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Building an App from the User’s Point of View: The Essentials of UX Design

Within the retail industry, there is the old adage of "The customer is always right." When this comes to the field of technology and mobile applications, the phrase could be reworked to "User experience is king."

Designing a mobile application covers a multitude of facets and can be daunting, but two facets to keep firmly in mind are making sure the design is intuitive and useful. You could spend hours in development, tweaking and changing the interface, but often the designer is too close to the project to see the interface from the user’s point of view, and by keeping the design intuitive and keeping the customer journey flowing, it allows a more pleasant experience to use.

On the flip side, the app itself needs to be able to provide a useful service, whether that is functionality or enjoyment within the gaming arena, for example. This fluidity is key to a successful app, and being able to distinguish between your own standpoint as the creator and place yourself into the mind of the end user has never been more important. While the “three clicks to anywhere” rule may seem outdated, the principle still stands strong regardless of the medium you are creating. Being able to navigate cleanly and clearly around a user interface and having the options visible in a flowing manner will increase the usefulness of any application.

Content-based navigation is one of these key essential fundamentals, allowing the user to seamlessly transition between informational or graphical areas on screen without having to completely navigate away from the main focus. When the app contains a lot of detailed information or instructions, it can be helpful to use walkthroughs or coach marks to ease the user through the learning process. Having instructional text appear on selected menu options or pages where the activity is not immediately obvious allows for a more complex build but without the user experience becoming uncomfortable and frustrating. To complement this approach, popovers and sidebars can be used to great effect by showing the user more options are easily available without having to completely leave their current page.

The testing process is an excellent way to be able to revisit the initial design and see how it works within a more real-world scenario. One of these elements is to have a clear idea on where the app is going to be used. The experience for the end user will be different from, say, using it out walking on the street to standing with a recipe in a kitchen or browsing leisurely while at home on the couch. The speed at which the information and results can appear, or the size of the display area, will change slightly depending on the core functionality you are looking to achieve. Consolidating and grouping results is another way to ease the flow through the app; for example, an application that allows you to enter goods into a basket will look neater if the items are grouped into some element of a common theme, allowing the user to have an at-a-glance overview of their selection.

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Together with looking at the positives of the customer journey, it is also imperative that the elements that cause a negative feeling are eradicated at source. For a user to engage successfully with a service, there needs to be an emotional response, a reaction that garners a personal touch or insight in some way. A user interface that over-complicates or presents too much information all at once can make that emotional response one of frustration and apathy. The popover screen mentioned above can be used to good effect, but when used in excess, the user can be overwhelmed with choice or presented with a noisy and cluttered screen, which in turn can lead to them becoming disheartened with the product in hand.

Worry Free Labs is an excellent example of how to nurture and create a successful app business, helping to create visually impacting and intuitive designs to make a success of your idea. Their key principles of having an innovative idea, a strategy for executing a design, implementation and marketing process, and last of all, a strong, experienced team with which to work has resulted in a string of successful applications, such as KeyMe.

In short, UX design is the royalty of application creation, sitting at the head of the table and taking a rightful place as the focus of any project. Ignore the user experience at your peril; otherwise you risk the users ignoring you.