The quality of mobile app user experience is highly relevant in terms of holding users’ attention for the largest number of repeated launches. The Interaction Design Foundation claims that mobile UX must bring joy to users and this is something I agree with.
The point is that such a clear idea is, in fact, a challenge for all mobile app designers. Fortunately, the smartphone market has existed long enough to supply us with both good and bad practices. In this article, I survey the best mobile UX implementations to provide a holistic overview of logical and effective app UX.
It is important to consider that best practices are not always successful ones. Even such giants as Google make mistakes. At Android Dev Summit 2018, Google admitted that bright white material design canvases consume too much energy. An app’s effect on battery life is as significant for UX as are visual features, accessibility and other factors I cover in this article. User experience is a true reflection of the developer’s understanding of essential app design rules as well as knowledge of psychology and statistics.
The app market is extremely competitive, so developers lack time to launch apps – often resorting to test and fix them on the go.
How an App’s Performance Affects UX
The performance of an application is a sum of two basic measurements. The first one is the app’s average response time to commands during conditions of peak CPU load. The response time must be as fast as possible since slow response time is the top reason why users reject apps. An application must launch without an irritating downloading process.
This is where the second measurement comes in. A developer should calculate the amount of computational power needed for an app’s launch and even functioning. At 407 Session of WWDC 2018, Apple Xcode Engineer John Hess expressed this very point. He also insisted that measurements be done at all stages of application development.
According to Hess, performance enhancement consists of several stages. The first is debugging. Apple does this using profilers (measurement software) and the re-coding of applications. As a result, it deletes massive parts of redundant code from its apps. This operation must be repeated until profilers detect the desired performance growth.
Likely, users will not notice any dramatic changes but smartphone hardware will. The less capacity needed for the peak load, the higher the number of simultaneous tasks that may be run without throttling and freezes.
Effective Onboarding Flow Principles
This stage is crucial because it determines the user’s accustomization to a new application. Of course, all apps require specific onboarding steps, but their purpose is unified. They must let you in, collect your data and introduce capabilities as fast as possible. Let us get straight to the examples.
- LinkedIn: This app gives new users a brief descriptive introduction to the network. It was a wise decision to allow users to skip the intro if they already know what the network is about. During the next stage, users are asked to enter their personal information. It feels out all the necessary data to provide instant suggestions for interest groups, opinion leaders, professionals in adjacent fields and familiar personalities from Facebook and email contacts. This way, LinkedIn completes an otherwise time-consuming research process in seconds, without users’ participation.
- Flipboard: This is an example of a unique ‘ flow. Flipboard is designed to astonish users from the very first launch. After six years, I still remember my first launch! This app has a unique navigation mechanism that is based on flipping pages in a manner similar to flipping through a paper magazine. It would be impossible to understand the logic without instructions. That is why the introduction teaches new users how to use the app. It also collects information about the users’ interests. The impression of a soft cultural shock that the introduction provides will make users want to complete the rather dull registration process that follows.
- Duolingo: This app is designed to help multicultural audiences learn new languages. Onboarding flow in Duolingo is multistage. Before users get to the sign-in screen, they must choose a language to study, pass a short test, choose goals and a studying path, and even complete the first lesson. This way, Duolingo figures out a newbie’s level and purpose. At the same time, it shows everything a new user should know about the app’s mission. To be fair, I tested many apps for language learning, and Duolingo is not the most effective one. However, it is the most popular one. The quality of its UX has made this app go viral. Moreover, it persuades users that learning a new language is more straightforward with Duolingo.
As you know, these apps provide entirely different services, but they do adhere to similar rules. An app must introduce itself rapidly and descriptively, teach users how to use it properly and provide a feeling of joy from the use of the application.
Proper UX Personalization Cases
Of course, it is much easier to let users search for and choose what they want, but they do not need an app that is unable to help. At the same time, users hate the feeling of being spied on. Based on these conditions, UX personalisation should be both more subtle and effective. I suggest reading these personalisation tips to get more out of the practices below.
- Netflix & YouTube: Both video streaming services provide automated feed personalisation. They use previously viewed and rated videos to suggest relevant content. The same algorithm is used in YouTube to show related videos directly under currently viewed videos. Besides, it is not obligatory to create a YouTube account to use both features.
- Facebook App: Each post in this social networking app has a button that allows users to express their wish to see (or not see) something similar to the post at a later date. Users are also allowed to set a notification for specific contacts and groups. At the same time, this app has automated suggestions for new people and interest communities.
So, the outcomes are clear. It is wise to strike a balance between automated personalisation based on user activity and manual control.
The Market Search Strategy
There might be two similar applications on the mobile app market. However, the most successful of them will have more promotion. Visibility merely is higher in the App Store and Play Market charts. Sometimes, it is much more expensive to sell an app than to develop it. A good strategy includes these necessary steps to attract the attention of potential users.
- Research: At this stage, a developer must figure out everything about target audiences and competitors to determine what people need and to deliver an app in a fresh way.
- Good Old Landing Page: This is a field for creativity. It is impossible to suggest a perfect formula for this promotional tool. I can list only truisms. A landing page must be descriptive, exciting and catchy and it must arouse desire.
- ASO (App Store Optimization): This task looks simple, but it requires some magic. The app must have a one-and-only icon and title to remain recognisable throughout the years. It also needs sharp explanatory screenshots and a clear description.
- Viral Video Content: Video marketing stats show that video content is one of the most effective means of advertising. People naturally like watching videos more than they like reading or listening. This method of perception has the highest efficiency.
- Social Networking: All smartphone users have social network accounts. It is not necessary to obtain all of them. Developers should choose those networks that hold most of their target audience.
Endless UX Optimization
I have already said that app developers do not have time for mistakes. That is why they must do their best to launch new apps with reusable code and to lighten all components. The fact is, UX optimisation is a perpetual, iterative undertaking. All apps require constant updates to improve their UX. Sometimes they may be rejected, but they still must be frequent enough to keep pace. Users see only the wrapper, but their subconscious does not miss any details. This means there are no limits to code and design improvements.
Unfortunately, we have almost reached the end of this article. That is why I would like to suggest some additional short UX tips.
- Consider different screen sizes. It is difficult for many users to reach the top corners.
- Some people have large thumbs, so they cannot press small buttons without tapping something else.
- UX must be similarly effective for both right-handed people and left-handed people.
- About 15% of smartphone users have accessibility problems. Fortunately, comprehensive guidelines are available to make UX comfortable for them.
In this article, I have covered the stages of mobile app UX enhancement and provided examples to help you visualise this information.
My advice is to test as many apps as possible before starting the development process. You never know where a great idea will come from. Basic principles are quite common, but the devil is always in the details, so all apps require constant improvement.
(Lead image: Depositphotos)
Want to learn more?
If you’re interested in mobile UX, you could take the online course on Mobile User Experience. It includes templates you can use in your own projects and you’ll get an industry-recognized certificate to improve your career. If, on the other hand, you’d like to…
- learn all the details of Usability Testing
- get easy-to-use templates
- learn how to properly quantify the usability of a system/service/product/app/etc
- learn how to communicate the result to your management
… then you might take the online course Conducting Usability Testing.
Lastly, if you want to brush up on the basics of UX and Usability, the online course on User Experience could provide you with the necessary knowledge. Good luck on your learning journey!