The key to designing a mobile app is a lot like taking a closet stuffed full of awesome and not-so-awesome pieces and trying to make a stylish and more refined capsule collection. Simply shrinking the number of items down to fit the closet will not result in a refined collection. It is rather a process of:
- starting from scratch completely; or
- keeping great pieces, getting rid of the junk, and adding new key pieces that make your closet comprised of items that fit your lifestyle, are appropriate, and make you feel spectacular.
In other words, successful mobile apps make the experience for the user delightful, functional, and easy – without all the unnecessary clutter.
Don’t think about mobile app creation as copying a web application and squeezing it down to fit a smaller screen. Mobile apps are not mini-websites. Pew Research Center recently reported that two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone and 19% rely on their smartphones to access online information due to a lack of broadband at home or a lack of options for online access. Creating a great user experience for the mobile platform is not a recommendation anymore, but rather a necessity.
Here are eight “must-have” features for your mobile app that are often missed:
1. Customize the experience with smart messaging and empower your users. The majority of Americans own smartphones and they almost always have them with them. Features like geo-location can completely transform the way you communicate with your customers. Tailoring your content based on location can make the experience one that customers will keep coming back for. The Yelp app, for example, is great for searching for places to eat nearby. That coupled with being able to read customer reviews and get directions quickly has transformed the search for good eats into a pleasant experience.
2. Always design your app for people with large fingers. Users should complete their intended tasks easily with minimal errors. There are too many mobile apps that have little to no space between buttons making the chance of errors much higher. Let’s be honest, typing passwords on a smartphone keypad is a pain. Why not make that experience easier by showing the password while users type with the option of hiding it if they feel a lack of security. The less complicated the login or checkout processes are, the fewer customers you will lose due to frustration or confusion. Another tip? Use the right keyboard for the task at hand – for example give them the numeric keypad when entering numbers into a form. Your users will thank you.
3. And, always remember this – don’t make users think. They shouldn’t think about whether or not they need parentheses or dashes when entering a phone number. Show them the dashes while they type.
4. Feedback makes users happy. Users want to feel good when they complete a task so use those sounds like “dings” and “swooshes” when they send an email or show a bright green checkmark when their username is typed correctly before they even start entering their password. It is an easy way for users to get the feedback they crave. And if they do make an error, don’t make them feel bad about it with big bold red words telling them they are wrong. Rather offer them options to help them complete their task.
5. Gestures like swiping or pinching the screen when used correctly can make the mobile experience powerful, fast, and fun. But you have to make it intuitive otherwise users might not know what to do. There might be a learning curve and to account for this consider using animations as a useful way to show users how to complete the action. Don’t forget to take the time to really understand the various ways a user holds and touches the phone. There is not only one way and your designs should account for this.
6. Use the mobile app as a way to make painful things less painful. Think about mortgages or doing your taxes. People think about these necessary experiences with thoughts of frustration and stress. Use your app to make that experience easy and maybe even a little fun. Shoeboxed is a great example of this. Not only can you scan receipts directly from your phone for the IRS but it also collects all your Gmail electronic receipts that you forgot to file away making going paperless attainable.
7. Keep users on task. If they have to get off the app for some time before completing their task let them start where they left off as soon as they log back on. They will be forever grateful!
8. And don’t forget to provide users with easy access to get help and customer service. Nobody wants to be stuck with no way to easily solve their problem especially during processes that involves the exchange of money. They will leave the application and you are left with one less transaction.
User experience should be at the core of your design. Make your mobile app like a capsule collection comprised of key features that your users love and are functional, appropriate, easy to find, and that they continuously come back for!
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