There are many aspects to consider when developing an effective app. An effective app considers the users' perspective and depends significantly on research and testing. These fundamentals are crucial to ensure an app is user-friendly and remains valuable to the user for the long term.
Maria de Landerset, Product Designer at MOHARA, gives us an incredible view of the intricacies of designing a successful product or application.
Briefly describe what you believe to be an effective app.
I could answer this question in many ways. First, I look at an application from a designer's perspective and a user's perspective. As a designer, I would say that an effective app is a user-centred design. From a user’s perspective, an effective app needs to be easy to use and give the impression of familiarity.
Overall, an app needs to be consistent with the brand persona/image. I base all my designs on what I know about the brand – and it has to be compatible with the brand as a whole. Design systems are imperative for this reason.
It is also important to note that developing an app may be super complicated (the logic and all that goes behind it can be very complicated). Still, from the user’s perspective, all that matters is that the app needs to be easy to use and simple to navigate.
A famous quote says, “good design is invisible.” Therefore, users shouldn’t be able to tell what went into designing the app; it should be instinctive so that when the user uses the app for a specific reason, they won’t notice what went into designing the app.
Ensure a clear understanding of how, when, where, and why your users use your product. Hopefully, they will use your app for the long haul. Context is vital.
Also, the designs should be intentional and focused on what you, as the designer, would like users to do. Give users a clear indication of what you want them to do – because you have to guide your users. There are loads of tools or methods that you can use to do this. Progressive Disclosure – for example, is a technique that designers use to disclose information and actions as they go through the user flow. And, you, as the designer, then get to decide how to use one aspect of the design over the other. Whilst using this technique, the context needs to be considered – when and how are users using the app and how important it is for users to have everything upfront? You should also remember not to overwhelm the user. Progressive Disclosure is effective because it ensures that your design is intentional.
When designing a mobile application, you have to narrow it down and ensure that each screen has one purpose. As a designer, to ensure that the design is effective, you have to clarify the primary action for every screen.
Why is user experience (UX) design critical in developing an effective app?
If you completely remove the design, what would be left? Remove the design, and all that is left is development.
Even if a developer sets up an interface, it is still a design.
Also, how do you make a great app without the design process? You get tons of insights through research and collecting customer insights, using design thinking and considering multiple solutions to a single problem, and trying and testing throughout the design process. It’s essentially the foundation of a good design process (and design as a whole).
To have the best application you can have, you have to go a little beyond the user interface and look at the experience that your users will have. You have to consider your users' environment – this can only be done through research (as part of the design process).
Clients or founders have knowledge and expertise that is incredibly valuable. They know their products inside out. Yet, it is very important to do research irrespective of this because no matter how much you think you know about your users and their wants and needs – there will always be information that will surprise you. That is why it is not advisable to design an app based on your initial knowledge. Instead, before designing your user flows, conduct thorough research to include features that your users truly want and need – in this way, you’ll set yourself apart from your competitors.
Research brings about interesting feedback. You may collect insights that you may have never considered.
What are the fundamentals of designing a great app?
If we take a comprehensive approach to design and the design process itself, research, using design thinking (coming up with multiple solutions), and testing should be the foundation for developing an effective or great app. There are many ways to do this, in particular, testing. Through testing, you’ll receive valuable information.
It’s also super important to consider multiple solutions to a problem. There’s never one way to tackle a single problem. If you only have one way, you’re not considering all aspects – you have to research.
Conduct loads of research to see what else is out there and consider what other solutions you could apply. Of course, we must base our theories on assumptions during the design process, but we always test these assumptions as designers. After conducting research, you’ll receive a great many insights. Remember, it’s still impossible to know everything, but you’ll have a solid foundation.
Of course, when you put your designs together – the best way for you to understand if your assumptions are correct is to test them. That is why testing is one of the most important steps to design an effective application.
How do UI and UX impact designing an effective app?
UI is part of the UX bubble. User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) are not different. UI is a part of UX. Research, testing, and implementing – UI is one of these aspects.
UI is what you see when you open an app or website (or on any device). Therefore, UX cannot be effective without a good UI design. And UI design cannot be effective without considering all of the other steps in the UX design process.
UI is part of the user experience, and it is important for two reasons:
Aspects that make a UI effective are, for example, accessibility, and making sure that all of the elements in your designs are the correct size or the correct contrast.
Make sure that the UI considers the purpose of the application for users, so for example, you can’t design a UI for a fitness app in the same way that you design an app for a bank because they are worlds apart. Even if many users use fitness and banking apps, their expectations are entirely different. So it is not just about moving pixels around and making the app look pretty; there are many aspects to consider to develop an effective UI design – but this is only one part of the UX design process.
How important is it to focus on the users' needs when designing an app?
Not considering the user increases the probability of your app not being effective and thus failing.
By following the design process and researching, you consider your users. However, neglecting to do any research or testing will also mean that you have failed to consider how your users will use your app and in which contexts.
How important is colour in regard to building a great app? Do colours matter? Does it affect how well users will receive the app?
There is loads of research around the use of colour. Blue gives people a trustworthy feeling, and orange is very active. Black is considered luxurious. Although, when it comes to applications. As vital as colour is, accessibility and consistency are the most crucial factors.
When applying colour to designs, it is crucial to consider accessibility readability and ensure that the contrast is correct. For example, primary actions usually need to have an action colour. In addition, we use colour to make certain elements stand out.
If you’re only considering colour as a differentiator in your design, you will end up excluding colourblind people. Colour is important and can be an excellent visual cue, but only to a certain degree. That is why accessibility should be at the top of all designers' priorities.
Accessibility is about making sure that everything in your interface has enough contrast. For example, if you have a piece of text on a white background and the text is light grey, it will not have enough contrast, so it’s not accessible. On the other hand, everyone knows that black text on a white background is super-readable. Many tools help designers to check the colour accessibility of their designs.
In your opinion, does microcopy have a significant role in designing an effective/great app?
Microcopy connects to the overall development and design of an effective app. It all works together. It is essential to have descriptive microcopy that is on point, intentional and clear. Copy for buttons needs to indicate what will happen once the user clicks the button. Copy needs to consider the app’s audience when deciding the tone of voice. For example, a banking app would have a different tone than a fitness app. Microcopy certainly matters.
As users, we are swamped with various apps every day. It has become part of our daily lives, and many of us use these apps to organise our busy schedules, take care of our mental health, and so much more. Maria has described what goes into designing an app that enhances our daily experiences. If you’re keen to know more, have a read through our article on the seven design fundamentals of an effective app.
The next time you pick up your phone and click on your favourite app – take a moment to consider everything it took to make you happy. After all, as Maria says, the user (that’s you) should be at the very centre of it all.