The Do’s and Don’ts of Mobile App Design

Posted on April 13, 2023 | Updated on June 12, 2023

Mobile apps have become an integral part of our daily lives — from ordering food and booking an Uber to catching up on the latest trends on TikTok and shopping online. With tons of competition in the mobile app market, designers must create an app that stands out. A well-designed app attracts users and guarantees their satisfaction and loyalty.

Below we’ll explore the best mobile app design practices to help you create a product that users will love. Whether you are a seasoned designer or a newcomer, these tips will provide valuable insights into what works and doesn’t in app design. So, let’s discover mobile app design’s do’s and don’ts.

The Dos of Mobile App Design

The dos of mobile app design are essential practices for designers. Here are the top tips to keep in mind when designing an app.

Prioritize User Experience

User experience (UX) is the cornerstone of successful mobile app design. When designing an app, designers should consider the end users and their needs. The design should be intuitive, easy to navigate and visually appealing. One of the best ways to achieve this is by conducting user research to understand the target audience’s preferences and pain points.

Another key aspect of prioritizing UX is incorporating feedback mechanisms into the app. Feedback can be in surveys, ratings or reviews, allowing users to provide opinions on the app’s usability and functionality. Designers can then use this feedback to improve the app and ensure it meets users’ needs and expectations.

Focus on Visual Hierarchy

A visually appealing mobile app is also crucial to design, and one of the key elements is a well-executed visual hierarchy. Visual hierarchy refers to the arrangement of elements on the screen — a way that makes it easy for users to understand the app’s content and navigate it seamlessly.

A strong visual hierarchy ensures users can quickly identify the most important elements of the app, making the experience enjoyable and efficient. Designers can achieve this by using font size, color, contrast and placement. For instance, you should display the most important information in a larger font or with greater contrast, while details of lesser importance should be smaller or less prominent.

Another way to establish visual hierarchy is by using a grid system. This technique ensures all screen elements are aligned and spaced properly, making scanning and navigating the content easier for users. It also creates a sense of balance and harmony in the design, essential for a visually appealing app.

Optimize for Mobile Devices

When optimizing for mobile devices, remember that each has different screens, resolutions and processing. Therefore, designers should adapt the app’s design to these factors to ensure a seamless UX.

When optimizing mobile app design, one best practice is to consider the screen size. The app’s design should be flexible and adaptable to different screen sizes, from small smartphones to larger tablets. Designers can achieve this through responsive design, which automatically adjusts the app’s layout and content to fit the user’s screen.

Designers should also optimize the app’s loading speed because mobile users expect fast loading times. Research shows that even a one-second delay in loading can lead to a 7% drop in conversions and decreases user satisfaction by 16%. However, designers can optimize loading speed by compressing images, reducing the number of HTTP requests and minimizing the app’s file size.

Once you optimize for mobile, consider testing the app’s design on different mobile devices to ensure it performs well on other platforms and screen sizes.

The Don’ts of Mobile App Design

In a mobile app design, there are certain “Don’ts” that designers should avoid to ensure a successful and user-friendly app. These common design mistakes can negatively impact the app’s UX and hinder its success.

Avoid Overcrowding the Screen

Overcrowding refers to the practice of including one too many elements, such as buttons, icons and text, on a single screen. Incorporating this “don’t” of mobile app design can make navigating the app and finding information challenging, leading to frustration and a negative UX.

To avoid overcrowding, designers should arrange simplicity and clarity in the app’s design. Therefore, the app should follow the mobile UX design best practices for clear visual hierarchy and responsiveness. For example, designers should create the app using enough white space to create a visually-pleasing layout and easy-to-use interface.

Another way to avoid overcrowding is to leverage progressive disclosure. This technique lets users gradually reveal information by tapping an icon like a hamburger menu. A hamburger menu is a collapsible menu that provides users with options to navigate different pages within the app. By utilizing this design tactic, users can access additional information without a cluttered screen.

Avoid Inconsistent Design Elements

Consistency is key in mobile app UX design. Otherwise, it can confuse users, make the app difficult to use, and reduce the overall quality of the user experience.

However, you can avoid inconsistency by establishing a visual language for the app. Therefore, designers should create a style guide with a color palette, typography and other elements to keep things consistent. This also includes consistent style across buttons, icons and other interactive features.

In addition to consistent visual design, there should be consistency in interactive design. Designers should ensure interactions, such as swiping, scrolling and tapping, are consistent throughout the app. For example, if swiping left deletes an item in one part, it should do the same in another part of the app.

Avoid Overloading Users With Notifications

Notifications can be a powerful tool for engaging users and increasing usage. However, too many notifications can quickly overwhelm and annoy users, leading them to disable notifications or uninstall the app.

Avoid this “don’t” of mobile app UX design by being selective about the types of notifications the app sends. Notifications should be relevant, timely and valuable to the user. For example, a weather app might send a message when severe weather is on the radar. On the other hand, a social media app will update a user if they receive a message or friend request.

Another thing to remember is to give users control over the types of notifications they want to receive and how often. That way, designers can ensure users only receive relevant and useful messages.

Finally, the notifications should always be clear and easy to understand. For instance, each message should have a clear call to action and provide enough information for the user to take action without opening the app. Additionally, you should design the notifications to fit within the device’s notification center and are not too long or challenging to read.

Best Practices and Pitfalls to Avoid in Mobile App Design

Mobile app design is a complex process that requires careful consideration of user needs and preferences. By following the best mobile app design practices, designers can create effective and engaging apps that meet users’ needs. That way, they positively impact people’s lives and increase the success of downloads, user engagement and satisfaction.

About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dogs, Bear and Lucy.

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