How to Boost Mobile App User Experience

Mobile apps are a great channel for businesses wanting to reach a larger audience. But designing apps with a positive user experience can be a daunting task. From understanding your audience to building the right features, many factors go into the design process. Here are the best practices that can help enhance your mobile app user experience (UX).

people playing with a mobile application
Best Practices to Enhance Your Mobile App User Experience

What Makes a Mobile App Successful?

With a mobile app, businesses can reach more customers and incentivize them to make a purchase. But not all companies are successful in their efforts to develop a mobile app that becomes a reliable revenue stream. A staggering 99% of consumer apps fail.

A number of elements make a successful app — idea validation, user personas, mobile analytics, and comprehensive marketing strategy, are just a few of the necessary building blocks that increase a mobile app’s chance on the market.

For many businesses, it can be difficult to maintain consistent customer experience during the mobile journey. This article outlines some of the best UX practices that'll improve user retention and satisfaction.


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What Is UX in Mobile Apps?

Mobile UX describes how the design and performance of an app impact the user’s perception of a mobile application.

Mobile UX designers focus on:

  • improving how users move through the interface
  • analyzing how the services provided are delivered
  • determining whether the content is easy to read
  • checking if an app performs well speed-wise

What Is the Purpose of Mobile User Experience and Why Does UX Design Matter the Most?

As the number of people owning and using smartphones has increased over the past few years, so have mobile app downloads. In fact, according to Forbes, there are now over 8.9 million mobile apps. It's no secret that people use their smartphones to do everything from shopping for new clothes to finding a date. It's also no secret that the success of any app is contingent on how easy it is to use and navigate.

But generating a high number of app downloads is only half the battle. The other half is getting target users engaged with your product enough to stick around long-term. Given that 25% of users abandon apps after one use, you should focus on significantly improving mobile UX.

Users spend nearly 90% of their mobile time in apps with an average of over three hours every day of in-app activity. These stats are a strong indicator that developing a mobile application with a great UX can be a valid business opportunity.

What Are UX Best Practices?

User experience is one of the most important pieces when it comes to designing an app that your customers will love. UX is what you get when you combine UI (user interface) with IA (information architecture). A great UX can be like walking into a room, knowing where everything is, and feeling instantly comfortable.

User Research

User research helps us understand the needs and behaviors of target users so that we can make decisions based on their expectations rather than ours. It also helps us validate assumptions about the product or service before investing in design work. If you are looking to design an amazing app, start with understanding your audience by doing user research, creating user personas, and testing how they interact with your app.

UX research process using post-it
Preparing user flows based on an in-depth understanding of your audience is key to good UX. Source

You can also pair your user research with usability testing, where you use various observation techniques to learn how users navigate your app. During usability research, focus on task analysis — how easy it is for users to achieve a particular task.

Simplicity

We all know that simple things are often the best, but why is simplicity so important in UX design? The average user is not going to be able to look at a complicated wireframe and understand what it means. Our goal with UX design should always be to make things as clear as possible for your users so they can easily use your app without getting frustrated. 

How many data fields ultimately get onto a screen of a mobile app depends on a project’s context, but as a general rule in app design, you should aim for clear, uncluttered designs.

Responsiveness

The number of screens and devices has grown exponentially in recent years. As a result, mobile applications have to be designed with different screen sizes in mind. Great apps automatically adjust the layout and the data visible depending on the screen size and type of device (mobile phones vs. tablets). Poorly designed applications will fail to fit into a specific screen size to view the content correctly. Few things are more annoying than not being able to hit a button that’s partially obstructed by other design elements.

Legible text

We often design for aesthetic and UX reasons, but how can we forget about the importance of legible text? We know that if our users can't read what they're supposed to do on our app, then it doesn't really matter how good the colors are. Pay attention to typography, contrast, and font sizes to provide the best experience for your users.

legible text on mobile app with high contrast
Make the written parts of your app easy and pleasant to read. It aids content consumption on top of adhering to mobile design principles.

Intuitive navigation

In the world of mobile UX design, navigation is a key component. You want your app to be easy to use and navigate for all users. The way you design and place buttons, links, and other UI elements has a huge impact on how users perceive your mobile application. Navigation should be intuitive so that people who have never seen your app before will know where they are going and what they are doing intuitively.

However, with complex apps where users have to configure many options to get going, you can consider including user onboarding. User onboarding is also useful for people with little technical abilities.

Familiarity and predictability

When someone is using your app for the first time, there's nothing better than them being able to predict what will happen next. It makes the experience feel less foreign and helps prevent confusion. If you want people to keep coming back for more (and who doesn't?), make sure your mobile application follows tried-and-true principles and established gestures.

For instance, if you are designing a music player, try not to make dramatic changes in the interface. Buttons such as rewind/fast-forward, change track, or pause, have to be clearly visible. Make sure people can figure out their way around with as few hiccups as possible. But there’s a caveat. For example, Android 10 has replaced established gestures (users can still change which gestures for common actions they prefer). Applications need to be able to respond to the gestures defined in a specific OS release (to, for example, not exit the app with an accidental swipe).

Customer feedback

You know you're doing something right when a customer is so satisfied with your product that they want to tell their friends about it. But what if the opposite happens? How do you fix a problem before the public finds out and starts to complain about it? 

Customer feedback can be really tricky, but sometimes all it takes is one person's opinion to make or break a company. Mobile UX design is all about listening to what the user wants and then making an app that serves their needs, so it's important to understand how they're feeling when using your product. Listen closely to customer feedback on top of using mobile analytics to improve your application. Drawing conclusions based on user data gives you actionable insights into what and when to change specific elements of your mobile app.

Also, try to respond to reviews left by users on the App Store or Google Play — they’ll help immensely in how your users perceive you as a brand. As much as 90% of users check reviews and ratings before downloading an app.

image of customer reviews on app store
App reviews and ratings as well as developer responses to them affect user experiences. Source

Reduce the number of steps for users

Reducing the number of steps to achieve a specific goal can make all the difference between an application that is easy and usable vs. cumbersome. With a high degree of in-app convenience, users will have a reason to invest their time if completing in-app actions and tasks takes fewer screens and less time.

The strategy of reducing the number of steps is sensible because there is a direct correlation between fewer steps and less cognitive load on users. The most common example would be the "pull-to-refresh" feature that you see in many social media apps. This reduces the number of taps required to refresh your feed to one tap and provides a simpler user experience.

Also, when collecting information, try to avoid many input fields. Sometimes a name, address, and email address are enough to proceed with further actions.

Personalization

It's important for visitors to feel like they are part of your product, and that their experience is unique. Personalization can be done by using analytics data such as age, gender, location, interests, and in-app actions to make better recommendations, tailored for target audiences. As the user interacts with an app, the recommendation algorithms become better about what type of content the user likes best.

Speed

According to CIO, mobile app speed matters to nearly all (96%) consumers, and Google states 70% of users will abandon an app if it takes too long to load

Graph representing time spent on smartphones every day in the United States from 2014 to 2022
Mobile in-app time is increasing year over year. Source: Statista

Example of a Successful Mobile App with Good Mobile UX

Sometimes projects call for intense workshops to work out an optimal design flow that makes an application easy to use and includes all the features agreed on in the project’s scope.

For example, when Lighticians approached us, we had to do a complete redesign of the first release of their mobile application. The first release wasn’t optimized for mobile devices in terms of viewing content and using and customizing features.


lighticians ios mobile app design
In the Lighticians app (iOS), options are easily accessible for amateur gaffers and can be expanded for light operators with more experience. Source

Our approach included workshops during which we learned how the science of color mixing works as well as specific habits for lighting professionals on video sets. This gave us deeper immersion into the design and let us include must-have features for light operation in a convenient mobile view. The deep understanding of the project also helped us craft an app that can be used by professional and amateur gaffers, with a similar level of ease. The layout of the Lighticians app changes based on the user's device (e.g., iPhone or iPad).

Positive Mobile UX Leads to an Increase in App Retention

The best mobile apps are designed to be intuitive and responsive. They provide a seamless user experience that starts from the moment users open your application for the first time. Mobile apps continue to grow in popularity with a 45% jump between 2016 and 2019 in the number of app downloads worldwide. And while not all business models and companies can benefit from releasing a mobile application, there’s a great number of underserved audiences to reach.

The best practices we’ve outlined in this blog post are just a few helpful tips that can help you enhance the user experience of your mobile app. Depending on what industry or service you provide, some of these might be more important than others for enhancing conversions and engagement with your users. Take time to consider which ones will work best for your particular business goals.

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