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5 Mobile Design Best Practices for Apps that Keep the User in Mind

Michael McNichols
Senior Content Manager

According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2019, 96% of Americans owned a cellphone of some kind, and approximately half of U.S. adults own tablet computers or e-reader devices. Marketers have long known that they must account for mobile in their campaigns. A report in February 2020 from the CMO Survey found that the percentage marketers put into their mobile budgets has grown to 13.5%, up from 11.2% a year ago.

The mobile experience, however, must keep the user in mind. A savvy designer remembers this when creating a mobile app, as the mobile experience differs from that of other channels. It aims to be simpler, easier to use, and more intuitive.

This calls for a mobile design that incorporates these five best practices:

1. Put the user’s needs first

A mobile app can’t be complicated or too hard to use. If it is, a user will just quickly move on to another app. This means making the navigation as simple and easy to understand as possible. A designer can achieve this by:

  • Using recognized design layouts and icons that users are familiar with. For example, users tend to be familiar with the hamburger interface as a navigation menu. Users are also accustomed to a bubble icon for chat. By using recognizable designs and icons, you make the app more intuitive to use.
  • As with any cross-channel experience, smart designers are tasked with creating a seamless, consistent look and feel across devices, such as a mobile app, mobile website, and desktop website. Design elements and content should mirror each other (but optimized for their specific channel). This makes it easier for people to navigate channels and reinforces your brand.
  • Considering what a user’s goals are and making them easy to achieve. For example, when viewing a restaurant’s app, a user probably won’t want to see everything, only the menu, location, contact information, and delivery or takeout options. Therefore, those are the features the designer should make easy to find and use.

2. Reduce clutter and personalize

Personalization should direct users to the content they’re most interested in. It helps streamline the experience to only what is useful to the user and keeps messaging and design consistent. Smart brands reduce options so they won’t clutter the experience. Giving a user too much information overcomplicates the design and navigation of an app. Experienced brands keep things simple and personalize the content.

3. Make the app fast and responsive

Users don’t want to wait for the content and information they need. Apps need to be fast and responsive avoiding long page load times and bad user experiences.  If users have to wait too long, they might abandon the app to get what they want quicker somewhere else.

4. Don’t send too many push notifications

Keeping in touch with users is important, as is getting users to return the app again and again. Push notifications help in share updates on the app and news users might need. However, be careful not to bombard users with too many push notifications. When a user receives too many push notifications in a short time frame they may consider disabling them. Remember quality is more important than quantity. Leverage push notifications only when the content is relevant and timely.

5. Check how everything looks on mobile

Whether it’s an email, app, or website that's being optimized for mobile, smart designers check to see how it looks for themselves. Because it looks different on a smaller screen than on a desktop, mobile design calls for tighter, more concise copy, broken up into small, easier-to-read chunks. A good designer uses white space to draw attention to the most important features, content, and elements of a design. White space also helps to make everything more readable.  

Check out “Quick and Sharp: 5 Pro Tips for Optimizing an Email for Mobile.

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