Smartphones as the most frequently accessed device are at the centre of all everyday tech interactions. We reach out to our phones more frequently than ever before. With the new trends and UX-Driven technologies engulfing mobile app development, mobile device usability continues to evolve.
Obviously, today’s smartphone usability has been the result of prolonged efforts comprising thousands of cases of failures and successes, errors and troubleshooting and innumerable iterations itching toward more sophistication and precision.
Way back in 1995, Jakob Nielson came up with a broad array of usability guidelines particularly in order to create engaging websites. Though these usability design guidelines came up before the mobile era, they proved to be relevant even in the era of voice interactions, smart gesture controls and adaptive touch displays.
In some parts of the world, usability design is going through continuous experiments resulting in mixed responses. Companies involved in app development in Dublin, Ireland particularly give credence to UX design trends for many of their recent success stories with innovative app projects.
Here we go through these heuristics in the context of mobile app UI design.
Ability to see system status
Users always want maximum control and having controls on their devices and apps is a key aspect of their sense of security. This sense of control is best guaranteed by a device when it shows the system information clearly and provides clear feedback following every interaction.
We have plenty of examples to support this principle. As soon as you switch on the smartphone, it displays the battery information, shows the Wi-Fi connection status, notifications on missed calls and messages, notifications from other apps such as email, pending software updates, etc.
The device also provides immediate feedback as soon as a change takes place. For example, when the wi-fi connection goes out, the device comes with an on-screen notification. Here below we provide some tips to use this principle.
- Make sure the app interface doesn’t compromise the automatic system update of the device.
- Ensure that the app warns users about any potential performance issues about the system well in advance. For instance, if a device doesn’t support landscape mode, the app should inform users when they try to use this mode.
- Make sure users can easily get access to crucial system information affected by the app usage. For example, allow users to see memory used by the app, battery power consumed by the app, screen time, etc.
Syncing the system and the world outside
The second important principle regarding usability design is about syncing the system to communicate with the real world where the user belongs. The design should be able to respond in the language of the users by using words, phrases and concepts that are well known to the users. Instead of using technical jargon, the system should establish understanding in the real-world language.
Some of the key considerations in this respect include the following.
- Make sure users can easily get the meaning without searching for a definition.
- Do not overestimate the user’s understanding of the technical terms just the way you understand.
- You need to make it a priority when carrying out user research in order to understand the understanding of users about the technology your app is built upon.
Giving users maximum freedom of choice
It is extremely important that you put users in use with easy undoing and redoing options. In case of an error, the user must be allowed to make an exit move or carry out the whole task again. This instils a sense of freedom in users.
- Offer support for Undo, Redo and Refresh actions.
- Allow users to back out anytime during an interaction simply by pressing a Cancel button.
- Ensure a conveniently marked Exit point that users can access in case of any error.
Maintaining consistency and adhering to standards
How many functions have you really noticed that work exactly the same way across all kinds of apps and interfaces? Yes, from copy-paste to the single swipe function on smartphone screen for accessing notifications, many functions have become parts and parcels of the usability standards. Maintaining this consistency with functions based upon the latest usability standards is highly important.
- Make sure your app follows the common and established standards for performing certain actions.
- Make sure your app fully adheres to the platform-specific usability rules and standards. Follow Human Interface Guidelines of Apple and Material Design Guidelines of Google Android.
- Follow the best design practices to help users access the common features and functions with ease.
Preventing users from committing errors
Generally, users commit two kinds of errors while using a digital interface. They are respectively slips and mistakes. The first one takes place when lack of attention makes users perform a different action instead of the intended one. Mistakes on the other hand happen due to the lack of understanding of how the interface, features or functions work. Here are some key tips to prevent both types of errors.
- To help users avoid slips, the interface must guide them safely to the intended action.
- Putting some constraints that prevent users from putting wrong input values is a great way to prevent slips.
- Offering the most common and frequently used options is another way to prevent slips.
- Coming with a dialogue box requiring user confirmation before a critical step is another effective way to prevent slips.
- Mistakes can be best avoided by establishing an understanding of the interface with a great onboarding experience.
- Mistakes primarily need to be prevented by putting the app under rigorous usability testing.
Ease, flexibility and effectiveness
Certain shortcuts can be used by experienced users to perform actions with ease while the inexperienced users may find it more comfortable by going the long way around. This is how usability should address the use scenarios of both experienced and inexperienced users.
- Provide shortcuts that users over time can find more effective for completing actions quickly and easily.
- At the same time allow new and inexperienced users to follow the smooth path with simple and multiple steps to complete actions.
Maintain minimalist aesthetics
More an interface tries to communicate with one screen view, more confusion and lack of attention it will lead to. This is why to ensure faster user engagement you need to limit cognitive load and reduce distractions to the least. Consider the following tips.
- Adhere to the “Less is More” design principle to make a maximum impact by using fewer elements.
- Use white or negative space in abundance to ensure that every piece of content gets proper attention.
- Showcase one content or product on every page to maximise engagement.
Guide users to detect errors and rectify
Faster users can know about their errors and the faster they can take a recourse or rectify it, the less frustration they will have. So your interface must have a well-designed error addressing experience. As soon as the user commits an error, he should be notified and offered suggestions to take the right step. Here are some tips to consider.
- Make sure the error message is useful with some advice regarding what to do next.
- Offer a very detailed FAQ section to cover most of the common user queries.
- Make sure you offer a Help section to guide users regarding various issues.
- In the case of apps with rigorous features and some learning curves, an integrated and concise tutorial will be very helpful.
- Ensure creating a great onboarding experience to help users using the app easily.
All these UX design heuristics stood as effective and highly regarded by the designers, digital product strategists and developers. They have been tried and tested across too many successful apps and web interfaces over the years. For bringing out a successful app product, you do not have many options but to rely on them.
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