What Every App Developer Should Know About Design

What Every App Developer Should Know About Design

Portrait photo of blog author
Dan Burcaw
Co-Founder & CEO

Learn the three fundamental design traits that make great apps great.

Table of Contents:

In this blog post:

Our current digital age has many of us constantly consuming mobile apps. Alongside the massive consumer appetite for apps comes massive competition, and while that’s always a good thing to keep us on our toes, for some, entering this world from a design standpoint can be a bit intimidating. If you’ve made that decision to build an app, setting yourself apart is crucial to your success.

Three of the most prominent traits of any app design are beautiful interfaces, incredible simplicity, and super-easy navigation. When good apps have these three implemented well, your users will tell their friends and colleagues. Your design will lend to its ease of use and drives willingness to keep coming back to the app.

So How Does One Create a Great App Design?

Let’s look at a few tips to get you started.

Setting Goals: Before jumping onto the keyboard to begin your build, think about a few of these questions first.

  • What’s the real goal of your app? What’s the purpose of it?
  • How will your new app appeal to a mass audience…or a niche one?
  • What’s the problem you want to solve? Your app needs to fill a void that the consumer has or may not yet know they have until your app is shown as the solution.
  • Why would anyone use your app instead of using your competitions? How are you going to set yourself apart? What is the one major differentiator and is it big enough to convert users over to your app?

Now, this is not just an app lesson, this is a great life lesson in building any business. By setting clearly defined goals, you will have a set reference point to always go back to keep grounded and focused to stay on track. All of this plays into the design choices you will make later on.

Planning: Dive a little deeper hereafter sketching out a rough draft of your project scope. Dig in on how your app is going to generate revenue (consumable IAPs, subscriptions, etc.). Think of what you need your app to do and work out a rough path of ideas in mind and how to get those ideas working in your app. This stage should be thought of as drawing out a road map of your apps functions, audience, and a rough guide of mini-steps on how to get there.

Research: Go online, in-person, and talk to as many friends and colleagues about your app if you can. This is a vital part of your app build project.

  • Don’t let your early feedback intimidate you. Though there may be lots of similar apps out there, researching will help point out any missing pieces that may take your app up and over the top of your competition.
  • Listen to your colleagues talk about apps that they enjoy. Pay attention to qualified app reviews – what they like and don’t like – this is great feedback when designing your app.

App Development and Design

Wireframe Your App: This is your draft of your apps visual architecture. All of your visual sketches and goals that you put down on paper initially go here to create a basic “blueprint” of what your app will look like and how it is going to function.

  • This can be done on paper but using a digital wireframe is best for collaboration.
  • This step isn’t about design yet. It’s about making sure all those components and functions you plan are structured in a way that makes sense. The previous steps had you jot notes down, this step takes those notes to make a more specific outline of how UI elements will work and help to determine the pages or functions you will need.

The Design: Now is the time to start looking at the actual design of your app. This is where you will need to create appealing, yet realistic mock-ups.

  • This is a critical step simply because this is the permanent impression your users will have when they see your app. It has to be an eye-catching great looking design. Some people use a graphic design editor like Photoshop, Sketch, or Procreate. Others can do it in-code in tandem with the initial phase of development. What matters is that you have a process and execute it.
  • Think about the font, colors, and design elements.
  • This is where you will need to decide if you will be the one who designs the app yourself or engages a professional graphic designer. I cannot emphasize enough that a professional designer would benefit your app greatly if you have no prior experience.

Hiring a Design Agency: A final option in this space is getting the complete package where you kick back and let someone else take over the reins to build your app from scratch.

  • This is a good choice if your app is very complex and requires expertise in multiple spots.
  • Design jobs can often be too big in scope for one individual. Some designers excel in UX while others might be better at video or illustration. As developers, the skillset of no two designers is the same. If an app has extensive design needs, make sure you hire designers whose skills match those challenges.
  • This is, of course, the most expensive option, but if you want it done professionally and have the budget, it’s a very good choice.

Things to Look for During the Design Process

Navigation Should Always be Easy: A great app is nothing without easy navigation. Your design must always have navigation in mind at each step.

  • Make sure your navigation drawer or tab bar can be clearly seen.
  • Stick with layouts that users are already familiar with if you can.
  • Finger-friendly is your goal. Keeps buttons and links properly sized to ensure they are easy to tap.

Simplify the Design, Then Simplify it Some More: Minimal design is often more about removing features than adding them.

  • Users' eyes should be drawn to what matters most on the app using simple symbols, icons, and phrases.
  • Simple design means making the user experience (UX) as easy and enjoyable as possible. Too much going on, or too much information on a screen will overwhelm your users and app abandonment will happen quickly.

Colors and Fonts: Be mindful here and understand that color psychology will make a huge impact.

  • Think about how symbols, color, and fonts will affect the user.
  • Don’t mix too many colors and fonts as you will lose consistency.
  • It is good to develop a simple brand guideline if multiple people are working on the app. Colors, buttons, labels, and fonts are extremely effective when implemented consistently. Take the time to ensure there are consistent visual elements used consistently throughout the app experience.

Last Thoughts

You’re now ready to take that leap and create stunning app designs that will make your product memorable. While it may look a bit complex at first, the app design process can be made easier and more manageable by following the tips mentioned here. Apps are usually a huge undertaking when you consider the engineering effort that goes into each one of them. Do not make the mistake of letting bad design get in the way of great engineering.

Nami understands how important your app is to you and is by your side at every step along the way. Design equally important to us as we enable app developers to grow their revenue with Nami-powered in-app purchases and subscriptions.

Dan Burcaw is Co-Founder & CEO of Nami ML. He built a top mobile app development agency responsible for some of the most elite apps on the App Store and then found himself inside the mobile marketing industry after selling his last company to Oracle.

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