We live in a world of mobile first. Most computer usage happens on a mobile device. Even though in the West users were accustomed to doing many things on a full-size computer in the past, they now demand that their mobile device nimbly handles all of their computing needs. The result is digital designers must treat mobile as their most important platform.
Here are some tips to help you design well for mobile:
1. Usability first.
The biggest challenge with mobile applications is the limited fidelity of input and output between the user and their device. The screen has limited pixels to view. Typing characters is difficult. The result is that the more robust your application is the more difficult designing it well is. You should always focus on usability being more important than branding or aesthetic considerations in your design. This will enable users to complete their objective as efficiently as possible despite the form factor limitations of mobile devices.
2. Balance content with breadth and depth.
There are two common errors in organizing information in digital design. One is having very few choices for a user on each screen but then requiring them to take many actions to complete their task. The second is presenting them with many, many choices on top screens allowing them to take fewer actions but offering a potentially confusing array of choices. You want to avoid both of these extreme errors and drive toward designs that are “just right.”
3. Prototype early and often.
The faster you can get your designs made and in a prototype state for testing, the better the final product will be. Go into your design expecting that it is wrong. By watching people use it you will likely need to tear up and improve it, maybe a number of times. Budget this into your creation process. In the best case your prototypes should be coded and interactive, offered to users on the very devices they would use them on. If that is not possible then just make as high fidelity a prototype as you are able. Test and iterate. Test and iterate.
Great mobile apps might look small but they are difficult to make exceptional. You will get more users who are more loyal and spend more money with your company if the apps you offer are tailored to them. A focus on usability, smart content choice, and a commitment to relentless prototyping is a straightforward path to making apps that achieve your goals.
The author, Dirk Knemeyer is a social futurist and serial entrepreneur in the United States. He has started design and software companies in Silicon Valley, Boston, and his native state of Ohio. During his more than 15 years of creative leadership Dirk has worked with Oracle, Shutterfly, PayPal, and over 100 other technology companies. He has keynoted conferences in Europe and the United States and speaks at venues like TEDx, Humanity+, and South by Southwest.