How to Upgrade Your Mobile App User Experience

mobile app blog
tiffany-palmer@2x By Tiffany Palmer May 10th 2021

Statistics show that over one in ten customers will tell fifteen people about their bad experiences with a product. For this reason, you should be considering UX or user experience a significant and serious aspect of your mobile app development plan.

This article will help you understand some of the steps you should take when moving towards an upgrade to the UX of your mobile app.

What Is User Experience?

The user experience of a product or service refers to the process of a person using said product. This could be an application, website, or even going into a store and purchasing an item.

It encompasses every interaction the user has with the product. This can be from the person learning about a product for the first time from an advert or word of mouth to them discarding it after use.

This all-encompassing nature may seem daunting. But UX specialists can solve specific problems or “low-hanging fruit” of difficult areas of user experience. In this way, a product can go from something that people review in a negative way to something praised.

The Elements of User Experience

There are several ways of breaking down a product’s user experience. From the user interface to the packaging, to the colour scheme. Or, you can consider it along the lines of the discrete interactions the user has with it.

In this article, we will discuss mobile UX in terms of five elements that build on top of one another to create an overall experience. These are strategy, scope, structure, skeleton, and surface.

Strategy

The strategy is the purpose for creating the product in the first place. What problem is it solving and who is it for? Why do people need this thing? 

This part of the process of user experience focuses on defining user requirements for the product as well as what the business can solve. It can involve anything from user research and interviews to discussions with stakeholders. Also, the process should encompass looking at already-existing products and what they do and do not do.

Scope

Defining this includes taking the results from the strategy process and applying them to produce your user stories. Here, you should define the features and broad content of the product so that you can form a plan to develop moving forward.

These are generally defined as the “functional requirements” and the “content requirements”. The functions being the different things a user can do. Content, on the other hand, being different things a user can experience such as broad definitions of text, audio, interactions, or video.

Structure

The structure of the product defines clearly how a user interacts with what is being created and how it responds. You can split this process into interaction design and information architecture.

Interaction design specifies how people use the product and how said product responds. Whereas information architecture defines how you present data onscreen, visually or otherwise.

Skeleton

The skeleton makes up a large part of what many people think of when they have seen user experience design. It is the presentation of the visual screens. This includes how you arrange all elements onscreen to be understandable and functional.

The skeleton also defines how the user should traverse these screens reliably and effectively.

This area of the user experience makes use of blueprints called wireframes. These allow other developers to understand what the designer is trying to present. These should clearly denote what they will need to create.

Surface

The surface is what the site generally looks like after putting together all of the above layers. It can include final elements, such as branding and colour selection. Not only this but also the visual design of interactive elements to present them as tactile.

Decisions made at this level allow a product to be easier understood in its functionality. It can include aspects such as micro-interactions or icon choices.

Summing It Up

The above layers all work together to present the total of a product. They are dependent on their previous layers, and missing any one of them will cause a product’s image and UX to falter. Remember that if you make changes lower down, that may cascade up in the layers to the very top.

This is especially important if a stakeholder decides to change something. If this affects the strategy or scope layer, it will affect everything above it.

After you complete the process, however, you should have a cohesive product that is easily understood in both intent and execution.

How Should You Focus Your Mobile App Experience?

Now you have a stronger understanding of the process of user experience research and how it can work as a whole. The next thing you need to understand is the specific areas you should be looking at to take your mobile app experience to its next steps.

The following are the areas you should be taking a vested interest in to make your mobile experience the best it can be:

Understand Your Audience

This is a very important part of the strategy layer of user experience. There are several ways that one can perform this role, many of which will require you to do research rather than make assumptions.

You should seek to find the demographics of those you are trying to create an application for. This will include sending out questionnaires or performing in-person research. It can even mean researching statistics and several other methods of data gathering.

Also, you should put time aside for user interviews in which you ask how people currently resolve the problems you are trying to resolve. During these, you can also test your assumptions in how various solutions could work.

Lean Onboarding

Imagine receiving a new kitchen appliance you have never used before and not having any instructions on how to set it up. That is before you even want to use it for the first time.

Lean onboarding is this beginning process, with the intent of making everything at the start much easier. After this, you can have a good experience of your first-time use.

You should intend to have the process by which a user first interacts with your product be especially simple. This not only means that the registering process should be easy to follow, but it should start much earlier. The process by which a person learns about this product and then downloads or accesses it should be easy.

Examples of ways to make this easier can include:

  • Registering a simpler URL
  • Having an easy-to-find name
  • Allowing people to start using the app without registering the first time

Simple Login

The method for logging in to the application should be made as smooth as you can make it. After logging in for the first time, you could try to make it so that there are no further needs to log in on the same device. This could use a cookie or similar saved asset to save the user’s information.

If you cannot keep someone logged in like that, you could ask for simpler login information. With apps on a mobile phone, this could include face recognition, thumbprint recognition, or a PIN entry. This will still keep a level of user recognition in place without needing a full username or password.

Simple Navigation

There are several methods one can have to move around an application or webpage. Clear menus are just one of those methods, and even in the world of menus, there are several options available.

You should ensure that you frontload your most-used areas of the application. This means that they are most accessible to give people a simple method of finding the areas they go to the most.

Shortcuts between commonly-used areas can also give people a more stress-free experience.

Clear Controls

On mobile, it can become confusing as to exactly what you can do with an app. If you can swipe in a direction to perform an action, that should have a visual indicator onscreen. Nobody is going to know that they can swipe a single row or column unless you point it out.

In general, you should assume that only a fraction of users will see everything that is not pointed out.

Conciseness

When you are viewing an app, website, or article, conciseness is important. Extra fluff and information can end up making the experience bloated and you will begin to feel like you are wasting your time reading it. This is especially the case with mobile, where your screen only has a limited size.

For this reason, you should only present the most important and relevant information to a user at any time. Allow the user to dig down or export more information, but they should not feel like there is too much onscreen at once.

Allow Search or Menu

In addition to using menus, several apps and sites these days allow searching for not only content but features too. On Facebook, for example, you can search “Settings” and find your personalisation and privacy options. Similarly, in many apps, you can perform a search for contact information to find the site’s contact page.

If your app has a search function, look into allowing users to use this for fast navigation of the site.

As Little Interaction as Possible

The aim of any app should be to require as little use as possible for the largest amount of utility. For a while, it was fashionable for all functionality to be “one click away.” Although we have moved past this, it is still true that areas of an app should not require significant interaction to access.

This is just one more reason to frontload the most-used areas of the application. Seeking to have the most significant sections of the application easily available can be a boon.

Listen to Feedback

One of the most important things you can do with your users is to listen to them. If you consistently get feedback that one area is not working like users believe it should, you should look at it as a matter of priority. Knowing that your users are having a bad user experience is only a bad thing if you do nothing about it.

Regular feedback from users should be something you encourage. It is a major reason many applications have public methods to do so. Forums, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and similar are all ways for the UX team to get the information they need to do their jobs.

Calls to Action

Being explicit in what you want the user to do next can be the difference between a user’s journey through a product and confusion. When a user gets to the end of a page, screen or article, they should be given the option to continue, save or otherwise explicitly take an action. This gives them the next step in their user journey and keeps them moving forward and invested in their experience.

Personalisation

Not everybody uses applications the same way. Different people have different needs for accessing different areas. You can build this into the UI in a way that helps users on an individual basis.

If users often use specific areas, a “Favourites” area can be automatically generated. Alternatively, a user could create it themselves by “favouriting” specific areas of the application. This will give users a level of ease for that product that will be purposely aimed at them and them alone.

You can also mine these favourites for information to determine what the most common favourites are. After this, UX can focus on these areas to improve their design.

Where Next?

Now you have read this article you should have a strong idea of what it means to upgrade the user experience of any app you are making. If you have further questions, however, we would recommend getting in contact for more information.

Our specialist teams are on hand to give you the advice you need to seek the next stage in your app-production journey. Just pick up the phone and layout your needs for us to be able to estimate what we can provide you.

tiffany-palmer@2x By Tiffany Palmer

Tiffany comes with a unique creative ability. She is one of the quickest learners of new tools and methodology. She leads the atomic design principles within our UI & UX team that has helped us to deliver high-quality design faster.

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