Anyone can use their app store page to tell a great story, filled with wonderful screenshots and an impressive description. However, if your app doesn’t walk the talk then you are going to be losing users pretty much as soon as you get them.
A great user experience is made up by a number of various aspects. This includes the visual elements of your colours, layout, font style and size, icons, images, buttons and graphics. The language and text used throughout should be simplistic enough to ensure the user doesn’t need a manual to guide them through your app. Small tutorials or walkthroughs are fine, but anything that requires a huge amount of reading and learning will put a user off straight away.
Don’t forget that UX design is a continuous, ongoing process. With each app update you make, the ultimate goal should be to streamline processes and improve the overall user experience.
Here’s what Alistair MacFarlane, industry expert, had to say about the the importance of the mobile user experience:
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Alistair MacFarlane I’m the Founder of Sugar Rush Creative. We’re a digital agency that specializes in app development and software. We’ve got two studios spread across London and Belfast.
Can you explain what the best practice process is for building an app from conception to launch?
First and foremost, it has to do with the concept. Concept is key and how that concept is actually structured as well. It has to benefit the user and has to benefit the environment for that user. Therefore a simple concept may turn out to be quite complex when you start to drill down on it.
The layers of processes are quite straightforward. So this includes the user experience, and the UX research, which is how the user flow is compiled and how the wire framing is sketched out.
Then we move onto prototyping, using that workflow, and this is probably the most important part, focusing on how the user actually moves through the app itself. At every point you need to understand where the triggers are and where the drop-offs are. Thinking about maybe more complex apps, it could be at the sign-in, it could be during onboarding, there could be registration and payments as well. So there’s a lot to think about and I think for that process it needs to be quite pragmatic and quite structured as well.
Moving on from that is probably the fun part, the the fancy part of putting together a lot of visuals, wrapping the designs, using the images and text to compile the real front end stuff. We would definitely create every page and not leave any screen untouched. That gives a sense for structure in the studio, but ultimately, for the clients, so they can understand exactly where things are placed. Then we move to code, all the front-end designs and start developing. I think probably the most important thing is actually developing it.
Testing is the final stage, which I think is definitely another important stage, right up there with the development. There’s a lot of things that can crop up once everything is built. That could be something to do with the the environment or the connectivity. Usually we would make sure all the features and functions are working before any client sees it. But, for example, the battery power, you know all of these things that you probably wouldn’t consider that may have an adverse effect on the usability.
And then finally, deployment. This involves making sure it actually passes in terms of getting uploaded to the iOS and Android app stores, so just making sure that that runs smoothly.
How should you research your users in order to design your UX & why is that important?
Firstly, you have to establish what app is best suited for the client and their users. Ultimately, there’s two areas that you have, the enterprise apps and the public facing apps/consumer apps. Research what the problems and the issues are that they’re having, and that obviously will resolve the functionalities that can come from an app construction.
User testing, and even before that, questionnaires and interviews, help to really get a complete grip of what the project is gonna entail. That really ties in with a lot of the user flows beforehand, and a lot of the wire framing. You just need to really get to grips with the whole infrastructure, because once you have that infrastructure down, it will ultimately become part of that research, as well as the UI, and as well as the development. So that’s really in a sense what it will entail.
How do you build trust with your app user using the UX?
Well, you ultimately would make sure that the user feels that they can operate the app properly. Any app that’s being developed is going to benefit a process, is going to benefit communication, buying a product quicker, quicker processes, or whatever the case may be. But ultimately, building up that trust is to make sure that the app is easy to use and easy to operate. If any user is struggling to get to the next step then you’ve lost them. There’s different ways that you can do that in terms of maybe education. If you have a complex app then sometimes it is difficult to to be simplistic about things. And as I said earlier, it’s certainly good to create tutorials and try to educate the user, all of which builds trust and retains users. Ultimately the app needs to work without any errors.
What is your viewpoint on minimalist design promoting improved user understanding of the app?
Dependant on the app, the design needs to be simplistic we all know about that. I suppose the black art is making front end designs simplistic, without making it look sparse and uninspiring. I think whenever you’re faced with a very complex structure you just need to be very cute and smart about how things are placed. This all comes back to the user flow, comes back to the wire framing and making sure that there’s a free-flowing step-by-step for the user. The call to action towards the end is something that should be effortless.
So with minimalist, you know, there’s a fine line between designing next to nothing. As long as it has functionality and as long as it is sympathetic to their brand guidelines or sympathetic to the actual design layout, then I have no problem with it. Minimalist could equal simplistic so with that there’s no issues at all.
What is your advice for your clients once the app is developed and out of your hands?
The advice is thinking about the marketing strategy. There’s a best practice to have a marketing plan all laid out before and a marketing strategy in place for after the app is launched. It’s thinking about how to reach the masses and what does that marketing plan look like. Understand that there will be a fairly intense effort into tracking those users and understanding user behavior. You know, for our clients, and certainly for anyone that was thinking about developing an app, you can’t just launch it and suddenly it’s there and it’s a massive success. There’s probably more work involved in getting a successful app off the ground than actually developing it.
So you definitely need to be aware of tracking the users and tracking the events actually on the app as well, and feeding this into your marketing. You want to get that data back, you want to understand if the user flow that you had at the start, is that even relevant now, or is there part of that we need to scale back because these users are using it in a slightly different way? So it’s definitely knowing that at every click, at every button, at every page and at every turn, that you know who’s on your app and who’s using it. Because then that will ultimately feed back into crafting a better app for version 1, version 2, version 3 etc.
Integrations, that’s another potential. API integrations as well. Ultimately they should have been really drafted out at the start. But a lot of these apps now are integrating into the various platforms, and that really is something that’s taken off quite massively.