Mobile design patterns bringing apps to market faster

By Elisa Silverman

App development demand is set to outstrip IT departments’ development capacity at a rate of five to one, according to Gartner analysis. Furthermore, according to OutSystems, 85 percent of companies have a backlog of up to 20 apps. By investing in mobile design patterns, enterprises can speed up the mobile app development process to avoid creating a backlog.

Similar to a UX style guide, a design pattern is a proven solution to a common user experience challenge. Currently, mobile UX lives in a region that exists somewhere between the old and the genuinely new. It’s clear that enterprises have enough experience with mobile devices by now to have some understanding of common problems, patterns and user tendencies. Yet this technology is new enough that there is still room to learn. Enterprise developers can jump-start their mobile app development by selecting the most applicable mobile design patterns to create a useful arrangement of information within their apps.

Mobile design patterns and the information hierarchy

Some information is more relevant at specific times than other information. With the limited real estate on a mobile device, it’s critical for enterprises to understand the information hierarchy for each specific use case. After all, this understanding allows them to design a positive user experience. As such, design patterns such as progressive disclosure, which only show the information that is absolutely needed in a particular moment, become an important option.

Another common design pattern is to simply push high-value information out. For instance, as Wired reports, one bank achieved positive results by removing the “Check Balance” button from its app. At first, this seemed like a crazy move, because this button was the one that received the most clicks. But that was the point. It was clear that checking one’s account balance was at the top of the information hierarchy for the app’s users. So why should users have to work for this information? Why should the bank put the load of managing these queries on their back-end system?

Instead, the bank implemented a different mobile design pattern, one in which they pushed out the information. In the new design, the account balance was pushed out to the mobile device whenever a user made a transaction on the app.

Helping mobile users dig into the information hierarchy

The push design pattern makes great sense for content at the highest levels of the information hierarchy. But how can mobile design patterns be used to help users access additional information as their needs in any use case change?

One of the most interesting and unique aspects of the mobile UX is the role of gestures to navigate through the app. As mobile users have become well-trained in which gestures will result in different actions within an app, a number of design patterns are based on these movements. For best results, enterprise designers need to build off of their user base’s gesture expectations. For instance, users may want to have more detailed information about an element at the top of the hierarchy. If they want to dig deeper, they will likely try a long press or double-tap gesture.

“When designing an application, I feel it’s critical not to invent new things, unless you absolutely have to,” says Egan Schulz, vice president of product and design at Samepage. “You know your users expect to see a right-to-left animation between screens when navigating in (or down) into an application … don’t screw that up. Embrace the popular design expectations and don’t screw it up. Innovate elsewhere.”

Refining design selections with user testing

In order to select which mobile design patterns to use as a starting point, you must clarify your personas and use cases. Unfortunately, these only take you so far. After all, only real users can reveal a specific community’s actual expectations of how to intuitively use a specific app. This is where mobile wireframes and prototyping must be used to iterate quickly through various design pattern options.

Keeping your creativity

You don’t need to take a bland approach in order to design to user expectations. As Schulz put it, “Innovate elsewhere.” After all, users don’t want to have to remember which gesture performs which act within each app they use. That’s a recipe for a horrible UX.

Developers still have plenty of room for creativity and innovation in an app’s functionality, content and aesthetics. By using mobile design patterns, they can ensure that there is enough time to invest in creativity while still reducing the app development backlog.

Written By

Elisa Silverman

Technology Writer

Elisa Silverman is a freelance writer, with a professional background in law and technology. She writes for technology companies and professional service firms. In addition, Elisa writes other types of B2B marketing content that help them establish authority and foster relationships…

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