Things Every Designer Should Know about Mobile App Interaction

Maja Dakić
Dec 20, 2018 · 7 min read

Most of the mobile market growth is related to the growing popularity of smartphones. By 2014, around 38 percent of all mobile users were smartphone users. The number of smartphone users worldwide is predicted to grow by one billion in a time span of five years, which means the number of smartphone users in the world is expected to reach 2.7 billion by 2019.

Crazy, isn’t it?

So how can you know great quality mobile interaction design when you see it? The thing is, you cannot.

However, the bad design is much more noticeable. Nevertheless relatively short experience with smartphones and tablets, most users quickly get tired of the burdensome content like button in the wrong spot, illogical animation or too much text that kills attention span.

A great interaction design is welcoming and instructive, helps users to figure out how to operate a mobile app and should be natural. These qualities don’t come easy — it takes hard work, lots of practice and plenty of patience during the design development.

I have listed some useful tips based on our experience and readings, which can help you make a practical and stylish app.

  1. Simple and plain flow

One of the biggest mistakes for an app is to be complex, failing to take the user smoothly from one step to another. Your work won’t get much spotlight if users are lost soon after opening the app. If your app doesn’t meet users’ needs quickly enough, someone else’s will.

Digital software must be intuitive, meaning it must carefully alert users for each phase of the app experience. You should use contrasting colours to indicate important buttons, bold topography to emphasize things when necessary and visual cues to point users to the desired direction.

Also, the system should be logical so that users could recognize the iterative patterns and use mobile app intuitively.

2. Match your interactions to the platform

Sometimes app designers create an interface on one platform and try to imitate the exact interaction design and visual strategy on another platform.

Now, if you plan to take your app across multiple platforms — Android, Apple, Windows or any other mobile operating system (OS) — bear in mind that users select their operating system for a reason — they may prefer the visual style, or they like customization available on Android device or it could be the simplicity of the iPhone etc.

Each operating system (OS) has a specific set of human interface and interaction design guidelines which are strictly followed by their designers when developing the apps for the specific platform.

Take time to study and research particular interface practice in the OS you’re targeting, and then modify your app’s design to take the best advantage of the same and you’ll see — the users will be thankful.

3. Make a clean UI

A picture is worth a thousand words and a visual interface icon is worth 10,000 lines of code’.

Designers need to figure out how to include all content in small space without cluttering user interface since the small screen on the devices is a big drawback of UI design. Clean UI helps users to effectively interact with an app since all core elements can be reached easily.

To create a neat mobile UI, you should create strong and simple icons as interactive elements — they can visually explain a function with simple shapes and save the screen space. For example, you can use a checkmark to indicate that something is done or a heart to show something as a favourite. However, be sure to check if the icons are appropriate and if they transfer the right message.

Additionally, photos and digital images are universally understood in almost any language (e.g. ‘plus’ sign meaning ‘add’ or ‘create’) so whenever you can, eliminate text from your design and focus on elements that don’t require words. By doing this, you’re ensuring that your app is usable for people of any language and thus you increase your app reach exponentially.

4. Apply familiar patterns

A designer can say he/she did a good job when an app can be used intuitively, meaning UI design has to contain recognition patterns. Those are the elements which users are already familiar with and which give slight hints on how the app works (like CTA buttons such as ‘Add to cart’ etc.). Users adapt to things quickly and in the absence of the same, they feel uncomfortable.

So, if you plan to use custom interactive elements, don’t forget to add some standard components so that your new app doesn’t overwhelm users with a completely unfamiliar environment.

5. Declutter and again, declutter

Mobile apps have quickly become the most frequently used piece of technology but their small screens cannot display much information at a time.

As a designer, you should keep this in mind during your work. The best approach to mitigate such pitfalls is to remove as many overbearing features as possible.

To avoid cluttering the app, try to apply only core functional elements which will get users right to the point they need. If a function is not essential — remove it. The simplicity will help users to concentrate on the purpose of your app, making it functional for users of all skill levels.

Don’t be afraid that a minimal number of actions will make your app look primitive — it will just help your app to be more effective and pleasant to use. Bear in mind that people mostly rate the quality of an app based on how helpful it is.

6. Add game-like mechanics

An effective mobile interaction system should be concise and clear to use so it could operate flawlessly.

Standard apps have fewer chances to get users’ attention. That is the reason why you should bring some emotional aspects to the app if it seems ordinary at first glance.

To make the whole process more captivating, it can be a good idea to use gamification — various challenges, boards, and stickers will motivate users to interact with a product more and return to it regularly.

This is an effective way to create clear layout and transitions plus it adds the element of fun. Users enjoy entertainment, challenges and competitive spirit so they are encouraged to come back. By adding the fun element into a casual application, you help users to reduce some stress and relax while using your app.

7. ‘Short and Sweet’ Form

Mobile phones’ advantage over the web is that they have a lot of great hardware like accelerometer, GPS, Bluetooth, gesture recognition etc. so a designer should effectively utilize those features.

The primary activities on the mobile are swipe, tap and long press so options like sliding, swiping, tapping or using fingerprint should be used instead of typing. You can reduce many form fields by utilizing all this hardware so try different interactions for form filling and make it short and plain.

Additionally, make a perfect search work as that is the measure of successful UI/UX flow to a certain extent. Users usually like the traditional model of swiping down for searching. Also, show the options for a recent search and a favourite search time.

What’s more, always include filter and sort options — you should afford an effective filter and sort options which will give a key choice based on the context.

8. Orientation

If the users use your app for 30% time in the landscape mode, you must design it for the landscape mode. But a majority of designers test their app in the portrait mode alone.

You should test your app both in landscape and portrait mode.

Landscape mode is usually the primary mode for apps related to driving, finance, books, and games.

9. Always ask for in-context permission

The first interaction with the app plays a key role in creating an overall impression about it (good or bad). When users open the new app, the last thing they want to see are multiple popups asking for permissions (app would like to access your camera/ contacts/location etc.). This action has a negative impact on user experience (UX) and usually leads to the app being uninstalled. The app needs to be able to keep in touch with users before asking for permission so to maintain engagement.

The strategy of permission consent should rely upon the clarity and importance of the permission type you are requesting. You should make a distinction between critical (up-front) and secondary (in-context) permissions.

Users are very serious about their data and don’t have a tendency just to tap and give all the authority to the app. Asking for the right permission at the right time will make users to trust your app.

10. Don’t forget the Testing

When you start designing, connect your mobile with a laptop to see the quality of design. Usability testing is an essential stage in creating mobile apps and it helps to evaluate it by testing on the potential audience.

Different usability testing methods allow identifying problems and bugs and quickly remove them. That’s how designers can improve each aspect of UX ensuring user satisfaction.

Data Driven Investor

from confusion to clarity, not insanity

Maja Dakić

Written by

M.A. in English Language and Literature

Data Driven Investor

from confusion to clarity, not insanity

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