Different App's on Mobile phone screen.

Mobile App Design: A Comprehensive Guide [2022]

Whether you’re a newbie interested in mobile app design or an entrepreneur seeking business app solutions, sit back and relax, for this guide is all you need!

But let’s give you a little heads up first.

Did you know that an average smartphone user spends 2 Hours & 54 Minutes on their mobile phones every day? Guess where most of the time spent goes? Yep, you guessed it right. Mobile apps!

But with millions of apps out there, why should users choose your app over the competition?

It’s down to many factors, of which one of the most important one is Mobile App design.

So without further ado. Let’s begin with the basics.

💡 What is Mobile App Design?

Mobile App Design broadly refers to 2 aspects of your mobile application.

The first one is User Interface (UI), which focuses on the looks and style of your mobile application. Here, the aim is to design an interface that users would find convenient and pleasing to the eye.

The other aspect is User Experience (UX), which focuses on how your mobile application interacts with the user. Here, the aim is to provide ease of use, efficiency in performing tasks, and clarity to the app user.

But, Do I really need a good Mobile App Design😕?

Of course. In fact, It’s something that could make or break your app! So, do not make the mistake of underestimating the need for a great mobile app design.

Here’s why you need a good Mobile App design

For starters, an excellent mobile application is one that offers a great User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX). It’s these two aspects that set your application apart from an ocean of applications.

And FYI, Do you know that iOS till 2020 was home to over 1.85 Million apps! Android, even more with 2.56 Million?!

Here’s another shocker, Android Play Store records an addition of 6140 applications to its play store each day! Apple Store sees an increase of 965 mobile applications on average daily. That’s almost a thousand new apps each day!

Just imagine how hard it is for mobile applications to stir users’ interest. With so many apps being added to an already huge bulk, it’s easy for your application to get lost in the crowd. Therefore, your application needs to stand out.

People tend to keep apps they use frequently or really love; otherwise, they will delete them. If they don’t have a great user experience, they might even leave a bad review, and we all know what too many bad reviews can do; affect your mobile application’s success.

This is why a good mobile application design is crucial. It has to be visually attractive, user-friendly, and offer the right functionality to be trusted and retained by the end-user.

A Fun fact

Tech Giants like Apple spend about 60% of their project time on the design phase; hence the user cannot understate the importance of mobile application design

🧠Evaluating The Design Of Your Mobile Application

So you have an app idea, but how do you go about designing your mobile application?

Before you approach a designer or take the uphill task yourself, you must evaluate your mobile app design & strategy. Here’s what you must do.

  1. Determine the scope
  2. Carry Out In-Depth User & Market Research
  3. Create a UX wireframe

📜Determine The Scope

This is the first step in your evaluation process. Design a framework in which you decide your app objectives, your expectations from the app, and your app size – large or small.

Your scope must cover the following:

  1. The nature of your app
  2. Your target audience
  3. Important functions and features of your app
  4. An Idea of the visual aspects of your app
  5. Potential technologies your app will utilize
  6. How aligned the app is with your business strategy
  7. Specific app preferences

When you finalize the scope of your app, it’s vital to ascertain:

  • Aims and goals of the app
  • Tasks and resources
  • Budget allocation
  • Timeframe

Interested in Developing your own Mobile App but don’t have the time? Check out our Mobile App Design services.

These are very important because they set the direction and design flow of your mobile application.

🕵️ Carry Out In-Depth User & Market Research

Better put on your detective hat for this stage, as it involves in-depth market research.

It would be best to base your market and user research on the scope determined earlier and your app strategy.

The goal here is to find the best UX design that makes your mobile application unique in a sea of similar apps.

How to get started

You must analyze existing apps in your industry. For instance, if you plan to create an e-commerce app, you’ll have to check out existing e-commerce apps, color schemes, build patterns, functionality, flow, etc.

Your user research should reveal to you colors and themes that help you develop an emotional connection with your target audience.

Think like a user here. What colors and styles would appeal to them?

You can utilize different methods to collect data from potential users, such as surveys, questionnaires, focus groups, etc.

Remember, good research goes a long way!

🖌️ Creating a UX Wireframe

A UX Wireframe is how your application’s User Interface (UI) should look. Here, you create a basic structure of your UI, transitions, and interaction points.

Be sure to base them on your user and market research, competitor analysis, and application strategy.

The beauty of a UX Wireframe is that a designer can create it on software, or you may go old school and draw it on a piece of paper.

Remember, you’re laying a user flow as you want it to appear on the app. Keep it simple because simple is better here.

Your UX Wireframe’s purpose is defining the flow of the app. This includes the number of windows, buttons, layout, the logic of each button, login screen, etc.

In a nutshell, everything that makes the user experience convenient.

The Actual 6 Step Design Process For Mobile Application Design

Yes, the wait is finally over. Now we get to the fun part! After you’re done with the Mobile App Design evaluation, it’s time for the actual design process.

At TechNerds, we follow these 6 steps whenever we get to designing and developing an application:

  • Developing A Prototype
  • Designing User Interface (UI)
  • Adding Interface Animations
  • Planning Out Your Software Architecture
  • Developing The App
  • Testing Your App

🏊‍♂️Let’s Dive in Headfirst.

👩🏽‍💻 Developing A Prototype

This is the time to see and get a feel of your app. You can do this by developing a prototype.

Since you have a UX wireframe, all you need to do is create a low-fidelity prototype. In other words, map out your basic app concepts.

No need to develop expensive prototypes; instead, you could save your resources here and divert them to app features, functions, and coding.

At TechNerds, that’s just what we do. We focus on minimizing client costs wherever we can.

🎨 Designing User Interface (UI)

Next up is UI design.

Prototyping and UX wireframe were all about app functionality. UI is all about how your app appears!

In this stage, finalize how your concepts appear visually, how your color scheme looks, button styles, images to use, and animations—basically, everything dealing with how your app looks.

Take your time here. Test out several colors, skins, themes, and all your visual elements.

See what works. Don’t rush. Judge for yourself. Be Creative!

📽️ Adding Interface Animation

After designing your UI, we enter the realm of the animator.

Here, you will design your Interface Animations. These are an integral part of your UI design process, so be sure to test various animations in real-time.

Animations set the tone for your app functionality, such as how an app screen changes, what gestures to employ, etc.

Here you can efficiently guide the user through the app, utilize motions to help users smoothly navigate between features, inform them of your screen elements, etc.

Animations should provide convenience to the user and must not solely focus on visual appeal.

Read more: Animations for Mobile App

📐 Planning Out Your Software Architecture

Now you’re at the most critical stage of your mobile application design process. Your sole focus here should be scaling your mobile application and making its usability and design better.

Here we improve the front-end and back-end processes of your application. It involves the whole group of designers, programmers, and managers working on improving software architecture.

At TechNerds, we engage in constructive meetings regarding frameworks, app phases, and design platforms to deliver an optimum Software Architecture.

Remember, the aim here is to develop viable solutions to technical, operational, business, end-user, and system requirements.

Read more: Software Architecture

The final stage would be….


Developing the App

The time to code has arrived! Work your coding magic and start creating the app.

Make sure you get top coders here. Poor coding will drain out your budget and deliver you an inferior product!

Also, focus on either iOS or Android platform to create the app. Never simultaneously.

🤔 Why should I do this?

Simple. Developing an app costs money. If you develop for both platforms simultaneously and the developers code poorly, it would be disastrous for your pocket!

We would suggest you develop for Android first as it is cheaper compared to iOS. It all depends on your budget.

We suggest you leave this bit to specialists.

At TechNerds, our expert developers ensure your mobile application never suffers from a dire fate. Our success rate is over 98%!

After you complete this step, most of your work is already done! It’s time for the final step, Testing.

📝 Testing Your Application

It’s crucial to do some application testing after app development. Here you’ll see how the app performs against your expectations and what bugs you need to fix. It’s always best practice to take a thorough testing approach.

Here’s a checklist of the testing techniques you must do. We’ll be covering this in a separate dedicated blog, so no worries!

  1. Documentation Testing
  2. Functional Testing
  3. Usability Testing
  4. UI (User Interface) Testing
  5. Compatibility (Configuration) Testing
  6. Performance Testing
  7. Security Testing
  8. Recovery Testing

You should always outsource app testing. Never use your own developers or their partners to avoid bias and poor judgment.

💰 How much does it cost to develop an app?

Now that we’ve run you through the whole process, it’s natural for you to think about money.

If you’re wondering about how much it costs to create an app. You’re not alone. You’re also not alone in thinking that it’s expensive.

But it all depends on where you look. At TechNerds, we pride ourselves on providing the best rates and flexible pricing plans to our clients.

Still not convinced? Let’s make a comparison.

Mobile Application Development in a conventional technology firm:

Don’t grab your head just yet. As we said earlier, it all depends on where you look.

What if we told you that you could get your mobile app designed for literally a fraction of the cost? Don’t believe it? You better!

TechNerds’ affordable rates for mobile app design & development start only at $35 An Hour!

Our clients don’t have to bear the brunt of high costs. We ensure the highest standards while making sure it’s light on your wallet!

Want a website that serves as a landing page for your mobile app? Check out our Website Development Services.

How long does it take to create an app?

This is a very logical question to have but one not easy to answer. You see, it depends on various factors.

Here’s a breakdown.

The length of any project depends on the resources you’ll be able to utilize, the scope of what you’re trying to develop, and how skilled your team is. Typically, it could take anywhere from 16 to 20 weeks for an app to be ready for an App store.

It doesn’t mean that our team hasn’t been quicker or worked longer on an app; this is just the average time to build a quality app.

Just remember, if you want a fantastic app, it can’t happen in a single day.

At TechNerds, we focus only on delivering quality products and services. Every project carries the client’s expectations with it, and they can never be compromised.

Some Design tips to consider for your Mobile App

By now, you should have your first app! But before you go, here are some essential tips for designing your mobile application.

Avoid Information Overload for the User

🗑️ Avoid The Clutter!

Clutter is your user’s enemy. Period.

You don’t want too many options to appear upfront for them because this makes your app just too complicated!

Always focus on providing the end-user with information that is absolutely necessary.

More often than not, going with minimal functionality is a great option. This means:

  • Keeping your interface elements as few as possible
  • Giving only need to know information to the user
  • Progressively revealing information as the user interacts with different app elements.

Poor designs are not just a problem on desktops, but they’re even worse and apparent on mobile devices because of screen fragmentation. The key to stellar mobile app designs is only keeping the valued information and removing anything that makes no sense.

A cluttered user interface can be done right using the functional minimalism technique.

  • Keep the content to the point.
  • Minimize the number of interface elements. Minimal designs are easier to use.

👋 Reduce User’s Effort As Much As Possible

Minimize your user’s effort as much as possible. For instance, if a user has already entered their data once, look where that essential information can automatically be reused.

Don’t expect them to re-enter the same data again and again!

You can use your user’s previously recorded data by utilizing a smart default.

That will help your user spend more time on the app and make your mobile app’s User Experience much better.

⚒️ Divide Lengthy Tasks Into Smaller Sub-Tasks

If a task requires users to go through many steps in your app, divide such tasks into smaller sub-tasks.

This tactic dramatically reduces complexity for the user.

Give Users a Sense of Control

A task that requires many steps and actions from the user should be divided into a number of subtasks. This concept is extremely important in designing mobile apps since you wouldn’t like to overwhelm the user journey with too much information at once.

An e-commerce app that breaks down a complex checkout action into bite-sized chunks, each requiring the user action, is a good example of breaking down a task into bite-sized pieces.


Breaking a bigger task into small pieces can help link two activities together, i.e., connecting the checkout page with the shopping cart. It’s easier for a user to move forward in a flow when presented as logically connected blocks.

💾 Keep Things Familiar

Design your mobile app in such a way that the user can predict what each function will do. In other words, users should be able to see an element and understand its function. Make your interface elements easy to understand.

Users tend to love apps they feel they have a command over, so give them that sense of control!

🔙 Prioritize Creating a Back Button that Actually Works

A great back button is the backbone of your app’s functionality. Remember, there are many ways to go forward, but only one way to go back!

Ensure the “back” button in a multi-step navigation process doesn’t directly take you back to the home screen. That wouldn’t be user-friendly.

🥂 Design a user-friendly Interface

Cater to every type of audience

Don’t forget all segments of your target audience. Remember, your audience includes people who might be visually impairedcolor-blind, or otherwise disabled.

Reduce User Input

Typing on a small mobile screen isn’t the most seamless experience. In fact, it’s often error-prone, and it mostly occurs when a user is asked to fill in a form. We are giving you a few recommendations to make this process easy:

Keep forms as short as possible by removing unnecessary fields. The app should only ask for the bare minimum of information from the user.

Provide input masks. It’s a technique that helps users format typed text. It formats the text automatically as the field is filled out, helping users focus on the required data and notice errors more easily.

Design keeping them in mind.

Keep your app accessible to people of all abilities and weaknesses. Research on users with visual impairment and other disabilities, learn their weaknesses, and design accordingly.

🧘Make Animation Settings Flexible

Many people suffer from motion sickness.

Add the option of turning off animation in your app settings.

🧭 Keep Mobile App Navigation Simple

Navigation is one of the most critical aspects of an excellent mobile app design. It should be kept simple and very convenient.

There are different types of Mobile App navigation. Some of them are:

  1. Hamburger Menu
  2. Tab Bar Menu
  3. Priority + Pattern
  4. Floating Action Button
  5. Full-Screen Navigation
  6. Gesture-Based Navigation

1. Hamburger Menu

Hamburger menus (or side drawers) are popular navigation patterns for mobile devices that help you save screen space. Using the drawer panel, you can hide the navigation beyond the left edge of the screen and reveal it only when the user taps on it.

Utilization

The major downside of a hamburger menu is its low discoverability, so it isn’t recommended as the primary navigation menu. A hamburger menu would be a better secondary navigation option. Secondary navigation options are destinations or features that are important for users only in specific circumstances.

Secondary utilities can be placed in less prominent visual locations as long as users can find them easily when they need them.

Pros
  • A wide variety of navigation options: One significant advantage of this navigation menu is its ability to accommodate many navigation options in a small area.
Cons
  • Undiscovered: You can’t remember what you don’t see; that’s human psychology. So although many mobile users are familiar with this type of navigation, they still don’t prefer to open it.

2. Tab Bar Menu

Tab bars are a go-to option for web applications. For example, the attached app contains relatively few destinations, which can be accessed directly from anywhere.

Utilization

Tab navigation is an excellent choice for apps with a limited number of top-level menu options (up to five). Through the tab bar, users have access to the most important features with just one tap.

Pros
  • Properly used icons, labels, and colors and the tab bar allow the user to understand their current location at a glance.
  • No matter what page the user is on, the navigation remains visible. The user can see all the main app views and switch between them with a single tap.
  • The thumb zone makes the bottom navigation easier to reach when the device is held in one hand.
Cons

You have limited navigation options. If you have more than five options, you might have trouble fitting them in a tab or navigation bar while maintaining optimum touch-target size.

3. Priority + Pattern

Putting less important items behind a “more” button is what Michael Scharnagl called the Priority + Pattern.

Utilization

The pattern might be a good solution if your app or website has tons of sections and pages (like a news site or a large retailer’s website).

PROS
  • Navigation options can be prioritized in this pattern. Only the most frequent navigation options are displayed.
  • This menu is very customizable. You can scale it in screen sizes quite well without having to transform the pattern.
Cons
  • The Priority + Pattern requires designers to consider the relative importance of navigation elements. Keep in mind that the items you prioritize may not be the same items that users more often search for.

4. Floating Action Button:

The floating action button is shaped like a circled icon that hovers over the UI,  changes color when focused, and stands out when selected. Known to all Android users, it is a distinctive element of material design.

Utilization

The floating action button is a circled button normally found under complaint or suggestion sections of an app denoted by a “+” sign. Its primary use case is to let a user write a complaint or suggest to app owners. However, you can make it function differently according to the nature of your app.

Pros
  • It is a guide to what is essential. This is a great way to prioritize the most important actions you want users to take
  • It takes up little space on the screen. Compared to the tab bar, it does not take up a full line.
Cons
  • A floating action button sometimes distracts users from the actual content.

5. Full-Screen Navigation

While other patterns mentioned in this article would struggle to minimize the footprint of navigation systems, the full-screen pattern takes the exact opposite approach. This approach usually dedicates the home page exclusively to navigation. Users gradually tap or swipe to see additional menu options as they scroll up and down.

Utilization

The pattern works well with task and address-based websites and applications, especially when users stay within a single branch of the browsing hierarchy within a given session. Funneling users from broad overview pages to detail pages helps them find what they’re looking for and focus on the content in a single section.

Pros
  • The full-screen navigation pattern is best for the sake of simplicity and consistency. You can organize and display a large amount of information consistently without overwhelming the user. Once the user has decided where to go, they can dedicate the entire screen area to content.
Cons
  • When on browsers, this option goes miserably wrong. You can’t view any content other than the navigation options.

6. Gesture-Based Navigation

Gestures immediately became popular with designers, and many applications were developed to experiment with gesture controls. Today, the success of a mobile app is largely determined by how well the gestures are translated into the user experience.

Utilization

This pattern is good when users want to quickly and intuitively explore the details of certain content. Users spend more time on content than on navigation menus. So one of the reasons to use in-context gestures instead of a standard menu is because it’s more attractive. For instance, when users view the content of a page, they can touch a map to get more information.

Pros
  • It eliminates clutter in the user interface. By putting gestures at the center of your design, you can make your user interfaces more minimalist and save screen space for valuable content.
  • Gestures are a characteristic feature of a product. Tinder made a similar concept of gesture-based browsing massively popular, essentially turning that swipe into a product-defining gesture.
Cons
  • Its biggest downside is that it multiplies user input. In addition, most gestures are not natural or easy to adopt or remember. When designing gesture-based navigation, keep in mind that every time you remove clutter from the user interface, the learning curve of the application increases. And without the proper visual cues, users could get confused about how to interact with the app.

You may:

🎚️Assign priority levels to different Navigation Options

You must set navigational elements’ priority according to their functions.

You should assign a low, medium, or high priority to navigational elements based on users’ interaction with your app.

Simply put, you should structure information in a way that requires a minimum number of screens, swipes, and taps by the user.

Make sure to make each action and important feature visible so that users don’t have to stress their memory.

🍾 Focus On Making First-Time Experience Memorable

You must:

Avoid asking for User registration Info Upfront.

Never ask for users to complete the registration process when they first open the app. Delay sign in as much as possible. The goal here is to let users get a feel of your mobile application. You could do this by giving them a tour of your app first.

This needs to be done because users often abandon the registration processes of apps they don’t recognize. Asking information up-front might, in most cases, put the user off.

To avoid this, slowly remind the user of signing up as they navigate through the app.

✈️ Designing a Great Onboarding Experience is a Must

Onboarding means to showcase the app’s value to your end-user when they begin using your mobile application. The goal here is to provide users with need-to-know information.

Among the many strategies used to offer a great onboarding experience, a famous one is “contextual” onboarding.

In contextual onboarding, you provide users with information only when the user needs to know it.

You can do this by:

  • Asking only for the information your application visibly needs
  • Never asking for information that isn’t necessary as it lowers your app’s credibility.
  • Explaining the purpose of your information request. This will make your mobile app appear genuine.

When you explain the purpose of your information request, it makes the user aware of your goal. You can do this by designing a custom alert when requesting information.

Remember, delivering a wonderful onboarding experience is the basis of holding on to your users!

Your App Should Feel Seamless & Responsive.

This should be a priority when it comes to delivering a great User Experience (UX)

Did you know? The ideal page load time must be less than 2 seconds! This is what almost 1 in every 2 users expect today. If your app page load time goes up to **[3 seconds] **, your bounce rate will go up by 32%

🚧 Distract Your Users Visually

It’s impossible to eliminate your load time completely. The least your app can do is make the wait more pleasant.

You can do this by providing your users with an animated waiting indicator.

Here’s a list of the 10 best loading indicators by Nick Babich. Check this out to get some great ideas.

The goal here is to retain users’ attention while waiting for your app to load its elements.

💀 Skeleton Screens Are a Must have

Skeleton Screens go a long way in giving users the perception that your mobile application is highly responsive and seamless.

They are rectangular patterns that appear before an app page is loaded, giving the impression that the app is speedy.

👍 Design for the thumb zone

Your app must make tapping easy for the users’ fingertips. You can do this by utilizing the standard thumb zone on a mobile phone screen.

You see, it’s all about how users hold their cellphones and how they tap. The majority of the users hold their phones with only one hand (chances are that you are too)

When you hold your phone in one hand, only a part of the screen can naturally be tapped by your thumb, hence the natural thumb zone!

5️ Mobile App Design Trends

It’s only been 29 years since the first smartphone hit the market, and we’re already seeing mobile app trends bounce back! While some apps are busy giving retro throwbacks to the ’90s, others keep one eye on the future.

As you’ve undoubtedly experienced, mobile app designs are way more elegant, responsive, and cleaner than ever before. This is all down to the rapid advances in our tech specs!

So why not get a head start yourself? Here’s a list of the coolest design trends you must be aware of in 2021

🖼️ Prioritize Utilizing Illustrations

Illustrations are going to be the new big in 2021! Say goodbye to bombarding users with plain boring text; instead, guide them through the app with images that complement your information.

Check out these 24 creative illustration ideas By Renee Fleck for better understanding.

Illustrations make the app feel more organic compared to meaningless images or graphics. Such illustrations make users feel at ease and the app environment cozy.

The purpose of this trend is to keep users interested, while the app reveals relevant information.

🌈 Use Colors Of The Future

Among some of the top app design trends in 2021 is the use of futuristic colors. Before, apps used to focus more on adding natural colors such as shades of red, brown, green, etc.

Nowadays, they focus more on colors that feel futuristic such as shades of purple and blue. Such colors aren’t natural and rather, they are the result of a designer’s creativity.

These sorts of colors tend to stand out over dark backdrops and give out a neon-like digital vibe.

Here’s another reason for using such color pallets. Did you know that today’s smartphones show off bold and bright colors with more depth? So go ahead and let your inner Picasso shine!

🖥️Add Transparent elements to UI

One thing that’s likely to change in 2021 are Transparency elements in a UI.

Remember, gradients, color pops, and overlays are making the shift towards being transparent, almost glass-like. When users can somewhat see through an image, it gives the impression of it being light-weight.

Making certain app elements such as gradients translucent make it convenient for more information to fit in less space. This also enables app elements to stand out and appear more defined while reducing clutter.

Here are some transparency ideas for your app interface that you may incorporate in your mobile app design.

🔦 Shed Light On The Dark Mode

Nowadays, more and more designers are shifting their focus towards Dark mode. It’s because people are increasingly spending more time on their smartphones.

App designers are aware of this, and they are developing mobile apps accordingly. This offers two benefits for the user:

  1. When users view apps in dark mode, it does not strain their eyes as much
  2. The phone’s battery life increases

To utilize dark mode efficiently, your text color should be kept light against a dark backdrop. This eases convenience for the user while they use the app.

🏙️ Utilizing 3D elements

Adding 3D elements to mobile application design was quite trendy in 2020 and likely to continue in 2021.

Utilizing 3D elements can provide an immersive experience to the user. Full 3D imaging on a phone screen can give the users an illusion of having extra space they can access.

Using unique and sophisticated 3D elements can make even the most basic app pages look stunning.

Check out these examples of smartly utilizing 3D elements in UI Design to grasp this topic better.

Concluding Remarks

Ultimately, Mobile Application Design combines good visual appeal with great functionality. When these two elements are carefully worked upon, it should result in a brilliantly designed app.

It should be your aim when you take the plunge in mobile app design. Don’t forget to lower your expectations too!

It’s quite unrealistic to expect a perfectly designed app on the first attempt. Always remember, it’s a continuous process.

Your mobile application will continue to evolve as you gain feedback. Testing further and learning from mistakes will eventually perfect the user experience.

Good luck!

P.S Want to develop your own mobile application? At TechNerds, we have a fantastic team of mobile developers committed to making your app idea shine! Contact us for a quick quote.

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