App Designing Process: How to Design a Good App?
The appearance of the application is something that we see first and immediately evaluate it subconsciously. So it’s no surprise that there is a huge emphasis on visual presentation. Not only graphic design plays a huge role in the design process, but also psychology and business analysis. And although creating an application from the visual side requires a lot of knowledge, creativity and preparation, it is a very inspiring and interesting step in developing a new system.
So let’s go straight to the point and discuss all the details and curiosities.
Designing An App – a few things you need to know
Before we move on to the specific stages of shaping and designing an application, let’s clear a few things. Very often, UX and UI are considered to be the same. Well, they are not, although in the perfect application both will be as polished as possible. So what’s the difference?
Let’s start with explaining what UX is. Behind this mysterious (for some) abbreviation hides User Experience. UX design focuses on the maximum usability of the product, which should present itself in a way that is attractive to the user, be functional, ergonomic, and using it should be enjoyable and rewarding. What’s more, UX design is needed and increasingly used not only in the IT industry but even in architecture, creating objects of everyday use, etc.
UI stands for User Interface – space where interactions between humans and devices occur. In the case of mobile applications development, UI design means creating its graphic layer. A visual presentation that users will notice and has an extreme impact on how it will be perceived by them. UI designers face the challenge of creating a complete and coherent look and feel of the application, including all its components, keeping in mind changing trends, user preferences and market fit.
When choosing a company to collaborate on application development, it is worth seeing previously terminated projects and checking whether they offer a comprehensive approach to design, without omitting UX analysis.
Everything starts with the idea for an application. You can have a precisely defined vision of its look or not, but certainly, you have some preferences. Before we get down to sketches, creating mockups etc., there are some very important points to define. At BinarApps, we organize workshops for clients, where together, we work out the direction in which to follow for the application to be successful. The design of the system will also result from determining the goal, user needs, the value of the project and other key issues.
Translating the client’s vision into a real application requires discussing the basic establishments and requirements of the system. This process is a kind of laying the foundations of the product and can take various forms, eg. as we provide – consultations and workshops.
Together with us, the client defines the goal of the project, what they want to achieve with it and what value is to deliver. Then, we focus on potential users to understand their needs and possible problems. These are the first steps to designing a good UX. Of course, we want to solve the problems of these users, so we brainstorm and exchange ideas to make their lives easier with the application. We still do not forget to pay special attention to convenience and system usability.
The result of these considerations is the functionalities that will be implemented in the application, a pre-developed workflow and unique solutions. By determining the order and priority of individual application features and grouping them into milestones, it is easier to define the scope of the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and sketch the first concepts and mockups of the application.
We wrote more about Product Discovery in our guide, The Stages of App Development.
An important part of Product Discovery is business analysis. Thinking about the value and benefits that it should bring not only to the user but also to the stakeholders is essential to creating a successful application. This will also affect its appearance, which must be consistent with the brand and reflect its values. A look at the business side of the project allows building the client’s satisfaction. Understanding what the stakeholder is counting on helps to steer the project on the right path. Defining success metrics is a means to check whether the intended effects have actually been met. As a result, after such a discussion with the client, we receive a specific action plan for application development.
Studying the client’s needs and goals is the basis for establishing an application development strategy. It also requires appropriate market analyzes and the creation of user figures and scenarios that will help to come to a conclusion on which problems to solve.
Researching a market is a form of checking not only the originality of the application idea but also a very good indication. By knowing what competition you have to face, you can find out what solutions are effective and find a way to differentiate yourself in your niche. It also has a big impact on the design of the application. Certain trends are almost required to apply because that is what users want. This is the case with, for example, the dark theme, which has been one of the most anticipated options in applications since 2019.
You don’t have to do this on your own. The proper experts will show you what is a must-have when building an application, how to achieve uniqueness and stay up-to-date. At BinarApps, we analyze the market together with the client and develop the best product development strategy. Thanks to this, we care about the competitiveness of the application, and we also know what users are looking for and how to satisfy them.
Determining the user personas is an essential tool to understand users’ needs, experiences, behaviours and goals. The purpose of it is to create reliable and realistic representations of key audience parts for information purposes. Personas help stay focused on decisions about application components and, what’s very significant, let designers create the accurate, well-thought user experience. They also offer a fast and inexpensive way to test and prioritize these features throughout the development process. You can develop one or more personas for a project, limited to the primary audience of your application. The goal of personas is not so much to represent all audiences or meet all of your site’s needs, but to focus on the main needs of the most important user groups.
Usually, 3-4 personas are created, starting with fixed facts like name, gender, age, occupation, etc. All attributes that may be helpful are then defined – character traits, hobbies, goals, motivations, daily struggles.
Read also: Can You Patent an App and How to Do It?
App Designing Process
The design process often begins in the business analysis phase, where the first sketches or wireframes are already created. Although a bit of creativity is needed at every step of the application development, now is the moment when designers have their moment.
All information gathered, so it’s time to grab a pencil, or rather a computer mouse!
The initial sketches are very simple and schematic. They are primarily intended to show the operation of the application and user flow. Low-fidelity and then high-fidelity wireframe models help visually represent the system created and understand how the product is constructed and what elements it will consist of. The idea is to create an information structure that makes an interaction template of the application. It is the translation of UX conclusions into a real project. This phase is also of great importance for the client to be clear about the idea and accept it. Wireframes are most often created in vector graphics editors such as Adobe Illustrator, Sketch or Figma.
This is the first step that allows building a prototype. Depending on the needs, wireframes can also be considered a prototype with which UI designers will then work. However, keeping in mind every detail, clickable mockups are most often created either way. Popular tools used for this, such as Adobe XD, Invision, or Marvel, allow converting low-fidelity mockups into interactive prototypes that can be used for a real application experience. Thanks to this, the team can immediately get feedback and decide on the final project that will meet the client’s expectations.
The saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” perfectly captures the sense of UX design. Even the most beautiful application will not win the hearts of users if it is simply useless, difficult to use and not very intuitive. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean the app should be sloppy, without panache and ugly. Both of these things must complement each other, constitute full, inseparable integrity.
Good UX is the key to success. Although UX designers have most of the work done in the initial stages of app development, they constantly check whether the delivered product meets the users’ requirements. When designing the UX side of the application, they follow certain principles that ensure the quality and good adoption of the system. There are a lot of them and it is not about always applying all of them in reality, but about creating the most consistent, easy to use and convenient application. Such a basic rule is to create a transparent, obvious flow and operation of the application. It should be exactly like the title of the UX bible – Don’t make me think! by Steve Krug. Create your project using familiar things, feedback is a gift, design for users, not for yourself – there are plenty of rules and we won’t mention every single one. The point is that sometimes neglected UX design is a tool to shape success.
What is usually associated with the visual design of an application is UI. The design of the user interface is based on prototypes and all prior arrangements. It is about defining the application brand in the eyes of users.
At this stage, designers create mockups of the application showing the final visual effect. They follow the established style guide. It’s a set of standards that establish the style and unifies the design. A style guide defines colour palette, typography and iconography, all of the UI elements such as buttons, tabs, toggles and cards. Briefly speaking, everything that’s a part of UI.
What should a good interface design incorporate then? It’s hard to say that some specific interface elements must appear because it is a matter of system design. Google, on the other hand, has its list of helpful recommendations. For example, they suggest using the Roboto font as the most legible, placing the layout on a three-dimensional plane and using simple, intuitive icons. Remember, however, that designing is not about complying with all applicable rules, but about using common sense. Usability and attractiveness with an appealing user interface should be the main goal here. Good UI guidelines, considered key to designing user interfaces, often overlap with UX rights, such as minimalist and aesthetic design, less interaction to simplify navigation, the simple design reduces the risk of errors. Therefore, there is always talk of the inseparability of these two areas.
Designing the user interface is also based on more than just design knowledge. Colour psychology tricks are often used in determining the colour palette, which subconsciously influences the recipient in a specific way. The prevailing trends are also not forgotten, the application should fit into them while being consistent with the brand.
Animation & Illustrations
The graphic identification of the application does not always include elements that require additional work from the graphic designer. We are talking about illustrations or animations that add value, build engagement and make the application incredibly attractive. At BinarApps, we have this service and we are happy to improve customer’s systems with such flavours. Interface animation has the power to attract the user’s attention following Google’s Material Design principles. Apart from that, motion design is used for screen transitions or to mark certain actions in the app. Nevertheless, the rule less is more should be applied here to not overload the system. It should always be functional and load fast. In turn, the illustrations give the application an individual character and can be something that will distinguish it from the competition. You can see some examples of the illustrations we created on our Behance.
Designing may seem a fun and easy process, but it is worth trusting real experienced professionals to avoid a blunder. Portfolios of companies/designers on Behance or Dribbble will be useful in the selection. It is worth being aware of this process also to better participate in it and be able to assess whether the contractors meet not only our expectations but also our users.
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