Product Engineering // Blog

iOS Mobile App Design Done Right

Designing mobile apps is far from easy. Especially, if you are designing apps for a platform business and catering to two customer groups: consumers of value and producers of value.
platform business model

At Applico, we’ve built hundreds of apps and built many platforms for our clients. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when assembling your startup’s design team & process.

UI vs. UX vs. Motion Design

Designers have different skill sets just like any team member. So, make sure your team is balanced with each designer’s workload catering to his or her strengths.

Mobile app mobile app wireframes and mockups are standard deliverables from all design processes. Adobe’s Creative Suite is a staple set of applications for this work, but our designers have also been using Sketch lately.

However, static wireframes and mockups don’t properly portray the animations and transitions from screen to screen of your product. To accomplish that, we’ve experimented with a host of tools including After Effects, Edge Animate, Pixate, Origami, and Framer.  

Why is animation motion so important? In apps, the experience a user receives can be much more intimate compared to a website and motion is a big reason why.

If you have used to-do list app Clear, you know exactly what I mean. A wireframe and mockup of the app would only show you the static state views of each to-do item. However, the beauty of this app is the ease of use to jump into a menu item and then complete the sub-tasks or reject them. The motions and animations cultivate habitual behavior as users yearn for those pleasant animations. For more light tidbits on the intersection between psychology and mobile UI/ UX design, look here.

Apple’s Design Guidelines

Apple’s iOS design guidelines provide a lot of support for designers building app experiences. There are a variety of websites and resources that you can read through to help bring you up to speed. We like this list of website resources for UI/ UX. Also, you can read this article on how to design a UI experience that works on all screen sizes using Adaptive UI.

We started familiarizing our designers with Xcode so they can update image assets during development on their own instead of relying on engineers to implement changes. This reduces the bottleneck for developers and also helps educate the design team. Either way, an iOS engineer should be involved during the design process. Not only can they help make sure designs are following the appropriate design guidelines, but they can suggest unique alternatives to a design challenge that their technical expertise can bring to light.

Focusing on Exchange Driven Design

Apps for platform businesses face different challenges than traditional app design because the focus for platform is to facilitate an exchange of value. In most customer lifecycle funnels, you’ll have three main buckets of activities: Awareness & Consideration > Transact > Support & Loyalty. For a platform, the second bucket, Transact, is split into two segments: transact and fulfill. Enabling the exchange of value in a platform environment means allowing the value of the transaction to be created by the producer and then appropriately fulfilled and passed along to the consumer.

Here are some illustrative examples.

Uber: the platform enables producers to create value every time they become available for a ride and the platform fulfills/ delivers that value when a consumer submits a request and a producer accepts the request.

Youtube: the platform provides tools for video creators to upload videos and the platform’s discovery tools let consumers find those videos and consume them.

In both of the above cases, the platforms have dedicated apps for the producers and consumers; Uber has the driver app and Youtube has the Capture app.

If either the consumer or producer app cannot successfully facilitate the core transaction of the platform, the rest of the app’s value will be heavily diluted.

Feedback Never Stops

Qualitative and quantitative feedback should be constant data streams being monitored by the product & design teams. One of the benefits of agile development is the ability to act upon new insights faster. If your typical product sprint is two weeks long, then the team can see their insights implemented in the app within a month of beginning the process.

Sometimes new information doesn’t come from your users, but from the actions of your competitors. Especially when building your MVP, if your timing is right, you will have competition. By monitoring the activities of your competitors, the team may confirm or deny assumptions they have made for their own product decisions. This flexibility ultimately results in a better quality product at launch.

Product design is a collaborative process. It should involve executives, business leadership, and leads from UI/ UX, product management and engineering teams. But more importantly, product design requires active listening to user feedback, from both producers and consumers. It’s important for UI/ UX designers to learn from the success and mistakes of other mobile apps, but ultimately mix creative thinking and user data to push the envelope.

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