Our world is already connected in ways we didn’t even imagine a few years ago, and it’s going to be connected even more with the help the expansion of several technologies like the Internet itself (mainly in parts of the developing world), mobile adoption around the world and the implementation of cloud-based services, making our lives easier. We are starting to see more and more options regarding app design; some of them really good, some very awful, but still, something you need to pay attention to.
But most of the mistakes by the time of planning a mobile app have their roots in the difference between mobile needs vs. computer needs. The first thing you need to know, though, is not to mix them up. Mobile needs are different from those than the needs of regular web apps, and they should be treated as such, so, in this article, I will feature the characteristics of great mobile apps; also, some of the apps I consider the most beautiful and the ones I use the most. The idea by featuring them is that you get inspired, whatever your profession is.
Universal characteristics of a great app
Establishing the needs of mobile users is the first step when creating an app. This needs comprise aspects like the user interface, simplicity, velocity, icons semantics and many more.
1. Forming a good first impression is a difficult task, but it can be a trigger for continued use. There are apps that achieve that, and we think they’ve done it easily, but in reality, the work behind it is remarkable, making sure every detail behaves the way it’s supposed to be to deliver an incredible experience, so one of the most important steps is to create a good impression by improving the user interface.
2. Mobile interfaces need to be simple; crowding the app with lots of elements its a bad idea since the space in mobile devices is reduced and people will get confused, thus stop using the app. Leave any decorative elements behind, which don’t help the design at all, and just pollute it.
3. Mobile users need information quickly. Imagine yourself as a user checking your main airline’s mobile app to get the hour of your next flight, just to find useless information about the company or price information you didn’t request, thus losing your flight. That’s what you have to acknowledge at this point: mobile users just don’t have the time to check useless information, so a good thing here is to specialize the app; if you deliver news, focus on delivering them. If you own a bus company, focus on letting the user know the best way to get from point A to point B within your system quickly, and so on.
4. Keep the icons semantically accurate. With this, I’m not suggesting you don’t change things or design icons differently, but instead, keep their meaning intact. Semantic changes in icons and massive adoption of the meaning take time and a lot of user engagement to become a standard, and creating a “revolutionary” icon might be a great experience, but don’t expect it will be accepted right away.
5. Set objectives and guide the users to reach them. Objectives give order to all the elements of your app, and they create a hierarchy, so the user is able to identify which elements lead to the next one until you reach the most important of them. It is also beneficial for you as a designer since you can easily establish and accomplish the goals you think are important, helping you monetize, reach a determined amount of followers or any other objective you setup.
6. Any kind of porting is not a good idea, whether it is from iOS to Android, Android to Windows or web to mobile, porting platforms disregards many of the specific aspects for every device. Every mobile platform offers something different for its users, so it’s important to work with the core of every one of them. Users are different, and they choose a device for a reason, so honor that.
7. Mobile devices have lots of constraints, so you need to think outside the box to achieve a great app, taking into account this lack of qualities. Limited storage, limited space and great bandwidth use can make your app crash or too slow, so the important thing here is to think about some creative solutions to the problems that emerge from having limited devices.
8. Design apps keeping in mind the most important things users can do with a mobile device, for example, you can add maps and geo-referencing to take advantage of the location services every app offers, create or use current channels of communication like chats, messaging apps or videoconference calls in order to help user communicate better, create apps that keep the battery use at its lowest all the time and be sure to pay attention to specific tasks users perform on a regular basis.
9. Entertain your audience. Why not creating an app that’s fun to use, making the user return every now and then? Great apps have the quality to entertain, and they don’t even need to be games for that. Every app can be turned into a fun experience if you know your audience’s tastes.
10. Great applications serve a specific purpose and deliver it fast. These kinds of apps usually have a simple user interface design which reduces elements and transmit a message the way is understandable for people of all ages. This article shows why is this important while creating a great app.
11. If the internet is not required, the success is warranted. Creating an app that does not require an internet connection all the time would be axiomatically successful since it indicates it works even in the worst case scenarios. This type of apps usually take a lot of space on the device, but people feel comfortable downloading them since you don’t need to keep searching an internet connection for it to work. This is the case of some games.
Knowing the basics of great apps, the following apps have beautiful designs, and they also have nice usability. Remember that the idea behind some apps could be awesome but a compelling design is a fundamental part of the app’s usage. Here, you can see the most beautiful apps in user interface and usability.
This app is a great example of simplicity and usability. The app hasn’t changed the basic functionality since the last upgrade because there’s no need to do that. However, the user interface had an important change, flattening the icons, but the really cool thing is the selection of pictures from Flickr users related to the current city and meteorological conditions.
This app it’s a great example more of usability than design, but it illustrates pretty well the point 10 in which every app needs to fulfil a specific purpose and not deviate from this main objective. Shazam works fast because users need to identify songs quickly since they don’t know when the song’s going to end; also, it keeps a log of every guessing, so the user don’t have to lose time writing it down somewhere.
Svpply is an app that lets you buy products selected by the community. It features products ranging from clothing to home decor, giving you the possibility to bookmark the products you like. The app has a simple flat interface which makes use of photography, icons and typography that complement very well and guide the user towards the goal of buying.
This app allows you to retrieve news content from different websites, adding specific articles to your feed and organizing the by categories. Is very useful to keep you informed in the topics you care the most instead of looking every news site. Its design is composed of an awesome flat interface, simple icons and more text than usual, but it serves an important purpose.
The Messages app from Facebook has a lighter user interface, it slightly changes across platforms, but in general, it uses the same outlined icons and lighter typography in order to resemble the looks of iOS 7. Usability is a little harder than the previous messages app, but it still is a nice work.
The new version of Skype for Android is one of the most beautiful apps I’ve seen. It has a clean white and blue aspect, with easy access to the important features of an app like this. Icons are easily recognizable and easy to find for a regular user. In iOS, although it keeps a clean flat appearance, it doesn’t look as nice as you expect.
Twitter has flatten the user interface of its mobile app, although nothing relevant has changed for the iOS7 version. Icons are still in place, and they get rid of the gradients that looked great in iOS6.
This is a language learning app that has an incredible user interface. Regarding usability, the previous version was as good as the new one, but now it has a great flat interface, crafted icons, unique typography and it’s performance is excellent. I’ve only noticed problems while trying to follow some of my friends (I’t doesn’t let me follow some of them, and it also doesn’t tell me why..)
Here, you can see how the logo is going to change and why it is important to change it.
Lumosity is a great app that helps you train your brain in order to accomplish different goals. You can train the speed of your brain, your memory, your attention, your flexibility and your ability to solve problems. Its design is flat, with great icons and interesting games that easily help you improve your ability to think.