Mobile App Design: 3 Key Stages to Your App’s Success

1.  Business analysis

At the first stage of any mobile app development project, you need to define the target platform (iOS or Android or both), the development method, and the functional requirements. Although this may sound too techy for a start, I can’t stress enough how heavily further steps depend on the decisions you make at this point. To get a load off your mind and make a calculated and confident choice, I recommend completing this step together with a professional business analyst, who has a focus on mobile design.

Once you define the platform(s) you need to reach, you should consider the development approach. Your options here are:

  • Native development UX and UI design of the app is tailored to the platform’s original guidelines, it looks and feels exactly like any factory app for that platform. This development option entails high implementation costs but guarantees high user satisfaction.
  • Hybrid development – UX and UI design is identical on different platforms and thus may feel unnatural to some users at first. Implementation costs are almost 2x lower than with native development.
  • Cross-platform development – UX and UI design offers a near-native look and experience on either platform. This option requires about 70% of the native development budget.

Defining functional requirements is the core objective of business analysis. The requirements help build a detailed concept of your future app and describe all the tasks it will handle in the form of a project specification. Without this document, the UX designers won’t be able to even start their work.

2.UX design

When you’ve defined the functional requirements of your future app, your vendor of choice can proceed to the actual design action. The first stage is user experience design that is usually performed by a UX expert in cooperation with a business analyst.

The team works to create fictional profiles of your mobile app’s future users (aka personas) and their interaction patterns with the application (aka user scenarios). Although it depends on the functionality of your app, mobile app design usually requires 5-7 personas with at least 2 different user scenarios created for each.

Both personas and scenarios help a UX designer understand what goals users will want to achieve while using your app. This understanding, in its turn, allows the designer to give the detailed form of wireframes, either hand-drawn or digital, to interaction flows between a user and the mobile app.

The finished UX wireframes – around 40 mockups on average – go through rigorous, multi-round UX testing. Aimed at gaining early feedback, testing makes it possible to eliminate UX issues while they are still cheap to fix. I also highly advise you (or somebody from the project team on your side) to take part in this testing to see the first results for yourself.

3. UI design prototyping

UX wireframes – which usually look like monochromatic schemes – are the basis for the work of user interface designers. By combining your company’s brand book, platform-specific guidelines (the major ones being Google’s Material Design and/or Apple’s Human Interface), and latest mobile design trends, they transform the lo-fi wireframes into a colorful, hi-fi digital prototype. If you already have a web application with a similar functionality pack, UI designers make sure the mobile app’s look is consistent with that of the web app.

Once the prototype is finished, the UI team contacts you and asks for your review. Make sure to share all your thoughts and doubts at this point. Even if some major fixes or additions end up being costly, they will still be at least 2 times cheaper at this stage than they will be later, in the shape of code.

Only after your project team approves the final version of the UI prototypes, the design is complete, and you can safely proceed to development.