UX Design for Mobile App: Definition, Benefits & Best Practices You Can Rely On To Create a User-Friendly Application

App Development
UX Design for Mobile App: Definition, Benefits & Best Practices You Can Rely On To Create a User-Friendly Application
Article by Maria Martin
Last Updated: December 18, 2022

The modern world is driven by the mobile revolution. As technology advances, more and more people are turning to their devices for convenience and entertainment—and the chance to stay connected on the go doesn’t hurt. 

With this shift comes a new challenge—how can businesses leverage mobile technology to engage their users? The answer lies in UX design for mobile apps.

Although often used interchangeably, there’s a huge difference between UX mobile app design and mobile-friendly website design. Today, we’ll focus on the former! 

In this article, we'll explore the keys to designing a successful user experience on mobile applications, from understanding user needs and creating an intuitive user interface to testing and refining your design. 

Here’s everything you need to know about UX design for mobile apps!

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What Is Mobile App UX Design?

Mobile UX design is a specialized field of user experience (UX) design that focuses on the design of mobile applications. It is the process of making user interfaces for mobile devices easier and more enjoyable to use.

This involves creating a positive, pleasant and intuitive experience for users by taking into account all elements of the user experience, such as:

  • Device capabilities
  • Display resolution
  • Content structure
  • User preferences
  • Screen size
  • Interactions
  • Navigation
  • Usability
  • Context 

Why Is Mobile App UX Design Important? 

Mobile UX design is paramount considering the rapid adoption of mobile devices—7.26 billion people own a phone. 87% of them spend time on mobile applications but 90% have stopped using an app due to poor performance.  

Poor user experience leads to a decrease in customer satisfaction and increased abandonment rates. In 2019, 25% of apps were used only once and vanished into oblivion forever. If you don’t want your app to join them, having a well-designed mobile app UX is essential.

But what’s the point in creating apps when there are 3.55 million apps available on Google Play and 1.6 million on the App Store? 

The truth is, there’s plenty of room on the market, considering people use 9-10 apps per day and 30 per month. Plus, 20% of millennials use an application at least 50 times a day while Gen Z engages with apps 20% more than the older population.

Back in 2020, users had approximately 40 apps on their phones and spent 215 minutes a day on them—by the end of 2022, the time spent on mobile apps is expected to reach 227 minutes a day. 

The question you should be asking is how do you make your app stand out? 

Through killer mobile app UX design! 

When it comes to UX design, a mobile app developer can’t neglect its importance as it helps shape how people interact with an app. Mobile UX design increases user engagement and software efficiency, resulting in greater customer loyalty and a more successful overall product. 

10 Reasons Why Mobile UX Design Is Essential

If you’re still uncertain why UX is important for mobile apps, it aids in: 

  1. Optimizing performance for faster loading times and better performance on small screens 
  2. Leveraging the power of AI-driven technologies to provide more comprehensive services
  3. Reducing technical complexity for customers by incorporating necessary features
  4. Allowing for personalization so businesses can cater to different consumer needs
  5. Improving usability by ensuring compatibility across multiple devices
  6. Creating an optimal user experience by making navigation easier
  7. Utilizing data insights to improve the product iteration process
  8. Using analytics platforms to collect user feedback efficiently
  9. Increasing accessibility with intuitive user interfaces
  10. Enhancing brand identity through consistent visuals

Ultimately, a top-notch UX design for apps creates better customer experiences, thus helping businesses stay competitive in the market. 

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Mobile App UX Design Fundamentals

When designing mobile apps, all design decisions should be based on providing the best possible user experience. By understanding users’ needs and wants, designers can create features and functions that meet those expectations. 

Every other principle exists to support this exact cause: making the user a priority. 

These are some of the fundamentals of the UX design process for mobile apps:

One Action/Function per Screen

Mobile app UX design should focus on the one action/function per screen approach to effectively utilize screen space and prioritize the users’ actions. Instead of cramming all related functions onto a single screen, each action should be displayed and designed on its own dedicated screen. 

This helps create an intuitive, logical flow for the users to properly interact with your app quickly and confidently. Additionally, it also reduces cognitive strain and increases users’ overall satisfaction with the app by making navigation quick and simple since all control elements are clearly visible without clutter.

Having a single focused action allows users to quickly and easily complete their tasks without confusion. On the other hand, too many actions on the same screen can be overwhelming and distract users from the main goal. 

Indirectly, this principle also helps ensure user data security and privacy as it reduces the risk of users inadvertently accessing something they weren't expecting due to an abundance of choices and options. 

Intuitive Navigation

Intuitiveness should be at the heart of all mobile designs to help create an enjoyable user experience from beginning to end.

Your app’s navigation structure should feel natural—it must be simple and efficient so users can know what to expect and why they are navigating within a certain area. Information architecture needs to be logical, with clear menus and labels that accurately describe the purpose of each page. 

The easier and quicker it is for users to grasp how the system works, the better. They should know what features are available without needing to read instructions or search around. Helpful features like breadcrumbs can help users understand where they are in an app, allowing them to quickly return to previous locations or check how far away from home they are. 

Designing intuitive navigation also means ensuring it meets people’s needs—including those with special needs—and that there is enough flexibility within the design, allowing people to find their own preferred way to interact with your service. 

Intuitive navigation should create a feeling of familiarity while still enabling users to discover new features and content along their journey.

Forget Cursors, Design for Fingers 

Mobile app UX design requires a unique set of techniques to ensure a smooth, intuitive user experience. Designing for fingers, instead of cursors, is key since the main form of interaction with users is through their fingertips. 

When designing an app with this in mind, developers should always pay attention to the screen size and buttons, making sure clickable elements are sufficiently spaced apart and easy to reach even on smaller devices. 

Designers must also take into account the size, weight and shape of a finger when crafting an interface. User interfaces should be easy to understand and feel natural, allowing users to interact effortlessly with their devices. 

To do this, designers also have to think about the pressure sensitivity and the ergonomics of holding a device in the hand. Additionally, it's also important to consider finger width when creating buttons as too small a button can make it difficult for users' fingers to accurately press them. 

Fingers require icons big enough and spaced far enough apart that they can easily be distinguished from one another when clicked. Furthermore, the buttons have to be wide enough to accommodate taps as well as swipes. 

Finally, buttons should provide effective visual feedback so that people know they have been selected or activated. By designing for fingertips instead of cursors, developers can create engaging mobile experiences that are intuitive and enjoyable to use.

Readable Text 

Mobile app UX design relies heavily on users being able to read and understand the text within it. In order to ensure this happens, designers have to make the text legible in all contexts, including different operating systems and devices.

Generally speaking, anything smaller than 11 points (16 pixels) is difficult to read. Too much content is extremely overwhelming, especially since users are accessing it through a smaller screen—30-40 characters per line are just enough for mobile apps. 

Factors such as color, font size, line height, font family, contrast ratio and whitespace affect legibility. Check how fonts render on various devices since they may appear differently while using multiple operating systems. 

Your app should provide enough contrast between the text color and its background color so that all characters can be easily distinguished without straining the eyes. 

Of course, you have to use appropriate margins around the text so the user doesn't feel swamped by long blocks of uninterrupted text which can quickly cause fatigue and confusion.

Hand Position Controls

Mobile app UX design can be enhanced by the use of hand position controls. This technique allows users to navigate and control a digital device by placing their fingers on the screen, where it feels logical. 

These controls provide precise and intuitive actions, allowing smartphone users to perform complex activities with minimal effort. The hand position techniques are suitable for both mobile games as well as applications people rely on daily, such as retail or travel apps. 

They also help improve user input accuracy and reduce fatigue from long periods of using a mobile device. By leveraging hand position controls, developers can enhance the overall usability of their apps, providing customers with a more enjoyable experience.

UX Design for Mobile Apps: Key Takeaways 

Mobile app UX design is an integral part of the app development process. It plays a huge role in ensuring users have a pleasant and intuitive experience while using your app. 

By leveraging UX design principles and techniques, you can create an engaging environment for your users that will drive engagement and conversion rates. Therefore, investing in quality UX design for your mobile app is essential to provide the best user experience possible.

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