7 Expert Tips for Mobile Usability (that Won’t Compromise Design)

Keep in mind mobile applications quickly lead to user frustration, given their small size and dependence on often-unreliable signals. Application experts must be acutely aware of the design and usability factors within their product. One factor cannot be compromised for the other’s sake without diminishing the value of the final product. 

The following tips help experts ensure both usability and design are strong within their mobile applications.

1. Cater to the User by Implementing Changes Based on User Testing

Conduct surveys and user tests to get the best understanding of what your application users are looking for. Cater specifically to that audience and carefully consider results. Make sure the design reflects what the audience wants.

For effective usability, Gartner recommends, “comprehensive research on users, needs and behaviors to define high-priority usage scenarios. It should be noted that focus groups, while they have their place, are not as effective as structured observation of human behavior. Observation, rather than solicitation, is almost a UX best practice in its own right.”

The happier the audience is, the more popular the application will become regardless of the usability or design elements you may not have included.

2. Simple is Sexy: Use Single Column Layouts!

Display content in a simple organized fashion while maintaining an interesting design.

Visual appeal is not based on complicated graphics or numerous intersecting columns but rather clear and easy presentation of the necessary information. Keep the navigation bar as short as possible, only allow for a vertical scrolling option and stick to single column layouts.

Gartner recommends: “Strive for a great UX by realizing that design is not just about adding features, but also is about their carefully considered removal”.

3. Condense Content: Offer Supplementary Links

Smart phone screens are limited in size and therefore can only display limited content.

It is crucial that app developers do not overcrowd or overpopulate their applications with excessive and unnecessary information that would better fit on a desktop screen. Instead users should be offered supplementary website links to either the original page or alternate websites that can display additional information.

4. Color Counts: Only High Contrast  

Using high contrasting colors to present information serves as an effective method of beautifying while communicating text within your application. However, choosing colors can be tricky.

5. Utilize the Mobility of the Mobile App: Incorporate Mobile Phone Functions

The mobile app exists within the unique interface of the mobile cell phone and should be utilized accordingly. Hyperlinks to phone numbers, points on a map, nearby locations and quick navigation into other webpages all contribute to the functionality of a mobile phone application.

Innovative incorporation of other mobile phone functions in addition to basic internet (such as camera and contacts list) will improve and expand the usability of your mobile application.

6. Information Input Methods: App users hate typing

The worst thing you can do to a mobile app user is force them to input excessive information through smart-screen typing. We are all aware of the limitations on any smart phone keyboard regardless of how small one’s fingertips may be. Thus, it is crucial to utilize innovative information input techniques such as QR code scanning.

7. Tryout and Test

The field of mobile application development is still at the earliest stages and involves ongoing experimentation.

All experts can agree than one trial will never be enough and new tests must therefore be conducted at each new stage of the game. The most successful method of development for your mobile application product is by means of constant testing until the perfect balance between usability and design can be reached.

Maintaining a Balance between Usability and Design

The most important thing to remember when designing a mobile application is maintaining an even balance between components of usability and visual appeal.

Applications are based on the visual while sharing the purpose of accessibility and functionality. An appropriate balance between design and usability is essential in creating a successful mobile application.

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Jessica Miller
Jessica is the Lead Author & Editor of UsabilityLab Blog. Jessica writes for the UsabilityLab blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to usability.
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