Mobile devices have a lot of things going for them; aside from their sheer popularity among demographics across the world, and their ease of use with intuitive interfaces and an ever expanding library of operating systems and add-ons, they also have the market cornered on apps. Mobile applications are not only a great place to get started for many developers that want to make a name for themselves, but they capitalize on a key aspect of mobile usability that we all want to get out of the experience.
When it comes to designing user interfaces for websites, or applications, there are a few lessons that everyone can take away from the most popular choices in the field. There’s even some cross over for the desktop experience.
- Interactive elements need to be intuitive. From games, to simple organization applications, if you have interactive elements on a website or in an application, users should be able to figure out what does what at a quick glance. Sliders and buttons need to be prominent, and important actions need to be highlighted and emphasized for the best results. You can’t hide anything on the front of the site if you want the UI to really get noticed.
- Colors and contrast matter. This goes back to emphasis on your important elements, but it also just affects the general quality of the application. Colors don’t always need to be their boldest, but on mobile devices, they may need to stand out on lower screen brightness levels. That’s because many mobile users run their devices in “power saving” configurations. If you’re UI looks great at full brightness, and dull at the steps below that, that could be a problem.
- Practical matters. Your interaction with the actual user interface needs to be practical for the mobile screen. You have to account for swipe gesturing, scrolling, and keyboard placement for forms that may be present on the site or application. The practicality of your mobile user interface will affect how many people come back for seconds, or whether or not those applications or sites will be recommended to friends. Multi-touch gesturing also needs to be considered, even if you’re just creating a blog or news site; zooming in and out should be simple, which means you may need to reconsider the clutter on the field if you have a lot of links and advertisements that users could unwittingly click on as they try to navigate.
One of the biggest take away here is that the site or application should feel natural and intuitive, and look that way as well. Consider the way that most toys are made for children; colors, shapes, and the intended method of interaction are usually right there on the design, whether it’s a simple wooden block, or a wind-up toy. The more practical the design, the more successful your user interface is going to be for the people who will actually be using it.