Mobile app building consists – for the most part – of user interface (UI) design. User interfaces are to apps what clothes are to humans – they are first things you see when you access an app. Central to the development of apps is the UI design, as a beautiful UI design is what separates a great app from a mediocre one. A user interface needs to be pleasing to the eye and user-friendly, but more importantly, it has to ‘do the job’ and allow users to interact with the app in the most effortless manner.
There are many techniques involved in designing mobile apps with user interfaces that are eye-catching yet practical, but one thing’s for sure: Technologies that require user input will always benefit from a great user interface. In this article, ‘how to build an app’ takes a backseat as we focus on another key area of mobile app building – tips and tricks on designing a great user interface.
- Map out the contents and user flows
Designing mobile apps and research go together like bees and honey. To get a general idea of your ideal user interface, start by sketching out user flows based on what you know. Next, grab a pen and some paper and create a bare bones prototype to envision how user flows connect with the app’s content and functions. Getting your main idea down on paper greatly helps in the development of apps as you get see the big picture and decide whether there are any changes you can make to enhance the user interface on the outset, before starting to code.
- Use Proper Typesetting buttons
Interface elements such as buttons and dropdown boxes are gateways to a certain function on your app, so users would be sure to refer to them regularly. Therefore, it’s important that the wording for these elements are clear, and one way to do it is by using proper typesetting. Keep an eye out for text placement issues (too high or low) – you’ll want to make sure that they are balanced. This not only makes them neater, but easier to read as well.
- Taking advantage of colours
Colours are a great tool to guide users to your intended point of focus, usually actionable elements such as buttons and dropdown boxes. Warm tones, e.g. red, help to attract the attention of the user, being a bright colour, and it stands out even more against a light-coloured background. Other warm hues like yellow and orange are also naturally eye catching. Also play around with contrasting colours, e.g. a red button on a light blue background, to bring focus to the element of choice.
- Have one end goal in mind
When designing mobile apps, keep in mind the end goal of the user interface. For example, Whatsapp’s user interface is designed in such a way that makes it easy for users to chat and share photos and files; and Instagram’s user interface is simple and allows for sharing pictures and making comments. In mobile app building, every detail of your user interface should be designed to achieve your app’s goal in the quickest and easiest way possible.
- Responsiveness is a must
There’s nothing more annoying to a user than an unresponsive user interface. The whole idea of an app is for the user to achieve some form of end goal, but that is impossible with an unresponsive user interface. Make sure to test every single element, i.e. radio buttons, dropdown boxes, check boxes, etc. when designing mobile apps to ensure that each element is able to respond. A responsive design also means that in the development of apps, the user interface must be able to adapt to the various devices from which users may use to access the app, i.e. phones, tablets, computers, etc., and can be viewed clearly with good screen resolution.
- Include keyboard shortcuts for added accessibility
When designing mobile apps, it’s important to keep the user in mind: An exciting app is bound to attract both beginners and power users. While most users tend to opt for the mouse and keyboard to find their way around, advanced users prefer the efficiency of keyboard shortcuts for quick access. While mobile app building, it helps to link useful features to certain keys on the keyboard for easy and quick access – your users will thank you for it!
- Get inspiration from other user interfaces
Make good use of the internet to do carry out research on examples of UI designs that are outstanding. These examples from the internet are there to give you inspiration for design ideas that you could incorporate into your app. You can also participate in new social networks and B2B applications to get a glimpse of designs from leading UI designers, and learn how to make your design more user-friendly and attractive.
A quick way to understand the essentials of UI design is by deconstructing an existing user interface down to its individual elements and learning what each one does. This bottom-up approach to designing mobile apps will give you a clearer idea of where to begin.
- Put the average user first
Knowing how to build an app for the masses involves putting the average user first. Putting yourself in the average user’s shoes when designing a mobile app’s user interface allows you to understand how the average user interacts with the app, and gives you a better idea of what elements to include that makes the app more user-friendly and intuitive. Each user’s level of understanding of your application varies, so it’s best not to assume that it’s same across the board.
- Keep it simple and sweet
The successful development of apps depends on how strongly your users take to your application, and since the user interface is the first thing they encounter, it has a significant impact on their decision. Complicated interfaces mean extra work for the user – no one wants to have to refer to a user manual to play a game! So, keep your UI design simple and streamlined for your users’ maximum enjoyment.
- Don’t forget physical accessibility
Just as it’s important to use proper typesetting for your buttons, it’s equally important to ensure that the size of the buttons is big enough to allow users to comfortably tap with a fingertip. Also, make sure to leave enough space between two buttons so that users don’t accidentally tap both buttons at once – it’s annoying and makes for a very frustrated user, which is bad news for you.
- Include hover controls
Another way to keep your user interface simple is to use hover controls. Hover controls keep the buttons hidden until the user hovers over a specific area to reveal the element. This feature helps to clear up the clutter by reducing the number of elements, e.g. buttons, that a user sees on the screen, thereby keeping it simple and streamlined.
Now that you’ve read all the tips and tricks above, you have a good idea on how to design a user interface that appeals to the general user. A well thought-out UI design will go a long way towards making your app a big hit!
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