How to design a great mobile app

Since apps were introduced with the launch of the iPhone app store a decade ago, every business wants to have a great, impactful app but many creatives still make big mistakes in the way they are designing those apps. In this episode, we will go through everything I have learned designing multiple iOS and Android apps which have had 5 star user reviews for years, have named as one of the world’s 100 best apps, and have been included in 9 Apple keynotes, the Human Interface Guidelines and more.

Listen now:

Show Notes:


The first thing is to understand how consumers find value in a mobile app and where they fit in their digital lifestyle.
Cloud – forever
Laptop – 1 year
Tablet – 3 months
Phone – 1 month
Wearable – Right now

But you need to spend some time as you go through the process making sure you create 3 key things.

Personas are fictional characters fashioned from the expected behavior of your target users. They allow you to determine what will drive users’ decisions within your app.

User Scenarios
Scenarios provide insight into how a persona will act. With user scenarios, you’ll be able to design a UI that best suits them and the goals they want to accomplish.

Experience maps
Let you explore all the possible conditions for a single interaction. Experience maps chart each step that personas are most likely to take while using an app. They help you understand all the emotions and circumstances that surrounding those steps.


Don’t transfer from iOS to Android 1 for 1
Android and iOS have their own interaction patterns, and users might not be pleased if you serve them something else they’ll have to learn from scratch.

Figure out when to use and when to break each systems visual guidelines
Figure out when you want to use operating system interaction patterns and when you want to create your own – then be consistent


Screen orientation
Which way will the user hold the phone to use your app or can they use both?

Final app download size
Will your app be able to be downloaded over cellular or only on WiFi?

Models and screen sizes
It will effect your design and what you will be able to do

Screen sizes will define natural, stretch and out of reach user ranges


Goal driven design
Create specific goals for your users and tailor your app’s workflow to suit their needs

Usability makes a product useful, which is the first step in being desirable

Define signifiers, then repeat them
If one of the button is purple, then all buttons should be purple. If one screen has 20 px padding on all side, all screens should maintain this consistency.

Use design patterns so users instinctively know how to use your app

Feedback and response time
Users have an expectation that their phones will respond quickly, and efficiently to all their interactions.

Make sure you think about ADA guidelines before you start designing your app


Everything exists on a grid to create consistency
There’s an invisible grid on every surface. You may not see it, but it’s there to guide you.

Use color and lines to create visual hierarchy
Color value is used to denote purpose

Keep typography simple and consistent
Use system fonts for body text and use brand fonts where they have the most effect like headlines

Decide if you need the brand logo in the app
Put the logo on the app icon or in a menu but it doesn’t have to be front and center. People know what app they downloaded.

Use color, type and animation to re-enforce brand positioning
Brand is focused on the emotional relationship you consumers or customers have with your service or product. Color, type and animation define that relationship in subtle yet effective ways.


Define the 2 to 3 ownable key moments

Spend time making a great on-boarding experience
People decide if an app has value in the first 2-3 minutes but that is often the last thing designers think about.


Develop short-term memory loss for your app design
You have to be able to develop short term memory loss to be able to look at your design work and the app experience and see it with fresh eyes.

Subscribe now

You can listen and subscribe now on Apple iTunes, Google Play Music, iHeartRadioPocket CastsStickerTuneIn and all other major podcast platforms.

Join the community

Ask questions, suggest topics for future shows and connect with other Crazy One listeners. Check out the Facebook page.