One of the most important things to take into consideration when designing for mobile is knowing what it is that users want or need. Mobile user experience (UX) design refers to the design of positive experiences during the use of mobile devices and wearables, and applications or services running on such devices. The mobile market, like the contexts in which mobiles are used, places unique requirements on the design of the user experience. Mobile UX design focuses strongly on efficiency and discoverability.

Mobile users engage with their devices for specific reasons and usually for short periods of time. Their experiences need to be personalized, efficient and enjoyable in order to keep them engaged and ensure their continued use of such items. Therefore, mobile UX design focuses on delivering devices and services that are streamlined to serve spontaneous user needs that change with the context the user finds their self in, while keeping the interaction levels as low as possible; Whether it is standing in line at a coffee shop or bracing for a sudden stop while riding the bus.

Another significant challenge for mobile UX is discoverability. Due to the sheer size of app marketplaces, it is important for a mobile app to be unique and easily identifiable. For the same reason, retention and engagement also pose significant challenges because of the many alternatives of free apps available in the same marketplace.  For mobile UX designers, the careful shaping of the mobile user experience—from discovery to operation and co-operation with other devices or services. A key goal is to create positive and personally meaningful experiences for users, but it is also important to remember to keep the design simple and easy to use (Norman, 6).

Branding is Important

Designing for mobile also involves appreciating the need for brand consistency and the users’ expectations of content regarding their threshold for inferior versions of “full-fledged” designs they would find on computers at home or in the office. Users do not need the entire inventory listed on a mobile app. There is not enough real estate on a mobile site and would look too cluttered and messy.

What is a Good Experience for Mobile Design?

According to Nick Babich, there are six fundamentals in what is considered a good experience when using mobile design; which are, “Minimize cognitive load, Optimize User Flow, Cut Out the Clutter, Make Navigation Self-Evident, Optimize Interactions for the Medium, and Design Finger-Friendly Tap Targets”(Babich, 2017).

Minimize Cognitive Load

Users who encounter a difficult and confusing app are more than likely to delete it and find one that is easier to use.

Optimize User Flow

Understanding what a user wants out of an App will enable a designer to get a better idea of what not to do with the design, as well as improve upon it. Nick Babich suggests ‘Chunking’, which limits the number of steps for the checkout process and making it easier on customers and also improves comprehension (Babich, 2017).

Cutting Out the Clutter

Making the design simple and having only relevant information on a mobile screen makes it easier to use. A cluttered screen overwhelms users and looks messy. There is only so much real estate on a regular website and even less on a mobile one. “If you want to reduce clutter on a screen which represents a part of the user flow — show only what is necessary on the current step of the flow. For example, when a user is making a choice, reveal enough information to allow them the choice, then dive into details on the next screen(s)”(Babich, 2017).

Make Navigation Self-Evident

You can have the best-looking site ever, but if people cannot locate it, it won’t matter. Don’t hide the navigation. Make it obvious and keep it consistent on all pages . Most people using the web are not professional computer experts, so you should design as if they aren’t(Hoekman, 4).

The majority of users are familiar with standard navigation, whether it is Apple or Android on sites, so keep it simple (Babich).

Optimize Interactions for the Medium

Mobile sites are not exact versions of the desktop site. They have their own restrictions and distinctions to operate them. The mobile interface shouldn’t hide links in images or otherwise. The user needs to identify exactly what they are supposed to do in order to navigate easily.

Design Finger-Friendly Tap Targets

Not only is it important for users to clearly identify a target control, they should also, according to Nick Babich, “As a rule of thumb, design controls that have touch area of 7–10 mm so they can be accurately tapped with a finger (2017).  It is important for users to understand how to use and navigate buttons on a site in order to complete the action easily and without frustration.

Does Your Mobile Website Pass the Thumb Test?

Back to the Basics when Designing for Mobile Users

User-Experience Designers know that in order to create for Mobile it is a good idea to start with the basics. UX designers start with using simple supplies, such as paper, markers, post-it notes, or just plain old paper and pencil to sketch out ideas.  Sketching can be done at any stage. You should take into consideration who you are designing for and what you are trying to communicate when starting the design process. Using ordinary paper allows you to share your ideas with others and edit easily at the start of the design process. It also allows for sketching out ideas in your head and allows for  editing many steps in the design process, such as user flow.  You can also explore a variety of layouts with an outline sketch to show the basic App structure, which is also called a wire frame. Professional UX designers often “test early and test often”, says Gerry Cao, UXPin UX designer, and “You should prototype every possible iteration of your design—even your first, most basic idea” (Cao). 

Once you agree on the layout structure you can move on to a higher fidelity sketch. This type of sketch is created with more details like color, images, and simulated buttons. After creating the higher fidelity sketch you may want to transfer your design with digital tools; however, the more you flush out your ideas on paper, the faster you can move on a computer. During the mid-development and even the post-launch stage, you may need to rethink your design. You might sketch out on paper changes or revisions to the design, so getting the final design hashed out is a good idea and saves time and money later on. Paper prototyping allows you to create and test user interfaces quickly and cheaply. It’s easier to change a prototype than the final design (Flaherty). You can simulate what happens with “pretend” buttons, such as color or quantity choices of a product for sale on the app site. On a paper prototype, you can see the results of user interactions with each screen drawing. An example of this could be a user’s address information screen during the checkout process. 

**Unfortunately, you cannot change the timing using Google Font Awesome**

You can also create an animation of your paper prototype by taking photos of your sketches and using Google Photo’s Auto Awesome feature. This creates a portable version of your prototype that is easier to share and collaborate with group project members. You can print out copies of the screens as well. Mixing classic designs with innovation gives all possibility of interacting with technology. By starting with purposeful and consistent design ideas and colors, your design will be cohesive and align well and reduce visual noise for the user.

Usability Testing

There are a lot of elements involved in mobile usability testing. The best part about this aspect of mobile design is that mobile is easier and quicker, because it is on a smaller scale than computer application design. There are practical do’s and don’ts of mobile design.

According to Nick Babich, you should do your homework by conducting a competitive analysis of apps similar to your design. “Do research first. Proper research will help you understand who your users are and what they really need. The goal is to create an experience that truly resonates with your target audience”. The research will enable you to build a user “persona” and get a good idea of what your users really want or need in the content for it. It’s also a good idea to “prioritize” features such as buttons and navigation. It is better to be selective and keep page content to a minimum. Users don’t like cluttered pages, so make sure each screen defines one thing or category so that it is easy to learn and use. That way users get a sense of familiarity and are comfortable with it (2018). 

Using ordinary paper allows you to share your ideas with others and edit easily at the start of the design process. It also allows for sketching out ideas in your head and allows for editing many steps in the design process, such as user flow.  You can also explore a variety of layouts with an outline sketch to show the basic App structure, which is also called a wire frame. Professional UX designers often “test early and test often”, says Jerry Cao, UXPin UX designer, and “You should prototype every possible iteration of your design—even your first, most basic idea (J. Cao). 

Once you agree on the layout structure you can move on to a higher fidelity sketch. This type of sketch is created with more details like color, images, and simulated buttons. After creating the higher fidelity sketch you may want to transfer your design with digital tools; however, the more you flush out your ideas on paper, the faster you can move on a computer. During the mid-development and even the post-launch stage, you may need to rethink your design. You might sketch out on paper changes or revisions to the design,so getting the final design hashed out is a good idea and saves time and money later. With paper prototyping you can explore what happens with simulated buttons, such as color or quantity choices of a product. On a paper prototype you can see the results of user interactions with each screen drawing. An example of this could be a user’s address information screen curing the checkout process.  You can also create an animation of your paper prototype by taking photos of your sketches and using Google Photo’s Auto-Awesome feature. This creates a portable version of your prototype that is easier to share and collaborate with group project members. You can print out copies of the screens as well. Mixing classic designs with innovation gives all possibility of interacting with technology. By starting with purposeful and consistent design ideas and colors, your design will be cohesive and align well and reduce visual noise for the user. 

Once you are past the paper prototyping stage and have moved on to digital prototyping your design of your application will really start to look like something. After launching your prototype digitally and testing it out with users, you will get an even clearer picture of what you will want to keep and discard.  After finalizing every detail possible, it is time to launch the beta version to catch any last-minute glitches. If everything works out and there aren’t any more problems, then you are ready to launch your mobile application.

Works Cited

Babich, Nick. “The Guide to Mobile App Design: Best Practices for 2018 and Beyond.” December 2017. Studio UXPin. web. 1 November 2018.

Cao, Jerry. “What is a Prototype: A Guide to Functional UX.” 18 Hune 2018. Studio UXPin. web. 1 november 2018.

Hoekman, Robert. Designing the Obvious: A Common Sense Approach to Web and Mobile Application Design. Vol. 2nd Edition. New York: New Riders, 2011. Book.

Norman, Donald. The Design of Everyday Things. New York: Basic Books, 1990. download.