As much as we may hate to admit it, looks really do matter. At least they do when we’re comparing potential purchases. Countless studies have been conducted proving that we’ll sacrifice in one area if it means we’ll gain a lot of style. I’m no different, either. I nearly didn’t buy my new car when I found out that they only had it in blue (I mean, come on. Denim Blue is a hue best left to pants). But I’m far from alone here. Whether you’re an Apple or a PC, we can all agree Apple products look good – no one has ever been embarrassed to pull out their MacBook in front of a client. There’s nothing wrong with being drawn to aesthetically pleasing things either. It’s just up to us, as designers, to figure out the balance between aesthetics and function. Living in an increasingly mobile society, knowing how to design an app with this balance is priceless. Even though there’s no way to please everyone, here we’ve outlined a few ways to make sure your app is at least starting off on the right foot or wasting.
One of the biggest challenges when designing an app is spacing. The amount of free space is obviously limited, so how do you make sure your user is getting all the information you want them to have without overwhelming them, or wasting space? The best solution is to keep things to a minimum. For example, headers are helpful when using an app, due to the fact that it’s easy to get lost in a web of windows. However, they take up space that potentially could be left open. So, use your judgement. If you think a user would get lost, leave the header in to help guide them. If you think they can manage without, scratch it.
Another simple design principle is to stay consistent. It may sound like a no-brainer, but it can be easy to get carried away with different features. For example, if you’re going with a flat design then make sure you stay flat. Avoid things like drop shadows and other 3D effects. If you’re using vector art, don’t throw in a photo.
If you’re going to add some kind of sign-up, it’s important to let the user interact with the app in some way before being prompted to enter their info. Wait until they Like or Comment before enabling a pop-up. This way, they’ve created a level of investment and they might just sign up.
It’s also helpful to make sure your app is responsive to actions. We all know that load time is a pain, but we have accepted our fate to some degree. You just have to let your user know that the app is thinking when there’s a delay from touch to action, otherwise you risk the user closing out of the app altogether. Nobody wants that.
Color is an interesting player in app design. Not only can the right color scheme add to the overall look and feel of the app, but when used correctly, color can help enhance the entire app experience. For example, stay aware of your color scheme on action buttons. Making a “Yes” button red has actually been proven to stop people from pressing the button; we end up thinking that action won’t get us where we want to go. Needless to say, avoid red for your call to action buttons.
Additionally, color hierarchy can help guide your user to where you want them to go. If you’re using greyscale, for example, you’re telling your user that the items in black are the most important. The items in gray are less important, and the items in white are the least important.
When it comes to aesthetics, color schemes can be a pain and a lot of fun. A simple way to keep a focused color scheme is to pick an actor color and up to three supporting colors. This keeps a consistent look without boring the viewer. When you absolutely need more colors, try adding black to a color to create a shade, or add white to make a tint.
While these tips won’t ensure success, they’re a place to start when designing for a user. Essentially, if it makes sense to you, it might make sense to other people as well. Start there.