The Best Practices For A Great Mobile App User Experience (UX)
With millions of apps available on the app store today the chances are, if you’ve had a brainwave and come up with an idea that you think is totally unique… you’re probably wrong. It’s highly likely that this idea already exists in some shape or form on the app store. So what is it that separates the successful apps from the unsuccessful ones?
This normally comes down to user experience.
Having a great mobile app user experience is a critical factor of any app, especially today. As time has gone on and technology has become more and more advanced, the expectations of our users have also been raised. They require faster loading times, ease of use and expect to be able to complete a particular task with a limited number of actions possible.
Throughout this post we are going to discuss a few of the elements that make up a good UX for mobile apps, and those that need to be avoided.
What to do
KEEP THINGS SIMPLE
The human brain has a limited amount of processing power. If you overwhelm your users with more information than necessary to begin with, it is likely that they will just give up. Having a cluttered interface with too many buttons, images and text just makes the screen appear overcomplicated. A mobile screen has limited space, so you need to be as practical as you can when it comes to your design, and only include anything that is absolutely necessary. If a certain element does not support a user task - remove it.
ONE SCREEN PER ACTION
A general rule of thumb when designing your mobile interface is to limit each screen to serve a purpose for one action only. Having a number of clear, easy-to-follow screens is much easier to use than having one single cluttered screen.
HIGHLIGHT A NATURAL NEXT STEP
For most apps, completing a particular task will require a number of steps. To maintain momentum as the user completes these steps it is beneficial to highlight clearly what’s next. This can be achieved using the likes of symbols such as arrows, + and x, as well as contrasting colours for the main call-to-action buttons.
The below example by Jae-seong, Jeong makes use of all these elements to highlight natural next steps as well as using navigational transitioning. We can see how this effective use of animation helps users better understand the change in the page’s layout, what actually triggered that change, and how to navigate back to the page they were at previously.
KEEP USER INPUT TO A MINIMUM
Having long forms with potentially unnecessary fields isn’t ideal, especially on a small mobile screen. If your app requires form input from your users try to keep this to the bare minimum of information. Having longer, more complicated forms will only put your users off filling it in.
Using smart features such as autocomplete also helps keep this process as smooth as possible. Pre-fill your forms with information you might already know about the user such as their name and date of birth. Or you can use tools such as Place Autocomplete Address Form which combines geo-location and address prefilling to give accurate suggestions based on the user’s exact location. To ensure your user enters the correct format it’s beneficial to include input masks. This formats the text automatically as the user fills it out and helps reduce errors. When asking for a phone number it makes sense to display the numeric keyboard to the user, and when asking for an email make sure to include the @ button. These are all relatively minor features but greatly improve the app’s ease of use.
VALUABLE PUSH NOTIFICATIONS
Although they aren’t a design element of your app, push notifications play a very important part of the overall user experience. In a recent survey, annoying push notifications turned out to be the number one reason why users install mobile apps, with 71% of respondents mentioning this as a reason. Push notifications are one of the best tools you have available to improve your app engagement, but they need to be timely, valuable and relevant to each of your users. Plaguing your users constantly with irrelevant notifications is just going to cause irritation, and could result in them uninstalling your app in a bid to make it stop.
What not to do
DON’T USE BLANK SCREENS
Today’s users won’t appreciate having to sit around and wait. They expect an app to be fast and instantly responsive. In fact, many users may assume there is an issue with your app or it has frozen if this is not the case, especially if all you show is a blank screen. In times when your content does need to load, you need to show your user that the app hasn’t actually frozen and there are signs of progress. This can be achieved with an animation or a skeleton screen, which indicates to the user that something is happening and the remaining content will appear as soon as it loads.
DON’T OVERCOMPLICATE WORDS AND PHRASES
Using uncommon terms and phases throughout your app will only confuse the user. If you want your app to be straightforward and easy to use then you should use words and phrases that are familiar and understandable for everyone. Trying to be different by using technical and unconventional terminology or acronyms will not always go in your favour.
DON’T ASK FOR A RATING STRAIGHTAWAY
There is nothing wrong with asking for a review. In fact, having a large amount of positive reviews and ratings is essential for app success as it increases the likelihoods of your app getting downloaded. However, asking for a rating before your user has even had a chance to gain any value from using your app is a big no no. You need to give them a chance to get to know your app first and had had time to form an opinion (and ideally, you want this to be a good one). Asking at the wrong time, or too soon and too often will only cause irritation and could lead to a bad review. Wait until the user has launched your app a specific number of times, or after they have completed a positive interaction, such as successfully selling an item on a buy and sell app, or completing a booking on a hotels app.
DON’T ASK FOR PERMISSIONS WITHOUT CONTEXT
For most apps to be able to function at their best, they require some permissions from the user. It’s not unusual to download a new app and to instantly be bombarded with a number of permission requests. This often includes the likes of “Can we access your push notifications?”, “Can we access your camera?”, “Can we access your location?”, “Can we access your contacts?” etc. Your users aren’t yet familiar with your app, and if you have failed to provide any context as to why allowing access to these requests will enhance user experience, then the likelihood that they will deny access is very high. Use a pre-permission message to better communicate exactly what value can be gained from providing access to a particular request. It also works well to actually wait until the user is completing the relevant task that requires the permission, as photo sharing app Cluster demonstrates in the below example:
Creating the perfect user experience is no easy task, especially with the constantly rising expectations from users. However, this is not something you need to get right first time round. Your app is a continually evolving project, so with the right data from testing, research and feedback you will have the ability to keep making improvements to your overall user experience.
Author Bio: Emma is a Marketing Strategist at Hurree. Hurree is a marketing automation platform for apps that helps engage your users and keep them active at a time that suits them. If you would like to learn more, please visit Hurree website.