The iOS App Store was launched in 2008 with just 500 apps. As of the second quarter of 2022, there are over 8 million mobile applications available across iOS and Android platforms, and this number is only going to increase in the coming years.
While that is great news for the app development industry, it also means that users are now flooded with countless options for the apps they need. Reports suggest that smartphone users uninstall around 3 out of 10 apps within 30 days of downloading.
So, what makes some apps so popular and ubiquitous while others just get lost in the crowd? What do these highest-rated apps have in common? Besides being incredibly useful, these mobile apps have fantastic UI and UX.
When companies hire UI developers, they are looking for visually appealing, feature-rich, and functional user interface designs that strike the right chord with the users and help the application find a permanent home in their phones.
If you want to create such a compelling mobile app user interface, this guide will help you design one like a pro.
Stages of Creating User Interface Design for Mobile Apps
Mobile app UI design requirements are vastly different from those for desktop apps. When working with smaller screen size and touch-sensitive controls, designers need to make special considerations to ensure readability, usability, and consistency.
That is why designers need to be creative in striking a balance between making design considerations and fulfilling the specific requirements of the app. The following stages will explain the best way to design a mobile app user interface.
Stage 1: Get an In-Depth Sense of the Product
Before you can conceptualize the mobile app UI design, you need to have a clear vision of the app, the idea behind it, and its ultimate objective. This is the “product definition” stage, and it sets the foundation for the final product.
In this stage, UI and UX designers need to work together and communicate with the key stakeholders to gather all the necessary insights to answer questions such as:
- What is it?
- Who will use it?
- Why will they use it?
The team should be able to form a consensus around what the end product will be and how it will match the users’ expectations and business needs.
Stage 2: Choose UI Elements
A number of apps share common UI elements because people are familiar with user interface elements that act in a certain way. That is why you should try to be predictable and consistent when choosing your layout and UI elements, which may include (but aren’t limited to):
- Input controls such as buttons, checkboxes, text fields, dropdown lists, radio buttons, toggles, list boxes, date fields and so on.
- Navigational components such as slider, breadcrumb, pagination, search field, tags, slider, and icons.
- Informational components such as icons, tooltips, notifications, progress bar, and message boxes.
In certain situations, several UI elements may be appropriate for displaying content. That is when you should consider the trade-offs. For instance, some UI elements may help you save space, but they may also put the burden on the user to figure out what the element is or what is hidden inside the dropdown. The latter is an undesirable outcome that you should try to avoid.
Stage 3: Sketch out the Design
Mobile app user interface design is all about how the app looks. That means you need to deal with things like the visual representation of concepts, fonts, color schemes, buttons, shapes, images, illustrations, animations and much more.
You would need to test multiple designs and experiment with various skins, color schemes, themes and other visual elements to find what works best. The process is a lot like A/B testing but on a UI design scale.
To make their job easier, designers need to put their ideas onto paper in the form of sketches. You can also use digital drawing tools to sketch out the basic concepts for the UI and compare the sketches to see what looks best.
Stage 4: Experiment with Different Interface Animation
Interface animation or UI animation means adding motion to various UI elements to make the mobile application interactive. UI designers rely on animation to guide users around the app’s interface, influence their decisions, and alert them of a change.
To design a mobile application user interface, you need to apply and test various styles of animations in real-time. These animations will help you decide how the app’s screen will pop out, how the gestures will be defined and much more.
UI animation holds the key to grabbing user attention from the minute they open the app, which is why it needs to be functional and not just a design element.
Stage 5: Create Wireframes
Wireframes are the backbone of a mobile app development project, and it serves as the bridge between the basic sketches and interactive prototypes. By creating the wireframes, you should be able to visualize the structure of the app with all the key elements to see how everything looks and feels.
Stage 6: Create Prototypes
While wireframes help you get a sense of the app’s visual hierarchy and structure, prototypes give you an idea of the actual interaction and experience. You can think of the prototype as a simulation of the end product.
Prototypes do not need to be high-tech to do their job. Both low-fidelity prototypes such as clickable wireframes and high-fidelity prototypes such as coded ones can get the job done.
Stage 7: Create Design Specifications and Systems
Design specifications refer to all the visual design assets that the developers need to turn the finalized prototypes into a working product. Design systems, on the other hand, are required in large projects. They basically include a system of patterns, components, and styles that help designers and developers to stay on the same page.
Stage 8: Develop and Test
After you design the mobile app user interface, it is time to develop and test the app. In this stage, UX and UI designers need to work together with programmers and developers to bring their vision into reality.
Pro Tips to Help You Design the Best Mobile App UI
To design a mobile app user interface like a pro, you first need to know your users and understand their skills, tendencies, preferences, and goals. Here are a few more tips you need to keep in mind to ace your mobile app UI design:
- Keep the UI Simple: The best mobile app UI is one that avoids unnecessary elements and is clear in its messaging. The UI should be simple enough so that users can navigate it almost instinctively.
- Make the Page Layout Purposeful: When designing the page layout, make sure to consider the spatial relationships between all the elements on the page. Place the elements carefully to draw attention to the most important information.
- Use texture and color strategically: You can direct the user’s attention by using light, color, contrast, and textures to your advantage.
- Rely on typography to create clarity and hierarchy: Put some thought into using typefaces. Different fonts, font sizes and arrangement of texts can help you improve readability and scannability.
Mobile app UI design isn’t a linear process. You may have to go back and forth and change things around many times before you land on the perfect design. Make sure to invest enough time in research and planning to make the journey smooth.
Equipped with a Bachelor of Information Technology (BIT) degree, Lucas Noah stands out in the digital content creation landscape. His current roles at Creative Outrank LLC and Oceana Express LLC showcase his ability to turn complex technology topics into engagin... Read more