The smartphone revolution has seen people turn to apps for their infotainment needs. Apps are a mine full of information, images, videos and much more. However, Fortune concludes that more than 75% of app downloads are only opened once and then either abandoned or uninstalled. Reason? No one can say for sure, but we have streamlined a list of things that you can do to engage and retain your users.
Minimize Cognitive Load
No one opens the app to solve a jigsaw puzzle unless the app itself is about puzzles. Meaning? The information should be easily approachable. Less confusion means easy understanding which translates into app staying around. Minimizing the cognitive load will ensure that your app sticks around.
Optimized User Flow
User interaction with the app is very important to understand. The app design should give the end user a smooth experience. This understanding will help to reduce friction during task completion.
A lot of steps annoys the users. Dividing major tasks into subtasks should do the trick. Progressive checkout flow in e-commerce apps help separate a checkout process in a number of steps which require user action.
2. Making most of the available data
App users are required to share a lot of their data with you which can be used to minimize their efforts. This data can help create suggestions. Take Uber for example, instead of punching in your location every time, the app automatically recognizes it and keeps track of the recently visited places. In time all you need to do is select the right one, and you’re good to go.
3. What’s next?
Providing the natural next step goes a long way. When a user has to complete a number of tasks, ensuring momentum needs to be maintained by clearly showing the next step.
Prioritizing one primary action at a given screen. Following this rule helps make the interface easy to learn and use. Visual weight can help highlight important elements.
Cut Out the Clutter
A good UI design is about avoiding irrelevant information (noise) and deliver relevant information (signal).
Cluttering an interface exposes the user to a lot of information. Icons, images, and buttons make it complicated. It is terrible on the desktop, but on a smaller mobile screen, it is much worse.
Make Navigation Self-Evident
Functions and features of your app need to be evident. All the goodies won’t matter if the end user can’t find them.
1. Show it all
Hidden navigation like gesture-driven should be avoided. Why? Most users are bound to have a tough time finding it.
2. Navigate the way
Hiding menus on individual pages is a big NO! It confuses the user, and they find the app difficult to use. Using tab bars and navigation drawers will certainly improve the navigation.
Optimize Interactions for the Medium
The mobile phone is different from a desktop. This explains why the app needs to be different from a software. There’s a reason why websites have a separate mobile version.
Designed Elements Should Look Like How They Behave
Interactions on a computer can be checked by hover over a tab or a button. Mobiles work different, and therefore, the interactivity needs to be made evident by design. The button or tab needs to be self-explaining.
Design Finger-friendly Tap-targets
Actionable elements in mobile interface simply have to be big. This makes it easier to tap. As a thumb rule, design controls have a touch area of 7-10 mm. This enables an accurate tap with a finger. This makes the edges of the target visible and enables users to understand whether or not they are hitting the right target. Another thing to bear in mind is that the spacing between tabs needs to be just right. Not too close, not too far.
Giving enough space between buttons helps tap it. This also makes navigation easier for users.
Buttons and tabs need to be clearly visible. There is no point in giving a button that needs a treasure map finding it. The harder to find a button, greater the chances that the user skips the step.
Design and the size is not the only thing to look for. Consider how devices are held.
Thumbs are mostly used to swipe over the screen but only one-third of the screen area remains comfort zone. This is what we call the natural thumb zone. The area beyond it requires effort and stretching, sometimes even change of grip.
In this world of information, there is always something trying to get our attention. For example, a user may be using the app while waiting for a bus station. Make it easier for them to re-engage after the interruption.
Facebook is a good example of design interruption. While you use the app, it only shows the number of notifications. After you exit the app, it starts giving notifications with a brief description. This enables the user to start from where they left.
Mobile apps aren’t the only available channel for users. Mobile users may switch from using an app and look for options on a desktop. For example, AliExpress provides its users an app to browse and look for items and complete orders. They also have a website that does the same. Sin and the same account can be managed on both channels.
Gestures are hard to discover. This is why they take the learning curve up. These gestures are hard to find, and users may not find it friendly to use. You need to identify places where users expect gestures and place them there only. A good example would be a pull-down gesture to refresh the app.
Android and IOS have their own design guidelines. Both have a different preference for navigation, content layout, tabs, etc. Using inappropriate guidelines means you are risking a smooth and seamless user experience. Don’t start an app before understanding the guideline.
Make the app appear fast with skeleton screens
Your app may not give optimum performance at all times. There may be circumstances beyond your control. The user may be facing internet issue or have faulty hardware. Shortening line may not always be possible. This is a great time to place Skeleton screens (temporary information containers).
Skeleton screen is a bland version of a page into which information is slowly loaded. Avoid using spinners and replace them skeleton screens. This will take away users’ attention away from data loading and divert it to progress.
Focus On First Time Experience
First impressions are always important. If you don’t get the attention on the first use, 75% of the users will not come back!
Onboarding should not be generic and should be beneficial to end user. This should be taken as an opportunity to form an entry ramp for first-time users. It only needs to be there only and only if it is really important for the first use.
Design Zero State
Zero state or empty state is a state in which nothing has occurred as yet. This state shouldn’t be left as a blank canvas. Instead, you should provide direction and guidance to get the app up and running.
This is particularly helpful when an error occurs. The user is not clueless but knows what might have gone wrong. Take Facebook’s example; if you turn off your internet and open the app, it will tell you that you are not connected to the internet.
Show system status
Ever called a customer support center? Agents on the other hardly stay silent. They keep you posted as to what is happening while you wait. Similarly, a user needs to be engaged when your app I up to something. Visual signs and animation communicate progress. This also gives a message that the app is processing and not stuck.
Change may not always be good, but it does matter. When a user has initiated an action, the page layout needs to change with it. This confirms the action was successful and teaches how a change can be triggered.
Newton’s law states that every action has a reaction and every interaction triggers a response. The user expects the same responsiveness from the digital UI controls.
Humanize Digital Experience
Everyone likes to be different. Personalization takes it to another level and ensures end user to use it in a way that suits them. Starbucks, for example, takes note of regular orders and comes up with specially crafted offers.
2. Delightful animation
It is different from functional animation. Functional animation focusses on the clarity of the interface while delightful animation seeks to make the interface feel human. This is also an opportunity to connect with the user on an emotional level.
Colors have always been important from the design viewpoint. Rich and vibrant color palette gets attention and develops interest. Colors are not just important for aesthetics but also have functional importance. It has been previously mentioned that completion of an action followed by the change of color can help gives the user a feel of change.
Most video producers prefer landscape orientation. On the contrary, 94% of mobile users use portrait orientation view to watch videos. Hence, video content needs to be created accordingly.
The video consumption has significantly increased, and apps have to find a way to incorporate them. This helps with user retention and longer attention spans. Different modes of the video were introduced. 360-degree videos and live broadcast over social media have greatly caught attention. Video certainly has become one the most important mediums of communication.
Too many notifications in a small period of time are irritating. This is known as notification overkill. Notifications are meant to provide the user with some information, but this overload of information results in user overlooking all of it. Instead of interacting with the app, the user simply ignores.
What good is a notification if cannot be read? Mobile devices have small screens and fitting a lot of information is quite a challenge. The content needs to be concise. Some of it needs to be available offline, and all of it needs to be prioritized to enable a smooth user experience.
Font size should be carefully selected. Size below 16px will be difficult to read.
Choosing the right font is crucial too. Easy to read, expressing mood and running along with the theme are the points to keep in mind. Using 2 fonts is recommended.
Time your notification
Too much information is hard to process. Say what is important, but also when you want to say it. Push notifications in weird hours are a turnoff. No one wants a notification in the middle of the night. The best time for a push notification is between peak usage hours, 6 pm till 10 pm.
Consider other channels to deliver your message
Push notifications are not the only way to deliver a message to users. Email, in-app notifications, and news feed messaging can also be used to convey messages to users.
Security is very important. Long passwords can be both, time-consuming and prone to errors. With biometrics, a gesture, voice or impression does the job.
Biometrics are not new in the market and have been around for a long time. Mobile phone locks using password are history. Most people use biometrics to unlock their phones. The technology just did not stop there. Like movies of the past, facial recognition is the new norm. Scan your face and boom unlocked!
Importance of an effective interface cannot be denied. It has to be simple, effective and unique. Designers find it hard to come up with this combination as most simple interfaces look similar. The unique interface makes the app stand out and look different. It makes it easy for the user to identify and differentiate an app amongst others.
End-user focusses on their own needs, but the design and interface need to be seamless. This provides the user with a smooth experience. Though everyone aims to come up with a different design, some similarities may come up. This guide should be able to help you come up with a design that is unique and user-friendly at the same time.
Nathan John works as a content editor at Cox Internet and has seven years of experience. He contributes to various online communities and writes about technology, business, and networking.