If you want to create mobile apps without writing code, an app maker is your best option.
An app builder makes it easy for business owners and entrepreneurs to create apps at a fraction of the cost compared to traditional development. You can also get your app to market quickly, in days or weeks, as opposed to months or years.
There’s just one problem—the marketplace is flooded with different app makers. Finding the best app maker for your and your unique situation can be challenging, especially if you’ve never gone through this process.
That’s why we created this guide. You can use the criteria below to evaluate the best app builders by weeding out the bad options and narrowing down the serious contenders.
What is an App Maker?
App maker software is designed to create mobile apps without any code. Anyone can use an app builder to create their own app for the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
Historically, mobile app development required specialized skills and developers. Only those who were fluent in writing code in specific programming languages could create an application. Those who didn’t possess these skills either had to learn them or hire people to create the app.
But app makers bridge the gap to app development for non-technical users.
All of the technical specifications of the app are handled on the backend of the software. You just need to tell the app builder what features and functions you want included in the app using drag-and-drop technology or plugins.
Some of you reading this right now are already familiar with how this works. Lots of small business owners and entrepreneurs use website builders to power their sites. App makers use the exact same concept, except the end result is a mobile app instead of a website.
You can work on your app from anywhere without downloading software
It’s easier to make changes and update the app
All of the backend infrastructure is managed for you
Build for iOS and Android at the same time
Overall, app makers provide a faster and stress-free development experience—saving you tens of thousands of dollars.
Just be aware that if you’re planning to build a gaming app, VR/AR app, or app that’s highly graphics intensive, an app maker might not be the best option to consider. But for any other type of mobile app, app builders get the job done great and your end-users won’t know the difference.
What to Look For in an App Builder
There are certain factors you should be using to evaluate app makers and compare them side-by-side. Use the criteria below as a buying guide to help you determine if a prospective app builder meets the specifications for your project and needs:
The first thing you need to consider is the ease of use. That’s one of the main reasons you’re considering this method for your mobile app.
If it’s going to take you weeks or months just to learn how the app development platform works, then the software is likely too complicated.
Don’t get me wrong. An app maker is like any other piece of software. There’s going to be a slight learning curve the first few times you’re using it. Even Facebook or Instagram took a few sessions for you to learn where everything was on the app.
Finding an intuitive app builder with a user-friendly interface needs to be a priority. So take advantage of any free trials offered by the platform to get a feel for how it works. You’ll know within a week or two if the software can accommodate your needs or if it’s just too complex for your skill level.
There will obviously be a cost variation between the platforms you’re considering. Even within a specific platform, you’ll likely see different subscription options—each with more features and functions at different tiers.
Don’t like price alone drive your decision. Instead, look at the value you’re getting.
For example, you might find an app builder on the market for $200 per month and another one for $350. But if the $200 plan only lets you create an Android app and you want to build for iOS and Android, then that’s useless for your project.
The best app makers let you create a mobile app for iOS, Android, tablets, and PWA (progressive web apps). They also come with app analytics, built-in security, access to premium plugins, push notifications, and more.
You should also consider the level of service and support you’re getting if you need some help or want something customized. You’re probably not going to get that from a free app builder. So spending a little bit more today can actually help you out tremendously in the long run.
Features and Functionality
What type of app are you building? What do you want your app to do?
You need to know the answer to these questions as you’re comparing platforms.
Let’s say you want to create a mobile app to manage memberships for your gym. Or maybe you’re creating an app for internal employee communication. Does the no-code app builder you’re considering have the functionality you need to make this possible?
Don’t just look at what your app will be when it launches. You also need to make sure the app builder offers the functionality you need as your app grows down the road.
BuildFire has more than 150+ plugins that you can use to easily add features to your app with a single click. From appointment scheduling to videos, maps, push notifications, and more, we have you covered.
The best part about BuildFire, compared to other app makers, is its limitless functionality.
If you have a unique or custom feature idea that isn’t available in our plugin marketplace, it’s no problem—our in-house development team can create it for you. So you’ll never outgrow the platform.
Where do you want to launch your native mobile apps?
With traditional development, you need to code separate versions of your app for each operating system. Your iOS app and Android app are essentially two different projects, both requiring different developers to complete the job.
But app builders let you create multiple apps for each platform with a single build. So just make sure the software you’re considering has that option.
At a minimum, it should offer iOS and Android versions. But the best tools provide you with iPad versions and PWA as well. This helps get your app into the hands of the widest possible audience.
There are lots of makers on the market that really lack design options. Even though you’re using an app creator, it should still feel like your very own mobile app—not a cookie-cutter version that looks exactly like every other app created on the same platform.
Starting with an industry-specific template is always a plus.
For example, the homepage of an educational app probably shouldn’t be too similar to the homepage for a religious app. An ecommerce app should have a different design from an event planning app.
You should have full control over color schemes, buttons, menus, fonts, and every other visual component of the app and user interface.
This is a huge factor in the app creation process that’s often overlooked.
No matter how easy it might be to use different app makers, there’s a good chance you’re going to have a question at some point or another. It might not be today or next week, but it could be next month or next year.
When that happens, will the support team be there for you?
Support is more than just a chatbot sending you to a knowledge base article. It’s someone who can offer you real advice and suggestions to get an answer.
In a year or two, you might want a completely customized feature or function to accommodate market demands or a shift in your business model. When this situation arises, you want the ability to lean on your support options without being forced to move your app elsewhere.
If you’re going to outgrow the platform in a couple of years because the support options are limited, then it’s probably not the best app maker for your project.
At the end of the day, the mobile apps you’re building need to perform at a high level.
Your customers and user base don’t care what platform you used to build the app or how much you spent. They just want something that works as it’s intended to do.
Downtime, crashing, bugs—all of this spells disaster for your app.
Instead, you want an app that’s bug-free and loads quickly. You should be able to monitor all of the app analytics from your admin panel to see if users are experiencing problems and how they can be improved.
Look through some of the apps that were built on the platform you’re considering. Read the reviews and download them to see how well they’re performing. This will give you a good indication of how well your app will perform if you build it with the same platform.
Why BuildFire is the Best App Maker to Create an App
BuildFire is unlike any other app maker on the market today. It’s a simple yet powerful way to create an app for iOS, Android, and PWA—without any coding experience or technical knowledge.
You can get started in minutes and choose a stunning template from a unique selection of industry-specific categories. From there, it’s just a matter of adding functions by installing plugins from our marketplace. You have full control over the design, and it’s easy to make changes to your app from anywhere.
But where BuildFire really stands out from the crowd is its limitless customization.
We also offer full-service app development. So our in-house team is fully capable of creating custom features and functions on top of the platform.
With other app builders on the market, you’re limited to what your app can do based on the feature list. If a feature isn’t available, then you’re out of luck.
If you want a custom feature and don’t want to use our developers, that’s fine too. The BuildFire SDK makes it possible for you to use your own developers to create that functionality. All of which can be built on top of our existing infrastructure.
We also offer exceptional support through each step of the development project. So you can always reach out to our team for assistance and guidance.
Once your app is done, we’ll even help you get it live on the app stores. All of the security, maintenance, and backend requirements are handled for you.
BuildFire has been used to create more than 10,000+ mobile apps. So you know that it’s a reputable and reliable solution.
Using an app maker is the best path to development for the vast majority of mobile apps.
Make sure you use this guide as you’re shopping around and comparing options. If you use the criteria and buying considerations mentioned above, you’ll easily find the best platform for your app development needs.
No-code development bridges the gap between non-technical users and app development. Something that historically required tech skills and programming knowledge can now be achieved with a no-code app builder.
If you want to make an app but don’t know how to code, this guide is for you.
You’ll learn everything there is to know about no-code development, how it works, and how to use no-code app builders for your next project.
What is a No Code App Builder?
As the name implies, a no-code app builder allows users to create applications without having to write code. If you know how to navigate the web, you can use a no-code platform to create an app from scratch.
No-code app builders rely on simple visual editors and drag-and-drop tools.
You simply tell the software what to do, where you want things, and how you want it to look. Everything else is handled for you on the backend.
In traditional software development, the code represents instructions that tell the platform how to execute various functions. But no-code development uses an app maker to define what the app should do, as opposed to how it’s done.
For example, rather than having to write code for specific screens, button text, menus, and colors, you can use a no-code app builder to customize everything from a visual editor.
Benefits of Using a No Code Platform For Your App Idea
There are significant advantages of no-code development in creating mobile apps. In many scenarios, no-code will be the ideal method for any development project.
We’ll take a closer look at the benefits of no-code below:
No Technical Knowledge Required
No-code app builders make it easy for anyone to create native apps. You don’t need to have any coding skills, technical knowledge, or programming experience to bring your app idea to life.
In short, this means that the average person can develop applications with ease. There’s no need to hire a developer or learn how to code. No-code tools are very straightforward and don’t have much of a learning curve.
Get to Market Faster
Using traditional development to create mobile apps is time-consuming. The average project can take anywhere from six months to 18+ months between the time you start developing and the time you launch.
But no-code development can easily cut that timeline in half. In most cases, you should be able to launch your app within a few months.
This helps you stay competitive, improve the customer experience, and bring innovation to your business.
Launch on Both App Stores
There are two main app stores—the Apple App Store for iOS and Google Play Store for Android. Traditional development requires two different versions of the app—one for each store.
That’s because each platform uses different programming languages.
But with no-code development solutions like BuildFire, you can create an app for iOS and Android in a single build. Just build your app using the visual editor, and let us know when you’re done. BuildFire will get your app live on both stores with just a single click on your end.
Lower Development Costs
No-code lets you create apps for a fraction of the cost compared to low-level coding.
That’s because the development timeline is shortened, and you don’t need to hire a team of developers. Labor alone associated with hiring an iOS developer, Android developer, web developer, project manager, and quality assurance agent is costly.
But no-code does not require a team of developers. You can build the app on your own, and your only cost is the subscription fee to use the software.
The terms “no code” and “low code” often go hand-in-hand. But low-code options are not always synonymous with no-code development tools.
While it’s true that some platforms incorporate no-code and low-code technology to create mobile and web apps, there are some important differences that you need to understand between these technologies.
No-code platforms are built for everyone, including users who don’t have any prior experience with programming or app development. Low-code development does require some technical knowledge, and it typically requires trained developers to complete projects.
Low-code is still cheaper than traditional development, but it’s slightly more expensive than no-code options. Low-code tends to offer a bit more flexibility and customization options than no-code tools, as developers can create custom functions outside of the platform’s limitations.
BuildFire is the best of both worlds. It’s a no-code app builder that anyone can use, and it’s also developer-friendly.
This means that anyone with technical knowledge can use BuildFire to create custom functionality for mobile apps. The no-code platform and low-code capabilities can be used jointly to create a truly customized mobile app.
You can take advantage of BuildFire’s backend technology, including authentication servers, file servers, image servers, analytics servers, push notification servers, databases, CMS, and more. Everything can be built on top of our existing infrastructure.
How No Code App Builders Work
No code app builders work by giving creators the ability to control where everything goes. It’s as simple as dragging and dropping images or using a visual editor to change the text or colors on a screen.
As you make changes within the editor, you’ll see the changes in real-time on an emulator. This lets you see exactly how your changes are impacting the design choices and functions of your final product.
Everything is already pre-configured on the backend. So you won’t have to worry about maintaining the infrastructure, paying for servers, or maintaining updates. Your no-code tool will do all of this for you.
Many of the best no-code app builders rely on integrations, data connections, and plugins to support functionality. Adding a function to your app can be as simple as installing a plugin.
Want to add videos to your app? Simply install a YouTube or Vimeo plugin.
Do you need a way to manage bookings or events? There are plugins for that too.
The plugins can integrate with other tools like Zapier, Google Sheets, maps, and even leverage existing technology on the end-user’s device, like their camera or Bluetooth.
Types of Mobile Apps You Can Build With No Code Platforms
In most cases, you won’t be restricted by the type of app you can build with no code. You use this technology to create anything from a dating app to a web app and everything in between.
The only time where no-code isn’t ideal for native mobile apps is when you need to create something that’s highly graphics-intensive or extremely unique. For example, you probably wouldn’t use a no-code solution to build a gaming app or create the next Facebook.
With that said, you can still use no-code technology to create fully functional apps across dozens of categories. We’ll look at some examples below.
If you currently have an ecommerce website and want to turn it into an app, you can easily do so without any technical skills or coding knowledge.
All you need to do is find a no-code tool that you can sync with your online store. Then you can start selling immediately and increase mobile conversions with an ecommerce app.
You can create an app for one-time events and recurring events as well. Event apps are great for concerts, business expos, networking events, wedding planning, and so much more.
The app can be a one-stop shop to manage attendees, showcase sponsors, highlight exhibitors, share videos, and provide more detailed information about the location.
Apps For Business Processes and Employee Communication
No-code has really skyrocketed in popularity when it comes to building mobile applications for business use. Internal business solutions typically need to launch quickly, and most organizations are very cost-sensitive when they’re investing in this type of venture.
Businesses rely on no-code apps for HR, employee communication, employee self-service, business workflows, company announcements, schedule changes, staff directories, and more.
Fitness and Wellness Apps
No-code app makers allow gym owners, personal trainers, yoga instructors, dietitians, and anyone else in the fitness and wellness space to easily create an app.
This is a great way to expand your business and reach new clients. You can use the app to manage memberships, sell premium workouts, create meal plan videos, book classes at the gym, and so much more. You can even use a fitness app for virtual personal training sessions without ever having to meet clients in person.
There are tons of use cases for education apps in today’s day and age. Schools and universities are using them to share events, provide a staff directory, create a campus map, and engage with students.
These apps can also be used to facilitate quizzes, tests, surveys, polls, and more. They can be a resource for study materials, document sharing, and even showcase videos of pre-recorded classes. Check out our tips and best practices for creating educational apps to learn more.
Nonprofit and Religious Organization Apps
Nonprofits and churches may not have the budget or resources to develop an app from scratch. But a no-code app builder breaks down these barriers, allowing these types of organizations to go mobile.
Religious apps are great for sharing sermons, providing a digital bible, collecting donations, and creating a sense of community. Your members can take advantage of social media-like features to connect with each other and manage upcoming events.
Content and Entertainment Apps
Social media influencers and people with a podcast or YouTube channel can use no-code app builders to expand their reach. It’s just another channel where you can repurpose existing content or potentially create exclusive content that’s just for app users.
This is a great way to make money from your content. No-code app makers allow you to lock premium content and sell subscriptions to your fans. So you can easily earn recurring revenue and drive engagement from app users.
Best No Code App Builder For iOS and Android
BuildFire is the best tool on the market today for no-code development. It’s a simple and powerful way to create apps for iOS and Android—all for a fraction of the cost compared to traditional development.
The software is easy to use, and you can get started building the app of your dreams in a matter of seconds.
All you need to do is sign up, select a template, and you can start customizing everything you need from our visual editor and see the changes in real-time through an interactive app emulator.
Where BuildFire really shines is its limitless functionality. There are hundreds of plugins on the BuildFire marketplace that you can use to seamlessly add features to your app in a single click.
But unlike other app builders on the market, BuildFire also supports custom development.
Let’s say there’s a unique feature that you want to include on your app, but you can’t find it in the form of a plugin. No problem. With BuildFire, you can have your own developer create that functionality for you and add it to the app. Or reach out to our team of in-house developers to build it.
Other no-code app builders restrict functionality and limit your growth. But the opportunities are endless with BuildFire, and our platform is built to scale.
No matter what you want your app to be or how many users download the app, you’ll never outgrow our platform.
No-code app development is the future, and the future is now.
Gone are the days when you need to hire an entire development team and wait a year to launch your app. No-code technology lets you build apps quickly, get to market fast, and save money on development.
If you’re just an average business user that doesn’t have the time, patience, or resources to learn code or outsource development, no-code is the solution.
You can use a no-code app builder to expand your existing business or start a new venture from scratch. The opportunities are limitless.
Anyone can come up with an app idea. But your mobile app ideas alone probably won’t be enough to pitch investors or impress company stakeholders.
Creating an app prototype will give you a significant advantage in these scenarios.
When you create prototypes, it shows potential partners, investors, and stakeholders that you’re serious about the project. It also gives everyone an opportunity to see the look and feel of your software development project instead of just reading words on a page or hearing you talk.
This in-depth guide explains everything you need to know about mobile prototypes and how to make them.
What is a Mobile App Prototype?
Mobile app prototypes are preliminary mock-ups that look and feel like real apps. App prototypes exhibit the app’s fundamental purpose and design but do not contain any functional code.
App prototypes can come in all different shapes and sizes. Some are just basic sketches, while others are high-fidelity prototypes, interactive prototypes, or clickable prototypes.
You can create different types of prototypes at each stage of the app design process. Your idea might start as a hand-drawn sketch on a piece of paper. These types of prototypes are crucial during the early brainstorming phases of app development, and they allow your design team to quickly iterate the ideas.
Low-fidelity prototypes often transform into digital prototypes that showcase the app’s functionality. These prototypes display the app’s basic structure and big-picture vision.
Benefits of App Prototyping
There are lots of different advantages to prototyping in the development process. Let’s take a closer look at the top reasons why you should create a prototype:
Fast Iterations — Even if you already have a clear vision of your app concept, prototypes let your team cycle through multiple drafts and versions of the idea before writing any code. This helps with quick iterations during the planning stages and even helps validate ideas.
Improve Clarity — Prototypes help get your entire development team on the same page. They align the creative ideas with the designers, developers, project managers, and stakeholders. You can even use early prototypes to get quick feedback before proceeding with user testing or more advanced market research.
Enhanced Selling — For those of you taking your app idea to an investor pitch in an effort to receive funding, a prototype will help you stand out. It’s tough for prospective investors to pour money into an idea without knowing what the final product will look like. In addition to selling your ideas to investors, you can also use a prototype for selling your idea to your board of directors or even prospective customers.
Low Risk — Creating a prototype gives you the opportunity to fail early with virtually no risk. During the prototyping process, you and your team may realize that the idea isn’t very practical and won’t turn out the way you initially envisioned. It’s much better to come to this realization at this stage when there’s very little investment in the project.
How to Make a Mobile App Prototype
Now that you understand what a prototype is and why it’s so important, it’s time to create a prototype for your mobile app. Just follow these simple steps below to get started:
Define the Problem
The first step of creating an app prototype is similar to the first stage of making an app. You need to identify the problem that your app will solve.
For some of you, this might seem fairly simple. But you’d be surprised how many people come up with an app idea just because it sounds cool—even though it’s actually not solving a problem or addressing a market need.
If you’re going to pitch an app idea to investors, partners, or a board of directors, they’ll shoot it down immediately if it’s not meeting a market demand that solves a problem.
Don’t try to skip or breeze through this process. Taking the time to clearly understand the goal and purpose of your app will become the foundation for every aspect of the development project.
Identify Key Functions
Now that you’ve figured out the problem, you need to come up with features that will address that problem. In short, you’re defining the app’s functionality.
You can start the brainstorming process by listing all potential features that the app could have. But then you’ll want to narrow the focus specifically to functions that serve as a core requirement for the app to work.
Don’t get carried away here. Yes, any app “could” have certain functions. But ask yourself—does it really need this functionfor the app to work?
If the answer is no, then you can skip it now for the prototyping phase. You can always come back to this idea later on down the line. Stick with a maximum of five key features and design your prototype around that functionality before you worry about all the screens.
Sketch Your Ideas
Now it’s time to take your ideas and put them on paper. This step is the earliest part of the design process and doesn’t require a prototyping tool just yet.
You can draw your initial sketches and UI elements with a pen and paper.
Take the primary functions from the previous step and start to think about the user experience. How will the user interfaces look when real users want to complete a task using the app?
If you’re stuck, you can always look to existing apps for inspiration. Borrowing ideas from other successful apps on the market can really help mold and shape your sketches.
These sketches aren’t supposed to have advanced animations or act as a working prototype. You just want to create a fluid UI for your first prototype that will eventually transform into something more tangible throughout the process.
Use Your Sketch to Create a Wireframe
Now you can take your sketch and bring it to the next level by creating digital assets. Start with a low-fidelity wireframing tool to speed up the process.
Many people confuse wireframes with prototypes. While the two terms are related, they’re actually very different.
Wireframes will contain the basic layout and structure of the app, which is something you’ll need to create a prototype. But a prototype is much more advanced.
The best prototypes show more attention to detail in terms of design and visuals. Some prototypes are even clickable and interactive. You can think of the wireframe as your bare-bones structure of the prototype at its most basic level.
Turn Your Wireframe Into a Mobile App Prototype
As mentioned above, prototypes essentially turn wireframes into something more advanced. You’ll definitely want to use a prototyping tool to help you with this step, and we’ll discuss some options to consider shortly.
While your wireframes can be sent to your team members for feedback, the target audience of a prototype is a bit different. Prototypes are better for sharing with executives, decision-makers, investors, or even potential customers.
The idea of a prototype is to make the app feel real for anyone who might have a vested interest in the project. You can also hand a prototype off to your developers, so they have a better sense of what they’re building toward.
I like to think of the prototype as a way to bring the wireframes to life. You’re adding legs and giving the wireframe some personality when you create a prototype.
While a wireframe might just be used internally, a prototype is something that you can show off. You can add it to your website or even share it on social media as a way to build hype for your app and start promoting it before launch.
Best Prototyping Tools For Mobile Apps
Creating an app prototype is easier when you’re using a prototyping tool. While there are various tools on the market that seemingly offer similar solutions, the following five options are a good place to start your search:
Figma is branded as a collaborative interface design solution. It’s a web-based graphics editor and prototyping tool that’s an industry favorite amongst the design community.
This tool is really useful during the early stages of app development when you’re working collaboratively with a team for brainstorming. You can take advantage of its online whiteboard for workshopping ideas before bringing them to life with a prototype.
Then you can take those ideas and have them at your fingertips as you bring the design work from ideation to execution.
Moqups is an all-in-one platform for wireframes, UI design, and prototypes. This prototyping tool has been used by more than two million people to create a prototype.
The platform comes with out-of-the-box stencils for different use cases and design elements. This includes mobile app design for both iOS and Android.
You can use an extensive list of fonts and styling options to bring your mockups to life and easily drag and drop images to the prototype to fit your branding.
Plans for solo users start at just $13 per month.
BuildFire is an app-building platform and app development service under one roof. It’s not actually a prototyping tool in the traditional sense, but you can still use BuildFire to create a prototype.
BuildFire Plus is our all-inclusive design and development service. Our team can take your idea and turn it into a reality through each step of the process, including pre-launch and post-launch initiatives.
During these early stages, we’ll create a wireframe and eventually turn that wireframe into a prototype before we start building anything. This service is ideal for anyone who would rather pass off the app development responsibilities to a trusted development partner.
You’ll have the opportunity to review the wireframes and prototypes before any development begins, ensuring everyone is on the same page before the app gets built.
Justinmind is a free prototyping tool and UI design platform for mobile and web apps.
You can use it to transform your wireframes into a fully interactive prototype.
Unlike some of the other tools on our list, Justinmind is not a web-based solution. You do need to download software to your computer to use Justinmind to make a prototype. It’s available for both macOS and Windows machines.
The basic plan is free forever, and premium subscriptions for advanced interaction and design start at $9 per user per month.
Proto.io is one of the most popular tools on the market for creating an app prototype.
It was initially built to work on mobile devices, but the platform has since expanded to a web-based version that still supports any mobile app prototype initiative.
What really makes this tool stand out from the crowd is its simplicity. It’s trusted by entrepreneurs, marketers, project managers, entrepreneurs, and UX designers. If you have a great idea and want to create a mobile app prototype, Proto.io makes it possible.
It’s a bit pricey compared to similar tools. There’s no free forever plan, and the entry-level package starts at $29 per month.
You can save up to 20% by committing to an annual contract, and you can try Proto.io with a 15-day free trial.
Final Thoughts on Mobile App Prototypes
Creating a prototype is a crucial step in the early stages of app development.
You can make a prototype on your own by following the steps in this guide and using one of the prototyping tools on the list above.
Building mobile apps no longer requires coding skills and technical knowledge. With the help of app makers and app creation software, anyone can create their own mobile app without writing a single line of code.
But not every app builder on the market is created equally.
To help you find the best app development platform for your specific use case, we’ve reviewed and tested the best app makers and narrowed down the top ten options.
Top 10 Best App Building Software
Before you start building mobile apps, check out these reviews to see which app builder best fits your needs, app idea, and business model.
BuildFire is the most powerful app builder for iOS apps and Android apps on the market today.
Trusted to create more than 10,000 mobile apps, it’s the easiest way for anyone, regardless of technical ability, to create an app from scratch and get it in the hands of real users.
As a web-based solution, there are no software installation requirements or steep learning curves to get started. You can sign up for a free trial today and start building your app immediately.
To get started, choose from a professionally-designed template in your app category. Then it’s just a matter of customizing the content to fit your vision.
Adding features and functions is simple. Just browse from the hundreds of pre-built functions on the BuildFire marketplace, and add them to your app with a single click.
What makes BuildFire stand out compared to other app builders is its limitless customization and scalability. You’ll never outgrow BuildFire, and you can always add custom features.
If you have a function in mind that you don’t see on the feature marketplace, just connect with a BuildFire rep, and the pro services team will build it for you.
BuildFire is the best way to build mobile apps quickly and for a fraction of the cost compared to traditional development. When you’re done building the app, you can get it live on the app stores with a single click. The BuildFire team understands the publishing requirements for the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, and they’ll assist you with the publishing process.
BuildFire’s app development platform starts at just $159 per month, and you can try it for free with a 14-day trial.
2. Inspire U Mobile Apps
Inspire U is a no-code app builder that advertises the ability to build your own app in four hours.
It’s a simple and intuitive platform designed for creating custom mobile apps without any technical knowledge.
The company was founded by a marketing consultant that quickly realized the opportunity and demand in the app development space. After working with so many clients that needed an app, Inspire U Mobile Apps was born.
This customer-oriented brand is built on the foundation of hard work, quality, innovation, and trust.
They also run app development workshops to help teach people how to use the software.
For nearly a decade, the tool has been used to develop apps for business productivity and internal solutions.
Similar to some of the other app makers on our list, Skuid isn’t really designed for customer-facing mobile apps.
One unique standout of this mobile app builder software is its recent partnership with Salesforce. It was recognized for its ability to create apps that drive customer success using this well-known sales tool.
Skuid can be used to create apps for guiding sales, partner portals, people operations, and other internal business processes.
They also pledge to give 1% of their equity, employee time, and product licenses back to the community.
Linx is a unique app development solution compared to other options we’ve reviewed so far.
Based in South Africa, this low-code development platform is designed for creating and hosting backend applications.
Like other low-code solutions, Linx does require some technical knowledge. You can host on-premise or cloud solutions that contain built-in monitoring, management, and metrics.
Some examples of what you can build with Linx include:
Integrated systems (like mining and supplier integrations)
Backend web applications
Automated backend processors
Endpoints for Webhooks
APIs and microservices
It’s worth noting that this low-code IDE is probably the most complex solution on our list. While you technically don’t need to write code, some basic coding knowledge and technical skills are definitely helpful.
Linx is built for developers.
9. Alpha Software
Alpha Software provides mobile app development tools for both low-code and no-code apps.
It offers two different Alpha app development solutions—Alpha TransForm and AlphaAnywhere.
You can use this platform to create cross-platform apps using a low code system. If you want to create a no-code app, then you can use it for things like automating workflows and digitizing paper forms.
The platform offers offline capabilities, simple licensing, and the ability to integrate with any system.
It’s commonly trusted by SaaS solutions and professional services that have specific use cases.
Xojo is a solid app development option for developers that want to create a native app across multiple platforms.
You can use Xojo for desktop apps, web apps, mobile apps, and Raspberry Pi.
Unlike other web-based tools on our list, Xojo does require a software download for you to use it. The software is compatible with macOS, Windows, and Linux machines.
Overall, Xojo is a beginner-friendly tool that’s designed for developers.
It has more than 40+ built-in user interface tools that you can use to customize the look and feel of your app. The software also supports advanced features like inheritance and polymorphism.
How Do You Create Apps With an App Builder?
Using an app builder to create mobile apps is a bit different from traditional development. The best app makers don’t require any coding skills or programming knowledge to get started.
It’s worth noting that some low-code tools on our list are made for developers and do require some tech skills.
For no-code mobile apps, getting started is typically as easy as creating an account and choosing a template. You can do this directly from your web browser, without any software downloads or installations required.
Here’s a quick glance at what the initial stage looks like when you’re creating apps with BuildFire:
Once you’ve selected a template, you can dive straight into the app development process.
Just set up your account, and you can immediately start adding features and functions from the marketplace.
Now that you’ve had a chance to look at some of the best app development solutions on the market, it’s time to find the right app development software for you. Keep the following considerations in mind as you’re comparing options and narrowing down a shortlist.
Ability to Create iOS and Android Apps
This is the first thing you should look for if you’re seeking mobile app development software for real users. The best tools let you create iOS apps and Android apps in a single build.
If you can’t simultaneously create Android native apps and iOS native apps using the platform, it’s going to add to your costs and extend your project deployment time.
App Development Timeline
How long will it take for you to create the app?
Some app development solutions say you can build the app in hours. Others advertise weeks or months.
This answer is going to vary for everyone. It depends on what type of app you want to build and the features you’re adding. If you’re going to add custom features beyond the plug-and-play options offered by the software, it’s typically going to take a bit longer.
Always sign up for a free trial of app development software before you start building.
These trials are the best way to get a feel for the app builder and what the solution offers. After playing around testing a handful of these solutions, you should be able to quickly identify which one gives you the most flexibility.
App Development Software Cost
Your budget is obviously an important factor when you’re comparing app development tools.
With that said, you shouldn’t look at price alone if you’re assessing two tools side-by-side. While one tool might have a lower price tag, it could be extremely limiting compared to tools with more custom options.
Generally speaking, cheaper app development software translates to less flexibility. You’ll be bound by certain restrictions of the tool, making it tough to scale or add custom features.
Some solutions might have a higher price point, but they come with pro services solutions and added support before, during, and after you launch the app.
Lots of app makers on the market are rigid and don’t leave much room for customization. You’re bound by the limitations of the software and what that tool can handle.
BuildFire is the only app maker that truly allows you to create fully custom apps without writing any code. That’s because BuildFire offers limitless scalability and customization.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for on the feature marketplace, BuildFire has a team of expert developers that can create custom functionality for you.
Assess All the Features
This is something you can focus on during your free trial of an app development tool.
Assess the features and see if there’s something missing that you’d need to complete the full app. The best tools should include features for push notifications, analytics, app publishing, and more.
You can also look at the pre-built functionality for things like calendars, video integrations, polling, social walls, event management, images, ecommerce integrations—the list goes on and on.
Ease of Use
Simplicity is key when you’re comparing app development tools.
If you don’t have any technical skills or coding knowledge, you need a solution that lets you create native mobile apps without writing any code.
With any software, there’s always a slight learning curve. But you shouldn’t have to go through any complex training or courses to figure out the tool. Some solutions on our list are a bit more advanced and designed for developers. These often come in the form of low-code app development as opposed to no-code app development.
Having a team of experts at your disposal definitely makes some tools stand out from the crowd.
If you have some questions or need something done for you, you’ll definitely want to lean towards a tool that offers white-glove assistance. This can range from basic questions about using the software to full-service feature creation.
The best app development software delivers a stunning final product. After all, isn’t that what’s most important?
Some tools might be cheap and easy, but the end result is a rigid app that crashes and has too many problems.
Check out some of the existing apps that have been built using the software you’re considering. See if those apps perform well or if they have bugs and errors. You can also refer to the user reviews of those apps to see whether or not real users are happy with the in-app experience.
App Submission Process
Development is just the beginning part of creating and managing an app.
But once the process is complete, how are you going to get your app live on the app stores?
The Apple App Store and Google Play Store each have a unique publishing process. So it’s in your best interest to use an app builder that provides a seamless submission process.
Having a team of experts at your disposal definitely makes some tools stand out from the crowd.
If you have some questions or need something done for you, you’ll definitely want to lean towards a tool that offers white-glove assistance. This can range from basic questions about using the software to full-service feature creation.
Final Thoughts on the Top App Building Software
The best mobile app development software should be easy to use, customizable, and built to scale.
This guide contains something for everyone, but some of these tools definitely stand out compared to others.
UX design has become one of the hottest buzzwords in the world of mobile app and web design. Yet so few design teams actually understand what it means and how to apply it properly.
Whether you’re a prospective UX designer, entrepreneur, or business user that wants to create a mobile app, this guide is perfect for you.
We’ll dive deep into the core UX design principles that must be applied to ensure your app is a success.
What is UX Design?
User experience (UX) design is the process of creating products that deliver meaningful and relevant experiences to end-users. It encompasses all stages of acquiring and integrating the project, including usability, branding, and functionality.
UX design is commonly associated with software, mobile apps, and web design. But these concepts can be applied to any product, system, or service. For example, whether you’re creating a can opener, web page, or an employee onboarding process, ease of use and enhanced user experience are important for all three.
For our purposes in this guide, we’re going to focus more on UX design as it applies to mobile apps.
Why is UX Design Important?
UX design principles provide the strong foundation that’s required to make all of the creative elements associated with your project. This includes everything from design patterns to interaction models, wireframes, storyboards, prototypes, and more.
As the name implies, UX (user experience) design focuses on the user and the user’s experience. But many designers find this definition to be a bit vague and unhelpful when they’re going through the design process.
That’s where the UX design principles come into play. If you understand these principles and core design concepts through each design phase, UX design will be integrated into each step of the UX project.
Ultimately, UX design is so important because it has a direct impact on the user’s perception of your product. If the visual design is unappealing or the design usability fails, it’s going to leave users with a bad taste in their mouths. Conversely, a great UX design keeps users engaged and coming back for more—which is crucial for mobile apps.
What’s the Difference Between the UX Design Process and UI Design?
UX design is almost always associated with user interface (UI) design. These terms are often used jointly and sometimes interchangeably. But UX components and UI components are actually very different.
In a nutshell, UI design is about the technical elements that make it possible for users to interact with a product. UX design focuses more on the user’s overall experience and perception of the software.
UX design is about solving problems and addressing pain points a user might be experiencing, whereas UI design encompasses the look and feel. The former forces you to find the right UI components to complete specific actions, navigate, and use the app with ease. The latter is more of a holistic view of the design.
10 UX Design Principles For Mobile App Development
Now that you understand the basics of UX design, what it means, and why it’s so important, it’s time to dive deep into user experience design principles. We’ve identified and explained the top ten UX design principles that every UX designer needs to know.
1. Prioritize the User
First and foremost, you need to meet the users’ needs. A user-centric design is arguably the most key UX design principle for mobile app development.
Even in the early stages, you need to think about what users actually look for in a design. Many designers often drop the ball here because they make too many assumptions. Some design concepts might seem like a great idea to you—but you’re not the user.
There’s a big difference between what you think users will do and what they actually do.
Testing your design concepts with a user control group is the best way to validate these ideas before putting them into practice.
As designers gain more skills in their practice, they commonly step too far outside of the box. They’re more focused on impressing their colleagues and pushing design concepts to the limits. When this happens, the user experience gets lost in the shuffle, and the UX design fails.
You must find a balance between elegant designs that are combined with form and function. The user experience must be integrated into your app design at the earliest stages, or a snowball effect will push the user further and further away as the design develops over the product life cycle.
2. Be Consistent
Another core UX design principle is consistency. Users interact with other applications and software outside of what you’re building. You need to understand that there are similar UX design patterns across most of these apps, and your application needs to mimic them.
For example, when you land on a web page, there are certain things that you expect—like a menu bar at the top of the screen. Technically, a designer could put that menu bar anywhere. They could make it a diagonal menu that runs from the bottom left corner of the screen to the top right corner of the screen. But that would be inconsistent with everything a user knows about page navigation.
There’s a fine line between being creative and consistent. If you’re on the fence, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. Don’t break away from the “accepted norms” that people are used to.
That’s the first part of being consistent with your UX design. Next, you need to make sure your design is consistent across all of your touchpoints.
Your mobile app design, tablet app design, website design, and mobile web design should be consistent as well. Here’s an example many of you can probably relate to.
If you use Slack for business messaging, you’ll notice a consistent experience between the web version, desktop version, and mobile app version of the software.
This ensures that users have a seamless experience as they use the app across multiple devices, and they don’t need to relearn the design every time.
3. Establish a Visual Hierarchy
As a UX designer, you need to clearly establish a visual hierarchy on every screen. A quick glance at the page should tell users everything they need to know about what’s important and what’s not.
Bigger buttons are more important than smaller buttons. An icon that’s a different color than every other clickable icon on the screen is meant to stand out. These are the types of design patterns that you need to incorporate into your project.
The image on the right establishes a visual hierarchy using both size and scale.
Applying color and contrast differences is another way to accomplish hierarchy.
Spacing, proximity, alignment, reputation, leading illness, the rule of thirds, perspective—all of these are great design tricks for UX design.
Similar to consistency, creating a hierarchy is a two-fold process. In addition to the on-screen elements, you also need to think about creating a logical navigation hierarchy.
Each internal page of the app should be no more than three clicks away from the home page.
4. Accessibility Testing
App accessibility must be taken into consideration when you’re going through the UX design process. This is for visually impaired users or anyone who might have trouble seeing things on the screen.
For example, certain colors can make it challenging for colorblind users to distinguish one button from another. Or maybe something like enabling low light settings can make it easier for someone to use the app.
Screen readers, labels, and other tools can be used to ensure nobody is hindered by the design choices.
Having a high contrast between backgrounds and other on-screen elements can also help you design for accessibility. But ultimately, you need to confirm these design choices with actual tests to ensure they meet the needs of certain users.
5. Usability Testing
As previously mentioned, lots of UX designers tend to make assumptions about their choices. But those assumptions must be validated with UX research and user testing before they get applied to the app.
This is the only way to truly see how real users interact with your mobile app.
See if your design choices hinder or impair certain in-app actions. Gather feedback about the design choices, navigation, and overall usability.
I strongly recommend this resource as you apply this UX design principle.
6. Keep it Simple
Simplicity is another key UX design principle that’s often overlooked during the design process.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes trying to be too creative and thinking too far outside of the box can do more harm than good.
Stick to what works, and don’t overcomplicate things.
A really clean, sleek, and modern design without extras is always going to be a solid choice. Try not to clutter the page or force extra elements onto each screen.
Users shouldn’t feel overwhelmed with options or choices—everything should be very straightforward and simple. This also relates back to our previous UX design principle about testing. If things aren’t simple, you should be able to quickly identify those areas when you’re running tests.
Here’s an example of a really simple and clean design:
There are no fancy bells or whistles that will distract the user from performing actions on each page and navigating throughout the app.
Designers don’t always think about text as part of the design language. But typography has a significant impact on the user experience and must be considered during the design process.
How will the typography seamlessly integrate with the different user interfaces of the product?
You also need to make sure the typography is consistent from screen to screen and across all of your touchpoints.
Believe it or not, your typography choices can have a major impact on the way users interpret the text and language on the screen.
In some cases, you can even integrate your typography with accessibility—a UX design principle that we discussed earlier. For example, larger text on the screen is easier to read.
This is a simple yet effective approach to applying these principles.
It may sound like a cliché, but context is key when you’re designing anything—especially a mobile app. This is something else that many new UX designers often forget to consider in their projects.
Your design choices can impact user behavior and how users interpret the app.
For example, let’s say you were building a financial planning app. Having tons of bright colors, images of clowns, and an amusement park theme wouldn’t really be appropriate. The context is way off.
To help you with the design context, keep the following considerations in mind:
What is the user’s goal?
What types of tasks is the user completing?
What type of brand image are you trying to convey?
What are the overall organizational goals of your brand?
What are the goals of the specific project?
What type of environment and location will the user be in when using the app?
Apps used for personal use at home will have a different design context than professional apps used in the office.
9. Tell a Story
The best UX designers put some personality into their designs. This makes the user experience more enjoyable if it feels like there’s a user persona associated with the design.
Visual storytelling is one of the best ways to do this.
Obviously, the exact story you tell will vary based on the type of app you’re building. As mentioned, the context needs to make sense too.
But this is definitely an area where you can let your creative juices flow. Create a narrative that the user can follow as they navigate from screen to screen.
You can even use animations or create characters to tell the story for you. This is something that’s more common in gaming apps but can be applied to a wide range of potential use cases.
10. Get Confirmations
Helping users avoid mistakes is one of the most important UX design principles to consider.
For example, imagine if clicking on a product automatically facilitates a purchase in a single click. If a user accidentally clicks the wrong button, it could cost them money.
Alternatively, think of an app where the primary function is to build something important. Maybe they’re using the app to create a resume or organize their portfolio. Imagine if a single button on the screen erased all of their work.
This would obviously not lead to a positive user experience.
That’s why you need to get confirmations like “are you sure you want to delete this?” Even a simple “confirm order” button during the checkout process can get the job done.
So don’t forget these types of actions when you’re designing the app using a professional prototyping tool.
Final Thoughts — What’s the Most Important UX Design Principle?
There is no single most important UX design principle. You need to take all of these concepts into consideration when you’re designing an app.
If you need help or more inspiration, we have an entire library of design resources that you can reference. It covers everything from app design tools to branding, how-to basics, ebooks, and more.
Alternatively, you can lean on BuildFire and pass your entire design process off to the experts.
With BuildFire Plus, our team can handle all of the app design and development on your behalf. We’ll work with you on wireframes, prototypes, and mockups to ensure we’re on the same page. Then we’ll take your ideas and bring them to life.
Having a mobile website isn’t enough for your business to stay competitive and relevant in today’s day and age. App development is the future, and the future is now.
Whether you’re an iPhone or Android user, think about the way you use your smartphone on a daily basis. 88% of all mobile time is spent on apps.
The mobile application experience from a smartphone is far superior to web browsing. There are millions of apps available for download on the Apple Apple Store and Google Play Store. Simply put, smartphones were built for apps—not websites.
Here’s the good news. If you already have a website, you can convert that site to a mobile app with ease. You already have most of the content at your fingertips. Now it’s just a matter of putting that content into an app, and this guide will teach you how.
5 Main Reasons to Convert Your Website to an App
Are you still on the fence about mobile app development? These are the five main reasons why you need to create a mobile app:
#1 — Easy to Use and Access
When a native app gets installed on a mobile device, it’s much easier for that smartphone user to access, open, and use the application. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself right now.
Reach into your pocket and open an app on your phone. Now navigate to the website of that company. Which was quicker and easier?
Opening a mobile app takes a single click. But navigating to a website requires you to open a web browser, manually type in a URL, or use a search engine to find the site.
That’s just one of the many reasons why people prefer iOS apps and Android apps over browsing the internet from their mobile devices. Just look at this data from eMarketer:
On average, people spend just 23 minutes per day using web browsers on their mobile devices. But they’re spending nearly four hours per day using apps.
#2 — More Modern Than a Website
Having a website has basically become a requirement for all businesses. So your site isn’t really giving you an edge over the competition in terms of keeping up with the times.
But now, we’ve reached a point where people expect businesses to have a mobile app as well. If you don’t have an app, it can make your business seem like it’s falling behind modern trends. This holds true for nearly every business type and industry, including:
Small business apps
Fitness and gym apps
Health and wellness apps
Internal communications apps
The list goes on and on. If you want to show your current and prospective customers that your business is modern, developing a mobile app is one of the best ways to do so.
#3 — Better Engagement
Mobile devices were built for mobile apps. They offer enhanced functionality compared to a web app or mobile site.
It’s easier for apps to connect to device features, such as an internal camera, microphone, GPS, and more. Apps also offer the option for users to leverage device-specific gestures, like swiping, pinching, and other interactions that they can’t get from a mobile web browser.
Compared to the mobile web, engagement is roughly 16 times higher on mobile apps.
Beyond engagement, apps also have the edge when it comes to conversions. In fact, mobile apps convert at a 157% higher rate than mobile sites.
Mobile sites are a bit limiting in terms of what they can accomplish. But apps are programmed to be much more interactive. This creates a better user experience.
For example, when you click on an action button on a website, there’s going to be some load time for the next page to appear. There might even be a delay in the site recognizing your gesture.
But with an app, navigating from screen to screen is seamless. Everything is enhanced because the application is built specifically for the platform it’s being used on.
#5 — Revenue Potential
Mobile apps are an absolute must for businesses selling products or services online. When you look at the revenue potential of an app compared to a mobile site, there’s almost no comparison.
Think about the process involved with buying something from a mobile site. Once the user adds an item to their cart, they have to enter so much information to convert.
Credit card number
Credit card expiration date
This takes forever, and it’s tough to do from a small screen. But from an app, all of this information can be saved on file within the user’s profile. So purchasing is a breeze.
That’s why mobile apps have just a 20% cart abandonment rate, compared to a 97% abandonment rate from mobile websites.
Even if you’re not selling physical products or digital products, an app can still increase your revenue. For example, barbershops, salons, spas, and similar services can use apps to manage appointments, bookings, and deposits.
Content apps can sell subscriptions. You also have the opportunity to increase revenue with ads within your mobile apps—the opportunities are seemingly endless.
How Can a Mobile App Be Better Than a Website?
To be clear, I’m not saying that you need to get rid of your website. You still need to maintain your site and keep it updated.
But there are lots of reasons why mobile development is superior to web development, especially when comparing the usage from mobile devices. Examples include:
It’s easier to personalize apps and in-app content for the user.
Once an app has been installed on a user’s device, it’s easier to access and open.
App owners can use push notifications to send timely messages to users, keep them engaged, and entice them to open the app.
Apps can incorporate mobile device features like GPS, Bluetooth, camera, microphone, contact lists, and more.
Apps support offline mode, meaning app users won’t always need an internet connection to use the app from their smartphones.
Apps work quicker on mobile devices compared to websites.
People spend more time on their phones using apps compared to mobile sites.
iOS vs. Android: What’s the Best App Platform?
When it comes to mobile app development, there are two major platforms that dominate this space—iOS and Android.
If you’re going through native development, there are several key differences between these platforms that you need to consider. Things like cost, target audience, programming language, and development tools will all be impacted based on your decision. There are more Apple users in the US, but Android controls the global market share.
It’s impossible to say that one platform is better than the other. But rather than being forced to choose, you can use an app builder like BuildFire to create an iOS app for the Apple App Store and an Android app for the Google Play Store simultaneously with a single build.
This is the easiest and most cost-effective way to convert your website into a mobile app, and it doesn’t require any coding knowledge or technical skills. You’ll get your app to market quickly, and you won’t have to worry about hiring a team of developers for each platform.
Key Considerations When Converting Your Website to an App
Before we get into the actual steps that you’ll take to create an app, here are some things that you’ll need to keep in mind as you’re going through this process:
Think about your target audience and what platforms they’re using.
Decide whether you want to create a native app, hybrid app, or cross-platform app.
Figure out if you want to create the app on your own using an app builder or whether you’re going to hire a team of developers.
Start to think about your development costs and post-launch maintenance costs.
Think about screen sizes, devices, and platforms that the app will be used on.
Decide if you’re going to create the app in-house or outsource it to a professional app development company.
How to Convert Your Website to a Mobile App
Ready to convert your site to an app? Here’s what you need to do:
Create a List of Desired Features
You shouldn’t be taking your website and just repurposing it in the form of a mobile app. That defeats the purpose.
Instead, decide what types of features you want your app to have and how those features will benefit your users. When you’re going through this process, it’s important to stick with only the features that support your app’s core purpose and functionality.
For example, an ecommerce app doesn’t need to have a social networking feature. Keep it simple, and stick with what matters most for your business type, industry, users, and end goals. Think of ideas that will support the native features of different smartphones.
Plan Your Budget
How much does it cost to convert a website to a mobile app? The cost will vary depending on your features, development cost, operating system, timeline, and other factors.
A content creator that’s just taking videos from a website and making them available in a mobile app will have a very different budget than a website that’s trying to become the next Facebook.
You can use our mobile app cost calculator to estimate your development costs. Just add the desired features from the previous step, and the calculator will show different costs based on your development method.
Make sure that you allocate some of your budget for post-launch maintenance and updates.
Choose Your Development Method
Next, you need to decide exactly how you’re going to build your app. Common options include:
Creating the app in-house
Outsourcing a team of developers
Hiring an app development company
Using an app maker
For the vast majority of websites, using an app maker or hiring a development company is going to be the best option.
An app builder is perfect for non-technical users that prefer the DIY approach. With BuildFire, this is as simple as signing up, choosing a template, and customizing the content from a user-friendly web platform.
Alternatively, you can take advantage of BuildFire Plus—our full-service app development solution. We’ll handle all of the development, design, testing, and everything else you need to create a stunning app.
BuildFire will even handle the app publishing process on your behalf, ensuring your app gets pushed to the Apple App Store and Google Play Store with ease. We’ll also take care of the post-launch app maintenance, updates, and support.
Test, Launch, and Maintain
Once the app is created, you still need to test it out before getting it in the hands of real mobile users. This is especially important if you’ve been coding the app or using a team of developers to create native apps for iOS and Android.
Developers write bugs in their code—it happens. The only way to identify and fix these bugs is by testing the app on a wide range of devices, operating systems, and platforms.
When you’re satisfied with the app’s performance, it’s time to push it to the app stores. It’s worth noting that there are different publishing guidelines for Apple vs. Android. In short, the Apple App Store is a bit stricter.
Here are a couple of resources from BuildFire University that explain the differences:
The job isn’t done once the app is live. You still need to handle post-launch maintenance and support. This includes regular updates, new features, ongoing bug fixes, and more. That’s why it’s so important to use an app builder or work with white-glove app development services like BuildFire. The vast majority of the post-launch work will be handled on your behalf.
Websites will always have a place in the world. They’re great for brand exposure, SEO, and driving traffic through search engines.
But websites just barely scratch the surface in terms of what you can accomplish with mobile app development.
If you’re ready to get started and take your website to the next level, it’s time to create an app. Regardless of your needs, BuildFire has you covered. If you’d like to handle this on your own, you can use our DIY app builder. Sign up for a 14-day free trial, and you can start turning your website into an app today.
Alternatively, you can let us handle everything on your behalf. Reach out to our app development experts for a free consultation, and we’ll gladly develop the app for you.
There are more than 2.22 million iOS apps available on the Apple App Store. With so much competition on the market, you can’t afford to have a lackluster iOS app design.
But design inspiration can be tough to come by, especially when you’re trying to create unique designs for iPhones.
Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place. This extensive guide explains everything you need to know about nailing your iOS app design with actionable tips and best practices. We’ll even show you some examples of designs you can replicate.
The Most Important Tips For Designing iOS Apps
The following sections contain simple steps for designing better apps. Not only will this impress your users, but it will also help you stand out from other iPhone and iPad apps on the app store.
It’s also worth noting that the mobile UI design for iOS apps will look and feel different compared to Android apps. Your design concept for one platform may not translate to the UI elements of the other.
Choose the Right Color Palette
An app’s color scheme can significantly affect the user experience and usability of the app. That’s why it’s so important to start your iOS design with the right color palette.
Your color palette should match your branding, which ultimately influences user behavior based on familiarity. The colors help give users an immediate association with your brand and offerings.
Predefined color palettes are not only easy on the eyes, but they also help showcase important elements of the app. For example, contrasting colors can impact how CTAs are displayed or how other UI elements are viewed on each screen. The color palette must be consistent across each design element of the app.
Use Finger-Sized Tap Targets
This is another design concept that’s directly tied to the user experience. Users must be able to seamlessly click, scroll, and navigate throughout your app. But if the tap elements are too small or too disruptive, it will hinder the app’s usability.
Apple recommends a tappable touch target size of 44x44px for any user interaction element. This ensures that users don’t miss buttons or get frustrated when trying to click throughout your app.
Here’s another pro tip to consider when you’re designing tap targets. You can extend the tappable area of a CTA beyond the visual size of a button. So if someone clicks on the outer edge of a button but in an area that was clearly intended for action, the click will still be recognized.
Create a Wireframe For Your App
A wireframe is a simple layout of an app that demonstrates the key UI elements for key app screens. It’s essentially the initial design concept that you’ll put together before the actual design work starts.
Wireframes can start as basic sketches on a piece of paper or a napkin. The idea here is to think about the user experience (UX) design and user interface (UI) design for each element.
There are tons of popular tools out there that are perfect for creating wireframes. Try Balsamiq Mockups, Illustrator Figma, and Photoshop if you’re looking for options.
Wireframes help improve the brainstorming process, and they also can help you save a ton of time and money. It’s much easier to change something while it’s still a concept, as opposed to making changes after you’ve committed your design to code.
Did you know that BuildFire Plus handles all of your app design and development for you? This includes wireframes, prototypes, and everything else you need to create a stunning app.
Add Extra Views
Clutter is arguably the biggest design mistake that hinders the user experience. Rather than trying to cram a ton of information into a single view or screen, you can make things easier by adding extra views.
Extra views can come in the form of scrolling or buttons that bring users to another screen. Not only does this remove clutter from your screens, but it also avoids confusion when users are navigating through the app. This is something that you should take into consideration while you’re crafting a wireframe.
When in doubt, it’s always in your best interest to leave white space and negative space instead of adding additional text, visuals, or buttons to a screen.
Consider iOS Gesture Norms
Apple is unique compared to other platforms when it comes to gestures. You should familiarize yourself with the standard iOS gestures, as users will expect certain actions to yield specific results.
For example, when a user taps on a button once, they expect something to happen. So don’t require a double-tap on all of your CTAs. In fact, users expect another action to occur when they table tap—this is a standard iPhone gesture for zooms.
You also should make sure that your in-app gestures don’t interfere with system-wide iOS settings. For example, certain gestures will automatically bring the user back to the home screen. Swiping down from the top of the screen reveals the control center.
If your app does something different, it will add confusion and frustration to your users.
Don’t: Design Your Light and Dark Appearance Settings
Do not create separate designs for light and dark appearances. Dark themes are a growing trend in web design, but you shouldn’t apply this concept to your iOS app design.
That’s because Apple already has built-in system settings that allow users to adjust the appearance of their devices. Your light and dark designs could clash with the existing theme settings on a user’s phone or tablet, ultimately hindering the user experience.
This is also a significant concern for people who have certain settings applied for accessibility reasons. So it’s best to avoid light and dark settings altogether. Let users apply those themes on their own devices, and don’t worry about it on your end.
Do: Design an Adaptable User Interface
One major point of emphasis for interface design is adaptability. You can’t design the UI elements with just one device in mind. Your interface design must work seamlessly across all iOS devices.
This includes all iPhone models and tablets running on different iOS versions.
The user interface should change automatically when the app is being run on a different device. For example, split views for multitasking on an iPad should be taken into consideration. How will the typography or UI kit change when an iPhone user rotates the screen?
If you’re not designing for adaptability, there are going to be flaws in your app design and its usability.
Best iOS App Design Inspirations
If you still need help coming up with a design concept, the examples below will help steer you in the right direction. You can find iOS design inspiration for apps across a wide range of categories while following the latest UI/UX design trends.
Templates and existing apps are always an excellent source of guidance when you’re designing a mobile application.
As you can see, it’s somewhat unique compared to traditional financial apps. The color palette is soft and friendly, which is something that users really appreciate in an iOS app.
If you look closely, you can see the design is also built for functionality. For example, if a user wants to click or access a credit card through the app, it’s easy to distinguish one card from another because of the color differences, space, and size.
The design prioritizes a smooth user interaction when navigating through profiles. There’s a clear visual hierarchy for images, and the layout is easy to follow.
You can clearly see the ability to search or quickly navigate to parts of the app. Overall, it’s really clean and works perfectly for iPhones. The imagery style is also visually appealing. From a user perspective, the design looks great but also functions well.
This design uses white space to focus on what matters most for the app’s purpose—the products. In each screenshot, the products clearly jump out at you.
The lack of clutter on each page makes it easy for users to browse through products and add items to the cart. Since the screens aren’t filled with extra information, the CTAs like “add to cart” are a clear point of emphasis.
Having a menu at the bottom of the screen also makes it easy for users to navigate to the app’s most important pages.
This smart home app concept has a minimalist aesthetic but still has a highly functional dashboard.
It’s easy for the user to navigate across screens, and they can get a ton of information at-a-glance from a single view. The color palette is unique and on-brand with the feel for this concept.
All of this translates to a positive user experience as they’re trying to control so many different aspects of smart technology throughout a home.
When looking for music app inspiration, it’s tough to look past an industry leader like Spotify.
Beyond brand recognition, Spotify has a great app in terms of its functionality. Obviously, the primary function is a music player. But Spotify also makes it easy for users to find podcasts and customize their listening needs.
There’s a seamless ease of use throughout the app interface, and users can get different features and benefits based on the subscription pricing they select.
You have a lot of flexibility with the mobile app design choices for events. It all depends on what type of event you’re planning.
For example, a concert app (like the design above) would be very different from a wedding planning app or a networking app for business conferences. The color palette must match the theme and feel of the event.
At the same time, functionality is always a top priority for iOS app design. Users should be able to clearly find event info, register, connect with other attendees, and perform other key tasks. Having a dedicated section of the app designed for sponsors and exhibitors should be taken into consideration as well.
So make sure you think about the CTA placement and colors when you’re going through the wireframe process for your event app.
Headspace is one of the most popular apps for meditation and sleep.
This is an excellent design concept to model after if you’re trying to create an app that offers similar functionality. The color palette is bright and friendly, which helps put users in the mood for meditation.
It’s easy for people to navigate between screens to find the perfect type of meditation for unique scenarios. They can choose from stress meditations or anxiety-reducing tips. All of the options are quick to find and access because of the app’s functional design.
UI/UX design is important when you’re creating an iOS app. Make sure you start with the right color palette, use finger-sized gestures, create a wireframe, add extra views, and consider iOS gesture norms in your design concept.
Following the latest design trends will keep your users happy and ensure the app’s usability isn’t compromised. You can get iOS app design inspiration from platforms like Dribbble, Behance, and Pinterest. Using a template is another useful starting point for inspiration.
If you need some assistance with your iOS app design, request a free consultation with the experts at BuildFire. With BuildFire Plus, we’ll handle all of the app design steps for you. Then we’ll take that design and create a stunning app. Check out our app showcase page and customer stories for even more app design inspiration.
For app startups, choosing a layout is one of the most important parts of the creative process. Not only will this determine the look and feel of your app, but it also has a direct impact on the user experience.
There’s an endless amount of design inspiration at our fingertips on a daily basis. With so many apps on the market, it can be tough to land on the best app layout for your design.
But the type of app you’re creating has a significant impact on your design choices. Dating apps might have a different layout than social media apps. Simple calendar apps will have a different layout than finance apps.
The mobile app UI must be a top priority as you’re going through the design phase and ultimately choosing a layout. That’s why we created this guide. Continue to learn more about app layouts and how to create a UI design that enhances the user experience.
What Is An App Layout?
An app layout is the collection of visual elements forming the structure of a mobile application. This includes templates, app design guidelines, UI kit, and all other visual aspects of the user interface.
The layout ultimately impacts the app’s usability.
Understanding the app’s functionality paired with the visual aspect of how the app looks are the key components of app layouts. The user experience is just as important as the design. You’ll need to factor in elements like white space and negative space to ensure the app looks good and functions well.
Which App Layouts Are The Best?
There’s no single best app layout for everyone. Your app concept and its purpose will be the driving factor here.
With that said, it’s in your best interest to stick with layouts that are simple, clean, and professional. Modern and minimalist layouts have become increasingly popular as well.
You can get design ideas by looking at successful apps in your category to see what they have in common. For example, you could turn to Facebook if you wanted to create a social media app or look at WhatsApp if you wanted to build a messaging app.
From there, you can create a mockup and experiment with different fonts before you start onboarding users.
It’s also worth noting that most apps are designed for both iOS and Android. So you’ll want to choose a layout that’s both visually appealing and functional across both of these platforms.
How to Create An App Layout And The Basics of App Design
Now that you understand the basic concepts of an app layout and how it gets used, let’s dive into the deeper aspects of application design for different app ideas.
The mobile app design process begins with the app’s purpose and intended audience. A gaming app for children will have a very different app layout than a financial planning app for small business owners.
You can get your design inspiration from other apps on the market, or you can even follow some basic web design principles to get started. Eventually, you’ll create a wireframe that’s basically a simple explanation for the app layout. It shows the different screens and how users will move from one screen to another.
Don’t worry about the finer details like fonts for logo design when you’re creating a wireframe. That will all come later on.
If you’re struggling to find inspiration, check out sites like Dribbble and Behance. These are two awesome resources for creative work and different design types.
The first thing you need to do is establish a clear goal for the app. You can’t come up with the best layout or UI design if the app idea is still ambiguous or you’re not sure which direction you want to take. From here, you need to start researching competitors and look at successful apps in the industry.
Are you going to follow the same path as those competitors and industry leaders? Or will your app have a unique spin on an existing idea or concept? What’s your differentiator?
All of this will help influence the layout and design.
Your first wireframe might start as a simple doodle on a napkin before you make it a little more official using a digital design tool (we’ll talk about these in greater detail shortly).
Then you’ll ultimately take the design to an app designer and developer. The two will work jointly to ensure the app functions for its goal while still maintaining a user-friendly design.
If you’re still stuck or on a tight budget, you can simply sign up for an app builder and browse through professionally-designed templates. This is an easy way to see what type of layouts you like and which ones you don’t.
Testing Before Launching
Testing the app before going live is a crucial part of this process. You can’t assume the layout is good and functional until it’s been used. It’s easier to find glitches and shortcomings now, as opposed to releasing an app with lots of bugs and playing catch-up.
Make sure you test the app on every device and platform. How does it perform on an iPhone vs. Samsung Galaxy? The Android app might have subtle performance differences from the iOS app.
Once you’ve completed your tests, you can launch the application.
Programs To Use To Create An App Layout
There are tons of different platforms and options available on the market to create an app layout. But the following four options are the best for the vast majority of people:
Adobe Experience Design (XD)
Adobe XD is one of the most popular tools for creating a stunning UX/UI design. It has solutions for web design, mobile app design, brand design, and even game design. No matter what type of design project you have, Adobe XD has you covered.
This is one of the easiest programs to use, and it supports beginners and professional designers alike.
Like many application design tools, Adobe XD is a premium tool. You can get the basic version for $9.99 per month or get 20+ Adobe apps (including XD) for $52.99 per month.
Sketch is another popular design tool. But you can only use this software from a Mac (there’s not even an iOS app version). So if you don’t have a Mac, you’ll need to look elsewhere for design inspiration.
Even though Sketch is really popular and easy to use, it’s mainly used for app prototyping. You can’t really get into the granular details of the app, flat design, fonts, or logo design. But it’s a good starting point for a basic prototype.
BuildFire is an all-in-one solution for app development and design. It’s a complete solution that handles everything from start to finish, including publishing your app straight to the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
The possibilities with BuildFire are endless. You can start with a professionally-designed template and play around with the layout from there. It’s really easy to change fonts, colors, typography, graphics, and everything else you need to create a truly stunning app that also functions on a high level.
If you’re not really a hands-on or DIY user, that’s ok. You can still use BuildFire for your app layout, design, and development.
BuildFire Plus is a white-glove service that handles all of this for you. It includes wireframes, prototyping, mockups, and all of your app design needs. A team of experts will even handle competitive research and strategy sessions on your behalf.
Axure RP is another popular software, specifically for UX prototypes and designs.
But compared to the other platforms listed above, this one is really made for professional designers. The average DIYer or even someone creating an app for a business will likely find Axure to be a bit too advanced for their needs.
If you’re someone who is interested in designing multiple applications for clients, or you want to become a freelance designer, then Axure RP would be better suited for your needs.
Why Is User Experience So Important?
User experience design and user interface design have been two common themes throughout this guide. You can read our guide on the difference between UX vs. UI design to learn more about these concepts.
This must be the primary focus of your design choice and layout. You could have the best app idea on the planet. But if it’s not visually appealing and executed for functionality, nobody is going to use it.
Too many app creators get out of line with the layout. They try to do too much with something simple like a home screen, and it makes it difficult for users to navigate and use.
Visual appearance is important, but fast loading times and smooth transitions between screens are equally important. All of the visual components must fit on the screen, and the navigation needs to be logical.
How To Make The User Experience More Attractive
Creating a user-friendly design is all about using space appropriately. Ignore the urge to fill every inch of the screen with some type of creative visual element. Take advantage of white space and negative space so users can focus on what matters the most.
Your home screen should be really simple and easy to navigate.
Make sure you’re using colors that match your brand and ensure everyone can read text on their devices. The layout should also be consistent from page to page.
There’s nothing wrong with trying to be creative or standing out from the crowd. But simplicity goes a long way. Look at modern design trends to see what’s working and what doesn’t as inspiration for your own UI design.
Creating a mobile application is exciting. But you need to think about the user experience when you’re crafting an app layout and going through the design process.
The design and functionality must go hand-in-hand. If an app looks great but doesn’t work well, nobody will use it. If it works as intended but is visually unappealing, users won’t be attracted to it either.
This holds true for iPhone apps, Android apps, and applications on every device.
If you’re ready to create and develop the best app layouts for your target audience, sign up for BuildFire and get started today. For those of you who need a bit more assistance with the design and development, request a free consultation and speak to one of the BuildFire experts.
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 2022.
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 2022? 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 2022.
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 2022.
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
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.
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 2022.
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.
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,
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 2022. Although Webview by BuildFire is free. The choice is yours; you won’t need both.
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.
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 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
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:
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 is the best plug-in for allowing app users to leverage live chat in real-time.
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.
Building an app on your own is easy, especially with plug-ins and app design tools in 2022.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 2022.
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.
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 2022, 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 in 2022. 2022 will obviously 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 2022 app trends. For developers, resellers, and creators, this technology is poised to change the way mobile applications are used and created.
2021 had roughly 3.5 times more 5G connections than in 2020. These connections will nearly triple in 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.
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 2022, 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 2022 app trends without mentioning mobile commerce. This trend has been dominating 2020, 2021, and will continue to thrive in 2022.
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.
In 2021, more than 72.9% of total ecommerce sales came from mobile devices. Apps play a significant role in the current and future success of mobile commerce.
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.
2022 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:
Text and image classification
Sentiment recognition and classification
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 2022.
8. Mobile Wallets and Mobile Payments
We’ve already discussed the role of mobile commerce for app development in 2022. 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.
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 2022. 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 2022. 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.
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 2022, 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.
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 2022.
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.
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 2022, 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.
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 2022. 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:
Virtual tutors and coaches
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 2022.
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.
Android Instant Apps launched a few years ago. But we’re going to see a rise in usage and development in 2022.
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 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 2022, you need to have an instant version as well.
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 2022 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 2022.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
What is App Design?
App design is the look and feel of a mobile application. This includes all of the visual elements and interactive elements that impact how the app functions.
Mobile app design combines two concepts—UI and UX.
The user interface (UI) encompasses the app’s look and feel. It includes color, font, app style, and similar design choices. The user experience (UX) design prioritizes the app’s functions and use.
So many people have great app ideas. But without a high-quality UI and UX design, it will be tough to keep users coming back. Whether you’re building an ecommerce app, internal employee app, fitness app, or app in any category, the design always needs to be a top priority.
That’s why it’s so important to invest in app design from the beginning. An investment now will actually save you money and ensure a higher ROI for your app down the road.
Most app developers need to design for multiple platforms. You’ll likely want the app to be available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
With that said, there are different nuances to consider when you’re designing an app for multiple platforms and operating systems. There are also differences in the development process for iOS and Android.
It’s also worth noting that the market share for iOS and Android are different. Apple controls the US market share, but Android dominates globally. So your target user-base will ultimately help dictate what platform you’re designing for.
iOS App Design
There are several things you need to keep in mind when you’re designing an iOS app. For starters, the platform is extremely reliable. It’s fast and easy to use.
Apple also makes it much easier to debug flaws in the app design. So if you have usability problems, you should be able to quickly fix them and deploy an update.
Apple users want a sleek design. It should be modern and intuitive. You’ll also want to ensure the app is compatible across the entire Apple ecosystem. This includes apps for iPads, Apple Watches, Macs, and more.
Android App Design
Android isn’t a closed ecosystem like Apple. So you’ll have a lot more flexibility with your app-building and design environment compared to iOS apps.
There’s also an extensive knowledge base from Google that you can reference if you’re an app design beginner. Compared to Apple, it’s generally less expensive to design and publish an Android app.
Similar to iOS, Android apps need to think about a design that extends beyond smartphones. It should integrate with wearables, VR tools, Android auto, and more. There’s an app store for so many different device types and platforms that need to be taken into consideration when you’re designing for Android.
Creating Wireframes and App Mockups
Wireframes can best be described as a broad design of the app layout. You don’t have to worry too much about functionality just yet. You’re just mapped out the user journey to establish the basic structure of your pages.
This is one of the earliest steps in the design process, and there are lots of great design tools that you can use for wireframes (we’ll cover those shortly).
Mockups take the wireframes one step further. These are high-fidelity simulations of what the app will look like once it’s built. It has the structure and logic of a wireframe but combines the UI elements and high-fidelity UX/UI elements of design as well.
To get started with wireframes and mockups, think about the basics. How many screens will your app have? Sketch the homepage and then see what screens you need from there.
From here, you can start to think about the app layout. How will the information be ordered? What’s the hierarchy of importance?
These first steps don’t need to be super technical. Eventually, the designers and developers will work together to put your initial sketches into code. They’ll connect all of the pages in your product design to ensure everything is smooth for the end-users.
They’ll also need to check and make sure the design concepts actually fit on the screen. You don’t want certain elements of the design, like a menu bar or CTA, to get cut off on certain devices.
Before you launch your app or go live with any new designs, you’ll need to run some tests first. The app design testing ensures that all of your ideas work functionally within the app and the UX/UI design hasn’t been compromised.
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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Improvement in quality, value, productivity, employee efficiency, and customer engagement.
In its simplest form, a successful mobile strategy is the meeting point of business goals, mobile opportunities, and user needs.
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.
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.
Your business’s mission statement, its competitive advantages, objectives, and where you want to see it in next 5 – 10 years.
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?
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.
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.
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:
What is the purpose of the app?
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.
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.
A roadmap will keep your team on track, and it will help stakeholders keep a track of the app strategy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
4. Define Your Product Management Implementation Strategy
Once the mobile app strategy is defined and documented, it’s time to implement it.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
The job of the designers is to come up with the best UX design that will help your app stand out from the crowd.
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.
Here is a tip – don’t let users make all the decisions. If you do, you will end up designing an elephant like this…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
Orientation in space
Condition of the system
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
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:
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”:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!