Mobile apps have become an essential component of any successful business in today’s digital age. Whether you are a startup or an established enterprise, having a mobile app can help you reach a larger audience and improve customer engagement. However, designing an app that is both visually appealing and functional can be challenging.
App design is important not only for improving the user experience, but also for improving the app’s functionality, performance, and overall aesthetics. However, creating a mobile app is not an easy task. To ensure a successful outcome, careful planning, strategizing, and execution are required.
Mobile app design can appear extremely vague and pose a lot of questions to the businesses that consider requesting it. “What are the steps? What are the artifacts? How many people will be involved, and what will my role be in it?”
In this article, I answer all these questions and more as we discuss the key stages of designing a successful mobile app.
- Business analysis
You also need to define the purpose of your app and its features. This involves identifying the problems that your app will solve and the features that will help users achieve their goals. It is essential to keep your app simple and user-friendly, and not overload it with too many features.
For example, if you target an average US user, you will be able to win the audience with just an iOS version. But if you want your app to go global, you won’t succeed without an app version for Android, which is overwhelmingly popular in EMEA markets.
Once you define the platform(s) you need to reach, you should consider the development approach. Your options here are:
- Native development – UX and UI design of the app is tailored to the platform’s original guidelines, it looks and feels exactly like any factory app for that platform. This development option entails high implementation costs but guarantees high user satisfaction.
- Hybrid development – UX and UI design are identical on different platforms and thus may feel unnatural to some users at first. Implementation costs are almost 2x lower than with native development.
- Cross-platform development – UX and UI design offer a near-native look and experience on either platform. This option requires about 70% of the native development budget.
Defining functional requirements is the core objective of business analysis. The requirements help build a detailed concept of your future app and describe all the tasks it will handle in the form of a project specification. Without this document, the UX designers won’t be able to even start their work.
- UX design
After you’ve defined the functional requirements for your future app, your preferred vendor can begin the design process. The first stage is user experience design, which is usually done in collaboration with a business analyst by a UX expert.
The team works to develop fictitious profiles of your mobile app’s future users (aka personas) and their interaction patterns with the app (aka user scenarios). Although it depends on the functionality of your app, mobile app design typically necessitates 5-7 personas, each with at least two distinct user scenarios.
Both personas and scenarios help a UX designer understand what goals users will want to achieve while using your app. This understanding, in its turn, allows the designer to give the detailed form of wireframes, either hand-drawn or digital, to interaction flows between a user and the mobile app.
The finished UX wireframes – around 40 mockups on average – go through rigorous, multi-round UX testing. Aimed at gaining early feedback, testing makes it possible to eliminate UX issues while they are still cheap to fix. I also highly advise you (or somebody from the project team on your side) to take part in this testing to see the first results for yourself.
- UI design prototyping
UX wireframes – which usually look like monochromatic schemes – are the basis for the work of user interface designers. By combining your company’s brand book, platform-specific guidelines (the major ones being Google’s Material Design and/or Apple’s Human Interface), and the latest mobile design trends, they transform the lo-fi wireframes into a colorful, hi-fi digital prototype. If you already have a web application with a similar functionality pack, UI designers make sure the mobile app’s look is consistent with that of the web app.
Once the prototype is finished, the UI team contacts you and asks for your review. Make sure to share all your thoughts and doubts at this point. Even if some major fixes or additions end up being costly, they will still be at least 2 times cheaper at this stage than they will be later, in the shape of code.
Only after your project team approves the final version of the UI prototypes, the design is complete, and you can safely proceed to development.
Although I’ve covered the most common choices and actions involved in the mobile app design process, each project has its own specifics that can pose more questions and require more decisions from your side. If you feel like these decisions cause uncertainty that holds you back from launching your mobile app development project, don’t hesitate to reach out to us by clicking the “get in touch” button at the top right of this page to book a free 30-minute consultation to find out how we can help provide your business with a brand-compliant and fully responsive mobile app.