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How to create engaging app UX

Posted by Ben Dickson on Jan 5, 2016 12:00:00 PM
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Smartphones have become intensely personal devices and an inseparable part of our daily lives. As such, our apps must be created in a highly user-centric fashion.

Personalized User Experience (UX) is what every user looks for and expects from a great app. With new trends and technologies constantly surfacing, you need innovative ways to keep your users interested, plus the means to gauge their interaction and engagement in order to obtain desirable results from your app.

If you have experience designing for other mediums, do consider that designing for mobile isn’t just about designing for a smaller screen. It’s also about the context and environment in which these devices are used, the difference that a touchscreen makes to interactions, and even the different relationship that people have with their phone in comparison to laptop and desktop workstations.

With that in mind, here are a few tips that will help you ensure UX success in your app.

Be a user-centered designer

The best UX designers are those who really understand users. This includes everything from understanding their basic requirements, getting and understanding their feedback in each phase of design and development, and iterating and adapting their design based on their interaction with the users. UX designers need to anticipate the sort of design challenges they’ll face in respect with their users and demographics, and they have to be able to research the tools they need for every task, instead of just sticking to old methods and tools for each application they design.

User feedback mechanisms might change over time, but the core user-centered design process will remain the same: A good user-centered UX designer will have to know how every decision made will impact the end user, ensuring that said impact is positive.

Keep things simple and persuasive

Your app should be so intuitive and easy-to-use that first-time users can quickly get comfortable with it without the need for instructions and guidelines. The first impression users get from your app is perhaps the most important one. If their first experience is one that is mingled with confusion, frustration, and a lot of back-and-forth between app pages, there’ll be a very high possibility that your app will join the ranks of uninstalled and abandoned apps on their devices.

Aside from being easy, your app also has to be highly persuasive as well. You have to learn to use scarcity, reciprocity and social proofing to your advantage and guide users to take the actions you desire them to take and in the order you wish them to perform.


 Get 'em talking: 5 Ways To Get Better Pro And User Reviews Of Your Mobile App


Involve real users when designing your app

Why wait for feedback from users after publishing your app when you can get it in the design and development phase? No one will tell you if you’re on the right track better than the end user who will be using your app after you launch it.

For this to happen, you can invest in participatory design, which involves opening up the design process to users and other stakeholders and interested parties. Involving real users will help you reduce chances of confusion in the design and layout of buttons and features in your app, and it will help you avoid re-works and fundamental changes in the post-deployment phase.

But working with real users in your design process needs its own set of skills, and as an app UX designer, you need to become skilled in running collaborative design workshops, facilitating collaborative design sessions and generally involving stakeholders from across an organization.

Taking the participatory design to the next level, you can consider “crowd-sourced” design, which takes ideas from a much wider range of users through the power of internet. There is an increasing number of UX tools available that enable you to do your usability testing, discuss feature ideas and get user feedback remotely.

Stick to the guidelines and tried-and-tested designs

Do not reinvent the wheel. There are already a lot of great apps out there you can look to for inspiration and ideas for your own UI/UX design. Examining what makes other apps successful can help you decide how to make your own easier to use and more user friendly.

There are already lots of sources that can guide you on successful UI and design patterns for mobile apps. A lot can be said about design patterns, but in short, they are tried-and-tested templates that can be tailored to your app and help you make the right design decisions. Most design pattern guides will tell you to pay special attention to two specific parameters when making UX design decisions:

  • Gestures: Gestures define mobile apps. Touches, swipes, double-taps, pinches, and zoom movements each have specific meanings and are becoming the normal habits of mobile users. You have to make sure your app’s behavior conforms to the guidelines for each gesture.

  • Animations: Animations create specific feelings and expectations in users. For instance, a vanish animation infers deletion; a slide-out-of-sight movement means the disappearing element is still available for later use.

Of course, never forget to go straight to the source and read the guidelines from the manufacturers themselves. Both Android and iOS offer their own set of guidelines, helping developers and designers make the best use of device features in their apps. Moreover, major app stores scrutinize apps thoroughly. Knowing the guidelines will make sure you have a better chance of getting your app published without disruption.

Final thoughts

Mobile apps are encroaching over every aspect of our lives. Knowing how to create a better user experience will ensure your success in this fast-growing development field.

These tips will help you get started on a successful UX design journey. Each of the points can be further elaborated and explained (which I’ll leave to you for the moment and address in future posts), but sticking to a few basic concepts can ensure you’re always headed in the right direction.

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