7 Priorities for an App's UX

Larry Alton
by Larry Alton 03 Dec, 2015

Whether you're designing a responsive website or a mobile-specific app, one of the biggest factors for your ultimate success is going to be how well your users interact with your creation.

User experience (UX) design is intended to address this interactive quality, rather than focusing purely on aesthetics the way that other traditional forms of design do. Your goal here isn't only to produce something that looks good and stands as a unique entry among the competition-it's also to lead users throughout their journey with as few hiccups and points of frustration as possible.

When considering the UX of your app, these seven considerations should be your highest priorities:

1. Users' Previous Experience.

Humans are creatures of habit, and great UX designs take those habits into consideration. When we open a new website or a new app on our mobile phones, we expect it to behave like other, similar apps we've used before. For example, after a few first-round apps adopted the simple action of swiping left to delete something, virtually every app in the world features this functionality, and users are highly familiar with it. It wouldn't make sense to make swiping left mean something else in your app. It's okay to push for new features and new functionality, but try to keep most of your app functional and similar to what most users are accustomed to.

2. User Purpose.

You'll have to consider your average user's main purpose in accessing your app to offer the best possible design. For example, imagine an "average" user has just come to your site. What does he/she want to do? Is his/her main interest in seeing your daily deals and specials? If so, it doesn't make sense to bury these in the bottom of a footer. Is your user's main interest in your app to schedule an appointment or reservation? Make that the biggest, most prominent button upon loading the app. Play to your users' primary purpose and objectives, and you can't go wrong.

3. User Clarity.

Everything needs to be obvious for your users, or they'll get confused, and confusion is probably the worst reaction you can get from a new user of your app. Avoid this by making every element clear in its purpose and function-especially interactive elements. For example, make sure every clickable button and link stands out as clickable by introducing contrasting colors, familiar shapes like boxes and circles, and other visual cues that let a user know it is clickable. If you have a strange or unfamiliar interactive element, use on-screen gestures or icons to indicate how users are meant to react to it.

4. App Simplicity.

Simple designs are actually correlated with higher rates of user engagement, so strive for minimalism in your app and website designs. Think about the absolute most important features your app needs, include them prominently, and relegate the rest as sub-menu items, or bury them in the footer. Keep your app as simple as possible, maximizing your use of white space, and getting rid of anything that isn't essential for the average user's experience. It's fine to include more details, but if they aren't necessary, keep them out of the way.

5. App Flexibility.

User behavior rarely aligns the way you initially expected it would. Even if the bulk of your users somehow miraculously conform to your original expectations, there will always be a stray minority of users who use your app the opposite way it was intended. Due to this, your best bet in UX design is to create an app that is flexible and accommodating. It needs to be forgiving of user input mistakes, offer multiple different roads to the ultimate destination, and include options for experimentation that allow even the least familiar users a chance to enjoy your app.

6. App Speed.

When I talk about app speed here, I'm not just talking about how fast your app can be accessed and run (though those are also important factors). Instead, I'm referring to the amount of time it takes for a user to find the information or feature he/she needs to keep moving. For example, if a user wants to buy a product from you, how long will it take for him/her to find the product he/she is looking for, and how long will it take to complete the checkout process? The faster these processes are, the more likely you are to retain your audience.

7. Worst-Case Scenarios.

Things will always go wrong in apps. Users will use things incorrectly. Users won't be able to find what they're looking for. The design and layout will be confusing to some. Your design needs to offer some defensive protection against these and more inevitable worst-case scenarios. Can you offer your users pointers on where to go? Do you have a chat or help window to help guide them? Are your error screens helpful and informative?

Of course, your personal experience and intuition can only take you so far in the world of UX design. To make something truly extraordinary, you'll need to fall back on the objective findings of user testing-after all, what good is user experience if you don't have any users experiencing it? Still, the first round of your app should be a product of these seven important considerations, and once in place, you'll have a far easier time improving and managing your app's design in subsequent rounds.

Larry Alton is a professional blogger, writer and researcher who contributes to a number of reputable online media outlets and news sources. In addition to journalism, technical writing and in-depth research, he's also active in his community and spends weekends volunteering with a local non-profit literacy organization and rock climbing. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.