In today’s digital world, mobile apps are an integral part of our daily lives. From entertainment to productivity to lifestyle, we all have our go-to apps that we rely on and enhance our lives.
With the increasing popularity of mobile app design, designing an app with just an aesthetic interface is no longer enough to stand out from the competition and generate revenue. You need to delight users with an intuitive user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) that is seamless and engaging.
In this guide on how to design a mobile app, we will cover all the things you need to know to create a mobile app that your users will love, including:
What is Mobile App Design?
The Benefits and Drawbacks of Designing an App for Android, iOS, or Both.
The Key Elements of App Design.
Whether you're an aspiring app designer or a business owner looking to develop an app, this guide will provide you with the knowledge you need to design a successful mobile app.
What is Mobile App Design#
Mobile app design is the process of creating the visual and functional elements of a mobile application. This process involves mobile UI and UX design to ensure the user has a seamless and engaging experience when using the mobile app.
UI Mobile Design#
UI mobile design focuses on designing the mobile app to be an intuitive and user-friendly interaction for the user. From screens to icons to layout, mobile UI design will create all the visual and interactive aspects of the app and ensure everything is optimized for mobile devices.
UX Mobile Design#
UX mobile design focuses on providing the user with an overall enjoyable and engaging experience. UX mobile design will incorporate an in-depth understanding of the target audience and ensure the app enables them to accomplish their tasks efficiently and effectively. Great UX design will increase the mobile usage of your app.
Great Mobile App Design#
Simplicity, consistency, and clarity define a great mobile app. The design should be simple and easy to navigate. The layout and visual style should be consistent throughout the app. The language and visual cues should be clear. When you design a mobile app in this way, you will ensure an engaging, seamless, and satisfactory user experience.
A high-quality app design that engages the user is essential for making money with apps. An engaging app will encourage users to spend more time on your app and advocate the app to their friends, family, or colleagues. This all ensures an increased chance of generating more revenue from your mobile app.
Designing for Android or iOS, or Both?#
You will need to decide whether you are designing your mobile app for Android, iOS, or both. While you can create a platform-specific app, cross-app development has the benefits of your app reaching a wider user base whilst allowing you to save on time, costs, and effort.
To help you decide, we have highlighted the benefits and drawbacks of designing mobile apps for specific platforms or both.
Designing for Android#
With 2.3 billion users worldwide, Android is a popular choice for designing a new mobile app. The major draw to Android for mobile app design is its flexibility. Android’s flexibility for app design enables mobile app developers to create unique, functional, and visually appealing apps that can run on a wide range of devices.
Your Android app will be published on the Google Play Store, one of the largest app stores in the world. While this means you can reach a wide audience, ensuring your app is discoverable amongst the millions of apps can be a challenge.
Designing for iOS#
iOS is another popular choice for mobile app design. iOS is known for its streamlined and consistent design language. This makes it easier for mobile app designers to create user interfaces that look and feel great on iOS devices.
The downside to designing an iOS app is that Apple has strict design guidelines. These can restrict the customization and unique design of your mobile app. Apple’s lengthy review process to publish an app on the App Store can also delay the launch of your new app.
Designing for Both#
Torn between the flexibility of Android and the ease of use of iOS? Why not design a mobile app suited to both with cross-app development?
Cross-app development is the development process of creating a mobile app with a single codebase that can run on multiple platforms, like Android and iOS. This allows you to target your mobile app to a wider user base, increasing your revenue capabilities. Cross-app development also saves time and costs as you will only have a single codebase to create and maintain.
Cross-app development offers a simpler way to create apps suited to both Android and iOS, but there is a potential downside. Creating a single codebase for multiple platforms can limit the customization of your app.
The Key Elements of App Design#
To design a great mobile app that is engaging, user-friendly, and visually appealing, you need to incorporate the key elements of app design.
The key elements of mobile app design are simplicity, easy navigation, consistency, usability, and accessibility. When you incorporate these elements into your design, you will create an app that will satisfy your users.
Below we break down each of the key elements of app design.
1. Make it Simple#
Simplicity is an essential element of a successful app design.
Simple app design includes creating a straightforward and intuitive interface that is easy to understand, navigate, and use. From the color scheme to the navigation to the imagery used, all aspects of your mobile app should be designed to be seamless and minimal.
By designing your mobile app to be simple, you can make the app more user-friendly, increase user enjoyment, and craft an overall positive experience.
Keep Things to a Minimum
Excessive buttons, a cluttered layout, and multiple colors will make your app feel complicated. The last thing you want is for your user to feel overwhelmed by your app, sending them searching for a new app that is easier to understand, navigate, and use.
An app with a simple, minimal design will create a seamless and enjoyable user experience. To keep your app minimal, only include critical features and functions in the design and keep the layout clear and concise. This simplicity will enable your user to navigate your app effortlessly while enjoying their experience.
Simplicity in a mobile app is also highly visually appealing. By keeping the color scheme limited to a few key colors, using uncomplicated typography, clean lines, and sufficient white space, you will craft an app that your users will enjoy using.
AppMachine’s simplicity offers an easy way to create a minimal, simple and branded app design. Our easy drag-and-drop screen editor allows you to create an app with minimal functions and a clear layout, enabling you to build the app your users expect, without the need of hiring UI and UX experts.
2. Navigation Should be Simple#
From the log-in screen to the home screen and beyond, your users should be able to navigate effortlessly through your mobile app.
Simple and intuitively designed navigation allows users to move between screens easily and complete tasks efficiently. Simple navigation also allows users to locate any content they need, and then return to the current task or screen effortlessly.
A simple navigation design also reduces cognitive load for users. Rather than them spending time and energy trying to find their way through your app, they can focus their attention on their task. By keeping the navigation straightforward in design, you remove any confusion or frustration for the user and thus enhance the user experience.
Simple navigation that is optimally designed for the mobile screen size will keep users engaged and enjoying your mobile app. The satisfaction that stems from simple navigation will increase app usage and ensure high app retention rates.
Break Elements Down
If your mobile app requires your users to perform multiple steps to get the desired result, then your design needs to ensure that this process is simple and easy to navigate.
Let’s say that you are creating a mobile app that aims to connect buyers with second-hand clothes sellers. Upon joining the app, users are required to specify their role as either a buyer or seller. However, this process involves multiple, complex steps that a user must complete before they can start browsing or selling. This can quickly become overwhelming or frustrating for users.
By breaking down a long navigation process into short, easily digestible steps, you can ensure your users will enjoy a simple navigation experience.
3. Keep Elements Consistent#
Consistency is key in designing a mobile app that will be a seamless experience for users.
A consistent mobile app crafts a familiar and comfortable user experience, which can enhance user engagement and satisfaction. A consistently designed mobile app will also make the app easier to learn and more efficient for the user.
When designing an app for consistency, you need to keep your design and navigation the same throughout the app.
The Design Should be Consistent
In app design, it is crucial to provide users with a clear understanding of what they are doing, where they are within the app, and how they can continue to achieve their goals within the app. This is achieved with a consistent interface design and clear navigation.
From the color scheme to the font size to the visual style, the design across your mobile app needs to be the same. This consistency reinforces the app’s brand and identity, making users feel assured and confident whilst using the app.
Ensure Navigation is Familiar
In your app design, you want to ensure that the navigation icons in your app are instantly understood by your users. One easy way to do this is to incorporate key navigation icons that your users will be familiar with from the use of other apps.
Across mobile apps, whether they are designed for budget-tracking or playing music, there are a few commonly used navigation icons. These include the hamburger menu icon to access a side menu or navigation drawer, the arrow icons to move forward and backward in an app, and the magnifying glass icon to search.
By using these familiar navigation icons that are easily recognizable and understood by users, you will make your app easier and more enjoyable to use.
Use the Same Navigation Elements Throughout
To keep your mobile app consistent, your navigation elements need to be the same across every screen and section of your mobile app.
For example, if you have used the hamburger menu icon on your home screen, it needs to be the same icon across all the screens in your app. Alternatively, if your hamburger menu icon partially slides over the screen on one page, then it should do so on all pages.
Consistency in navigation elements will enable users to easily find their way around your app and complete the common user tasks efficiently, increasing their experience and satisfaction with your app.
4. Usability and Accessibility#
App usability and accessibility are critical elements of designing a user-friendly mobile app.
App usability refers to the ease with which users can interact with your mobile app and accomplish tasks. Intuitive design, easy navigation, and consistency will all play a key role in the usability of your app.
The app you design also needs to be accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. When designing an app, you must research any visual, auditory, physical, or cognitive challenges your intended users may face and address those in the design to ensure your mobile app is inclusive. It's always a great idea to get some user feedback before you start marketing your app, so that you are sure the app usability is great.
We have highlighted a few key factors to consider when designing your mobile app for usability and accessibility.
Color Blindness Needs to be Considered
Understanding the worldwide prevalence of color vision deficiency, and specifically, the colors that are most affected, is critical for the accessibility of your app design.
Color blindness, or color vision deficiency, affects 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women around the world. The most common challenge is "red-green" color vision deficiency which affects an individual’s ability to differentiate between reds, oranges, yellows, browns, and greens.
To make your app accessible to people with color vision deficiency, select colors for your color scheme that can be easily distinguished. You can also use high contrast to make the colors more easily distinguishable. You should avoid using colors to convey important information, such as red to highlight an error in spelling.
By being considerate of color vision deficiency, you can design an app that is inclusive for all users.
Text Has to be Readable and Easily Understandable
From the headlines to the body text to log-in forms, all the text in your mobile app needs to be easily read and understood by all users. By carefully designing your mobile app for readability, you will make your app accessible and usable.
We have outlined the best app design tips for designing your mobile app text for accessibility and readability:
Font Size: Use 16pt as the minimum font size for body text in your mobile app.
Font Style: The font style should still be simple with minimal accents.
Space Between Text: Have 10% – 20% space between lines of text and paragraphs of text.
Line Length: Aim for 30 – 40 characters per line of text.
Background Contrast: Ensure your text has color contrast with the background so that it stands out.
Fingers are the Input, Design for These
Have you ever been in an app and found yourself continuously ending up on the wrong screen because the navigation buttons were too closely grouped? This frustrating experience is a clear signal that the mobile app didn’t optimize for finger usability in the design.
App design needs to keep the finger at the center of its focus when designing for touch-based interaction. As fingers are much larger and less nimble than a curser, the navigation elements and design need to be optimized. This includes making navigation elements large enough for fingers and keeping them widely spaced to prevent inaccurate navigation.
Optimise Imagery and Video
Images and videos are important visual elements to include in mobile app designs. Visuals can immerse users in your mobile app, making their experience with your app more enjoyable and engaging. Visuals can also be great tools to deepen users’ understanding of your app’s features, making the app more user-friendly.
The imagery and videos you use in your mobile app need to be of the highest quality possible. High-resolution visuals that are optimized to fit a mobile screen will enhance the user experience by making the app more visually appealing and engaging.
When incorporating images and videos into your app design, you need to optimize these visual elements for usability and accessibility.
For usability, size and ratio are important elements to consider when optimizing your images and videos. You need to compress the visuals to minimize the file size and load speed, without compromising on quality. You will also need to format your visuals to be compatible with the devices your app will run on. Optimise videos to display in portrait mode to match the portrait orientation of a mobile device.
To make your images and videos more accessible in your mobile app, follow these best practices:
Add Alternative Text: Alternative text (alt text) is a short description of the image or video that users can read. This assists users who have vision impairments that make understanding the content of an image or video difficult.
Provide Captions and Transcripts: Include captions and/or transcripts for all videos on your mobile app. Captions allow those who are hard of hearing to understand the content of a video. Transcripts allow your users who are hard of hearing or who are unable to play the video access to the content in the video.
Choose the App Builder That Simplifies the Lengthy Design Process#
AppMachine is the fast, no-code mobile app builder you can rely on for simplified mobile app design.
Our easy-to-use software takes the time, effort, and hassle out of app design. From our drag-and-drop editor that allows you to effortlessly design your app to our block design templates that assist you in design, our features make app design simple and easy.
Whether you are an engineer with years of experience or a business owner with limited technical know-how, anyone can design a high-quality app with our software.
Often, the cost is the one major factor that can hold businesses or individuals back from designing a mobile app. With AppMachine pricing, designing an app is now an affordable option for any budget.
Take the costs, effort, and time out of app design with AppMachine.