to any future market challenges.

Next, we’ll go through a competitive analysis. We take the system that we now understand and look at the market landscape.

This allows us to be inspired by proven practices and raise the bar so that you can be a leader in your industry.

Once we fully understand the functional requirements of your app and understand the competitive landscape that we’re up against, it’s up to our designers to come up with a beautiful user interface and seamless UX through clickable prototypes and user journeys.

Buildfire system

After a world-class experience has been established for the app users, we then set our eyes toward the backend control panel. Our team works diligently to provide you with the tools required to manage your mobile application. We also provide you with the resources needed to understand your user behavior and app insights.

All of this will be built on top of BuildFire’s cutting edge infrastructure.

This allows you to take advantage of our authentication services, databases, analytics servers, push notifications, and so much more—so you won’t have to incur any additional costs.

Once we meet and beat your expectations, we’ll deliver all of the documentation that we’ve compiled, alongside a clickable prototype for you to share with partners and investors.

As a final step, we break down your project into phases and milestones that provide you with a go-to-market strategy focusing on performance and agility.

Conclusion

Mobile app design can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be.

To nail the design of your app, make sure you follow the design guidelines explained in this article. Rather than trying to tackle this on your own, contact our team here at BuildFire. We can handle all of the design elements, and more, while providing consultancy services for your app as well.

Our mobile app designers and app developers will double as strategic partners for your app development project. It’s time to take your design to the next level. Let’s build something great together!

The Principles of Mobile Web Design

When mobile-mageddon arrived last April, lots of businesses realized that building a mobile website wasn’t just a thing they’d have to tackle eventually, but an absolute must-have right now if they hoped to stay relevant and compete. That Google decided that mobile friendliness is going to influence search rankings is just icing on the mobile website cake.

But even though mobile search has overtaken its desktop cousin, the way people search on mobile—and the way they interact with mobile websites once they’ve landed on them—is different than the way they behave on desktop. And too few mobile website designers are paying attention.

Engagement, for one thing, is entirely different between mobile and desktop users. Take a look at Google’s numbers:

fig-4-google-visitor-engagement

Image via Clickz.com

While there’s near parity in terms of number of searches, desktop users spent over three times longer on site and visited three times as many pages on each site. And the bounce rate for mobile was nearly twice that of desktop.

You can make of that what you will, but here are some hypotheses:

➤Mobile users have a pretty clear idea of what they are looking for when they search—they are on a mission for specific information.

➤If they don’t find what they’re looking for right away on a site, they will look somewhere else. 

➤They don’t have the patience to dig deep through a complicated navigation architecture; they expect to find what they’re looking for with just a few clicks. 

So…what does that mean for your mobile website design? Quite a lot, actually. Too many designers approach their mobile website as just a scaled down version of their main site, which misses the point, in my opinion. Your mobile website should be an opportunity to really leverage the unique qualities of mobile devices and engage the unique behaviors of mobile users.

Your mobile website should do more than just replicate the information on your desktop, it should deliver the information a mobile customer is looking for in a way that’s optimized for a mobile device. And that means a mobile-first mentality and design principles.

1. Prioritize Performance.

Slow load speed is the biggest frustration factor for mobile web users and one of the main reasons a customer will bounce away from a site; in fact, over three-fourths of consumers will click away from a site that loads slowly or won’t display properly on their mobile device. So you need to worry about performance first or your customers won’t stay on your site long enough to see all your other fancy mobile-first elements. Here are some things to keep in mind while you’re planning your mobile pages:

?Keep pages to 1 MB or smaller for fastest load times. 

?Think carefully about the images you need, and crop, resize, and compress them for faster loading. 

?”Minify” your code, especially JavaScript; JS requests increase complexity and slow page rendering.

If you want to know how your mobile site is performing, use this Google PageSpeed analyzer for concrete steps you can take if your site is loading to slowly on mobile devices.

2. Rethink Your Homepage Content.

For most small businesses, what mobile website visitors want to accomplish is probably different from what visitors to their main website want to do. All those flashy branding elements and images on your main site homepage aren’t going to interest your mobile visitors. Therefore, the information you put on your homepage should be directed at the needs of your mobile users, most likely some combination of the following:

?contact info, with click to call or click to text 

?location/directions/hours of operation

?search bar/product search

?place an order/order status/order tracking

?make a reservation/appointment/service request

?customer login/account access

?option to view main website

?mobile app download

?social media buttons

3. Simplify Menus and Navigation.

target-mobile-navigation

Image source

The “hamburger” menu is universally recognized and a very mobile-friendly solution to navigation—and it also respects the generally accepted idea that mobile navigation should take, at most, three taps to arrive at the desired page. Ideally, you should have just one sub menu under each menu category for ease of use. Be sure to put your most important pages first.

If you don’t need more than three or four menu items, you can experiment with static navigation, which has a simplicity that is visually appealing.

gamestop-static-mobile-navigation-267x300

Image source

The key consideration in both cases is making your navigation and menu options easy for fingers of any size to tap and touch. Too many options packed in too tightly makes fingertip navigation virtually impossible. Which brings us, logically, to…

4. Design for Touch.

This is actually more nuanced than doing the obvious: Making sure buttons are large enough and spaced far enough apart that anyone, even someone with fat fingers, can navigate with ease. The average finger needs at least 44 pixels in both dimensions for a good touch experience; anything smaller and user experience suffers.

But beyond that, you need to design your mobile website around the common gestures and motions mobile   device users naturally use—and using those gestures as much as possible to let users accomplish their objectives on your site. What does that look like?

?Letting users tap a button or icon to call you, text you, email you, add an event to their calendar, use GPS to get directions, download a podcast—integrating the mobile device’s native functions and apps.

?Respecting the thumb zone in menus, navigation, and functionality.

1.4-thumb-zone-2x

                                                Image source

?Making user input as simple as possible: Choosing the right keyboards, using visual calendars instead of typing dates, incorporating auto defaults and auto complete, using social logins.

keyboard_types_2x

social-login-designing-for-mobile-input

Image source

5. Reform Your Forms.

For the most part, mobile users really, really hate to type on their devices, so expecting them to enter a lot of information on your website is a real turn-off that is likely to cause a lot of visitors to head for the exits. So what can you do?

➤Only collect the minimum amount of information you need for a particular transaction. For example, if someone is signing up for your newsletter, you really only need a name and an email address (and don’t forget to use the email keyboard!).

➤If you have an e-commerce site, don’t force customers to register for an account to check out, give them the option of checking out as a guest.

➤For longer, multi-page forms/transactions, give users a status bar to gauge their progress.

➤Use best practices when designing forms for your mobile website. Users have an easier time completing forms with labels above the input boxes like the one on the left:

top-aligned-eye-fixations

Image source

Forms are a great place for A/B testing; you can take out one or more fields, switch up the layout, play with the CTA and see which forms get the best completion rates. For the record, people are more likely to complete a form when it doesn’t require a phone number, so unless you absolutely need it, it’s best not to ask for it.

The travel industry does a pretty terrific job of only collecting the minimum amount of information necessary to give the customer what he or she is looking for—and doing it with a relatively painless form and method of user input. Look at this one from Expedia:

Expedia_Mobile_Site

Image source

Someone visiting this mobile website can find airfares with just a few taps and without entering any personal information. Every mobile website designer should aim for this level of simplicity when it comes to collecting information.

6. Make It Easy for Them to Find the Products They Want.

Most mobile consumers have something specific in mind when they visit your site; mobile shoppers aren’t really browsers, as this chart showing Amazon’s visitors demonstrates:

fig8-amazon

Image source

A mobile visitor spends just four minutes and checks out about eight pages on average, which means he is spending about half a minute per page. That is a shopper on a mission; the desktop visitor spends twice as long on site per page.

For the mobile website designer, then, the challenge is making sure the menus and navigation makes it easy to find a specific product or narrow down the choices to meet a shopper’s particular needs that day. A mobile device user is most likely not going to spend a lot of time scrolling endlessly through products, so you have to be creative in providing menu options to help him find what he wants quickly.

Take a look at this menu from Paperchase, a UK stationery store. The menu options on the left are neatly organized with helpful submenus that will take the user to a very specific product category to help her find what she wants without a lot of searching.

img_1314-blog-half

                         Image source

This one has a really nice touch-friendly navigation with oversized buttons, which would be a great homepage asset, useful for helping visitors to their ultimate destination quickly. Notice, however, that this is a supplemental screen toggled from the hamburger menu, not the main site navigation.

Modcloth-visual-navigation-with-callouts-298x300

                                   Image source

And don’t forget your search box. Your mobile website needs one, and if you really want to delight your mobile customers, make it a predictive search box like this one from Lush:

img_1302-blog-half

                            Image source

Don’t give into the temptation to scrimp on the content you put on your mobile website, either. You might imagine that there are some categories of products or information on your main site your mobile customers won’t need, but you might be surprised.

For example, you wouldn’t think many people would actually complete an expensive engagement ring purchase on a mobile device, so if you’re a major e-retailer like Blue Nile, why bother putting the same build-your-own engagement ring capabilities on your mobile site as you have on your main site? Well, for one reason, customers do enjoy building their perfect rings and sharing them on social media from the company’s mobile app and mobile website.

But that’s not all: Blue Nile generates 20 percent of its revenue from its mobile presence, and they estimate that mobile is responsible for closing about 30 percent of their sales. The company transformed its entire website to responsive design in 2015.

7. Don’t Neglect Your Fonts and Colors.

One of the worst things you can do is design your mobile website with text too small to be easily read; your users shouldn’t have to zoom to read a single word on your site, especially your navigation text. This leads to a terrible user experience, which is something search engines pay attention to in determining page rank.

For some brands, font choice is a major part of their overall branding, so the decision to switch fonts for the mobile site needs to be made judiciously. If you market to a mainly millennial demographic, you don’t have the same font size issues as, say, a brand that markets to baby boomers.

For easier navigation, choose fonts that are taller and naturally structured to leave a bit of space between letters. Most device manufacturers recommend Arial, Helvetica, Courier, Georgia, Times New Roman, and Trebuchet MS. Pick font colors that stand out from your background colors for easy reading.

And don’t forget the effect fonts have on load times, which is extremely important for mobile websites. When you are choosing a typeface, check it for speed. And only use a limited number of typefaces to keep page loads fast.

google-1024x417

Image source

With the number of consumers who do business on the mobile devices, and the increased buyer intent when it comes to mobile searchers, today’s businesses really must do the work to compete for mobile customers. The first step, then, is a mobile-friendly website that rests on mobile-first design principles that enhance the user experience.

Mobile’s influence is showing no signs of slowing down, so whether you decide to revamp your desktop site with responsive design or create a wholly separate mobile site, the stakes are high to up your mobile game.

How To Create An Amazing App Icon

Developing a mobile app that people can’t resist downloading isn’t as simple as merely giving them something useful.

You’ve also got to write a good app description, name your app appropriately, and – you guessed it – create an amazing app icon that makes them want to click.

The average smartphone has 41 apps that the owner uses regularly. And if you want your app to be one of those essential apps, you need an icon that makes your app look irresistible. Otherwise, you’ll have a tough time enticing people to download your app in the first place, much less actually use it.

In the past, app icons were designed purely with functionality and ease of access in mind, but today we know that a good app icon choice is based almost entirely on aesthetics .

And – make no mistake – good app icon design is critical to your app’s success.

You can use your icon to promote your app.

With app store discovery accounting for about 70% of app downloads, your icon serves as a graphical representation of your app as a whole, so it really defines your brand and the first impression your app makes on potential buyers. Make a bad first impression, and it’s likely that your potential customers will skip right over your app and opt for one of your competitors.

In fact, research shows that 92.6 percent of people put the most importance on visual factors when making a purchasing decision.

Want to learn how to make an app icon? Keep the following best practices in mind while designing your icon, and your app will be much more likely to attract your target audience.

App Icon Creation Best Practices

Pick a bold, unique shape.

Simplicity is key to creating an app icon that’s memorable and recognizable. If you don’t pick a shape that’s unique and bold, your app will end up blending in to the rest, meaning that fewer people will be enticed to download it.

It’s also important to note that you should try to incorporate what your app does into the design of the app icon somehow.

The Spotify app icon is a great example of a bold, unique shape that incorporates the app’s purpose into the design. Take a look:

1

You can see that they’ve chosen two colors and a simple shape, which makes the icon easy to recognize. On top of that, the black lines inside the green circle represent increasing speaker volume. That’s because Spotify is a music app, so it immediately illustrates the app’s purpose.

Here’s an example of an app icon that isn’t so great:

2.

This app has way too many elements. I mean, you can kind of tell what’s going on in the larger version, but it’s super difficult to understand all of the elements and what they mean in the smaller version. And because the smaller version is the one people are going to see on their mobile device, that’s a major problem.

So, while your app icon design doesn’t literally have to represent what your app does, it should represent some aspect of the overall functionality if possible. That way, people can quickly understand the value of your app just by looking at the icon.

Avoid using a photo.

This applies even if you think the photo includes a bold, unique shape. If you have a photo you really like that’s simple, bold, and represents your brand, create a vector image version of it. Or use some of the elements from the photo to inspire your vector image design, like this design by the Sipp app:

3

Image source: The Next Web

The Sipp app icon creators knew that the purpose of the app was to help users share information with their friends about the wines they tried. So their starting point was, of course, a picture of a glass of wine.

But they didn’t stop with the picture. Instead, they had the image illustrated and added a letter to it, improving the overall appearance of the icon and making it more memorable.

Don’t overload the icon with color and detail.

When designing your app, you have to keep in mind that the app will appear tiny on the user’s screen. That means that including too many colors or too much detail could hinder your app from standing out.

So limit yourself to two or three colors if possible, and resist the urge overload the design with detail. The simpler your app icon design is, the more it’ll stand out from the rest.

The Snapchat app icon is a great example of an app icon with a simple color palette and design.

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It’s a simple design with rounded corners. You can see that the two main colors are white and yellow, and the designer used a black border around the white ghost to make it stand out even more. It’s instantly recognizable from other icons on the home screen. So not only will it get the user’s attention in the app store, but it will also increase opens. And there’s not a lot going on in the design – it’s just a ghost on a plain background. That’s about as simple as it gets!

If you look through the app store, you might also notice that many app icons tend to have similar appearances. A recent study by Appbot revealed that many of the most popular apps have icons that share similar colorways.

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Red and blue dominate the landscape, while green is also pretty popular. But you’ll notice that the most prominent app icons tend to commit to just one or two colors.

Keep that in mind when you’re choosing the colors for your app.

And make sure the colors align with your brand. The color palette for the icon should be the same one you use in the design of the actual app, and it should attract your audience. Since 84.7% of people in a Secretariat of the Seoul International Color Expo survey reported that color accounts for more than half among the various factors important for choosing a product, its critical for you to choose the right color scheme.

Tip: Use contrast the right way in your design to draw potential customers’ eyes to your app icon. If you’re not sure which colors are best to use together or want to learn more about color theory in design, check out this blog post.

Don’t include words.

Think about it. Your app icon is going to look tiny on a smartphone screen, meaning that users will pretty much need a microscope to read any text you place on the icon.

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That’s why it’s best to leave text out of your icon design. If you create an effective app icon and name your app something appropriate, that will be enough to draw people in. Then, they’ll be able look at the app description to learn about what it is and what it does.

Now, you might be thinking:

Wait a second. Facebook technically uses text in their icon by putting the letter “F” there, and they have one of the most successful apps ever!

And you’re right. They do.

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This design works for them because it includes a bold, unique shape that represents their already well-known brand. So, if your brand is already well-known and you feel like a specific letter represents it, you may be able to create an iconic app icon with just that letter.

Otherwise, I strongly advise you to come up with something different that represents your app’s functionality. Just because Facebook can get away with using a single letter doesn’t mean that’s the best tactic for you.

Consider incorporating some kind of border.

We’ve already talked about how Snapchat put a border around the ghost in their app icon, but you could also put a border around the entire icon image. The Adobe Photoshop Express app icon is a great example of effective border use:

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You can see that their overall design is still simple and the border makes the icon stand out.

The main reason a border can help create more impact for your icon is because it emphasizes the content inside the border, making it stand out more in the app store. And that can easily result in more downloads.

You can even get creative with the border itself, creating a 3D effect like this:

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But remember – the border you use around your icon should have a strong color that contrasts well with the colors inside the border, or your icon might not stand out at all.

Look at your competitors’ app icon designs.

When you do this, you’ll be able to figure out which color scheme and design aspects could help you differentiate the most.

For example, let’s say you’re creating an app for users who want to check and organize their emails. Your best bet is to look up other email apps to find out what kind of design your competitors use. Here are some of the first ones that show up in the Apple app store when you search for “email”:

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Lots of clean app designs, right?

They aren’t all the same thing, but there’s a similar theme throughout all of these. Most of them include a picture of an envelope, and all of them include either red and white or blue and white as the color scheme.

To stand out from these competing apps, you might consider choosing a different color based on your brand and target audience. You could get creative and choose a symbol other than an envelope, although you’d still want to pick something that represents email if possible.

See how quickly a simple competitive analysis like this could help you figure out how to set your app apart from the rest?

It only takes a few minutes to look up your competitors, so there are no excuses for not doing this before you start designing. If you do skip this step, you may end up with an app icon that looks just like everyone else’s, giving users no incentive to download your app over your competitors’ apps.

Create several app icon variations to consider.

You can simply sketch these variations on a piece of paper or have a graphic designer handle it for you. The point here is to brainstorm and give yourself several ideas to consider before finalizing your app.

Here’s a good example of app icon sketches from a Behance case study:

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When you see your app icon sketches side-by-side this way, it’ll be easier to determine which elements you like best and which icon is most likely to entice users to download.

Look at your icon on a phone screen before you make a final decision.

When designing your app icon, you’ll need to consider how it will look against the colors of mobile device wallpapers. Keep in mind that most users have a unique wallpaper, so you want to make sure your app looks good against a range of dark and light backgrounds.

Some users even choose hectic live wallpapers with a range of colors and objects that can make apps hard to find on the screen. So it’s your job to make sure your app will always show up clearly.

And think about how the app looks in general on a phone screen too. If it’s too detailed to be recognizable or doesn’t look clean from a design perspective, you’ll need to make some changes.

Make sure your app icon is the right size.

When you create your app icon, it needs to be the appropriate size for the screen it’s going to be viewed on. And this isn’t an optional step for iOS app icons – Apple won’t even accept your custom icons if they aren’t the right icon size.

The last thing you want after spending so much time designing an appropriate app icon is for it to be rejected by the app store. So, if you’re going to release your app in the Apple app store, read their sizing guidelines here and make sure you follow them carefully. Wherever you plan to release your app, look for their required iOS app icon guidelines so you can follow them and make sure your app is accepted.

A/B test different app icons.

Doing so will help take the guesswork out of picking the best app icon design and help you choose the one that best resonates with your target audience.

If you’re releasing your app on Android, you can simply use the Google Play A/B testing feature. This is ideal for all Android app icons. If you’re releasing your app for iOS or somewhere other than the Google Play Store, try A/B testing your app with your Facebook audience – it’ll cost you some money, but the insight you’ll gain will be worth it.

Tip: For a more in-depth look at how to properly A/B test an app icon, check out this blog post. And for ideas on how to A/B test your app as a whole, read this advice from KISSMetrics.

Options for Creating Your Own Custom App Icons

You may be able to find a free app icon maker online, but you’re better off using quality design software or partnering with a professional graphic designer. That way, you end up with a well-designed icon that’s original and avoid having to work within the constraints of the free program (since it may only offer a few different fonts and images).

Let’s discuss these options a bit more in-depth now so you can make an informed decision.

Use Adobe Illustrator.

If you’ve worked in Illustrator before, you probably already know that its functionality makes it a great option for designing a vector image to use as your app icon.

After you’ve sketched your app icon design ideas, choose the one you want to work with, and import the sketch into Illustrator. Then, you can begin designing your icon based on the sketch.

Tip: If you don’t have lots of experience working in Illustrator but want to use it to design your icon, you can read this blog post for an easy tutorial. If you do have plenty of experience with Illustrator and Photoshop alike, here’s a more intermediate level guide to designing your app icon.

Hire a graphic designer or graphic design firm.

If you’re not a seasoned designer yourself, hiring one is probably your best bet for getting an app icon that resonates with your target audience and looks amazing in the app store.

Here are a few tips to help you hire the right graphic designer:

  • Look for a designer who specializes in app icon design. If they’ve never designed an app icon before, they may not have a deep understanding of app icon design best practices. So, try to look for a designer who has a portfolio full of attractive app icons. They should also be comfortable creating an Android app icon as well as iOS icons.
  • Avoid websites like Fiverr and Upwork. While some designers on these kinds of sites can produce high-quality work, you’re better off looking for a professional graphic designer on LinkedIn or asking one of your colleagues to recommend a designer they know and trust.
  • Look for testimonials. If you see that the designer’s previous clients were happy with their results, there’s a good chance that you’ll be happy with your app icon design.

Keep in mind that you often get what you pay for when hiring a graphic designer, and don’t expect to get your icon designed for cheap. The financial investment will be well worth the extra downloads your app gets because of its well-designed, eye-catching icon.

And remember: if you hire a designer to create a handful of designs to choose from and none of them meet what you’ve been looking for to represent your app, don’t settle. Your app icon is important, so you need to get it right.

In Conclusion

Now, you have all the information you need to design your app icon in a way that will attract potential customers. And before you know it, you’ll be able to release your app and watch as its unique icon design attracts huge numbers of downloads.

Whether you’re building an Android mobile app and need a custom icon, you’re creating game app icons, or something in between, I hope this guide steered you in the right direction.

The standards of app design overall are still being set, and just as mobile devices continue to evolve, so will the appearance of the app icons made for them.

So, experiment, run A/B tests, and find out what icons work best for your brand. Your app will have a greater chance of succeeding as a result.

Do you have any questions about how to create an amazing app icon? Ask away in the comments section!