App design trends: How CIOs and VPs of apps can take new approaches

By Karin Kelley

With smartphones and tablets in the hands of a vast majority of people all over the world today, current app design trends are primarily focused on the rise of mobility and proliferation of devices. To ensure the successful implementation of must-have designs, CIOs should collaborate directly with their VPs of apps to rethink mobile app development and design strategies, with an overall goal of making app usage easier by anticipating what a user would look for on myriad devices.

Enterprises can no longer take a one-size-fits-all approach to app development. Instead, all different devices, operating systems and potential network conditions should be taken into consideration from the beginning of the process — and more agile development techniques to adjust mobile apps on-demand should be adopted.

These new mobile environments are moving at a rapid pace, and CIOs must work directly with the VP of apps to stay on top of current app design trends and enable a mobile workforce. Here are the mobile app design trends that should be on every CIO’s radar.

Flatten it Out

In today’s mobile world, app design trends have shifted from skeuformistic to flat design. Rather than trying to emulate a physical object in the user interface (UI) by utilizing excessive shading, gradients and textures, flat design techniques are more minimalist in nature: They use simple elements, flat colors and typography. Minimal design methods help ensure that mobile applications can be used easily and efficiently in a wide variety of browsers, and on devices of all types and sizes.

Interacting With Larger Devices

One of the biggest factors driving app design trends today is the fact that devices are getting larger. This influences how users physically interact with apps on the device. For instance, many users will hold a smartphone in one hand while navigating apps with the other, as opposed to using smaller devices with just one hand. That’s where gestures, such as swiping, come into play. This app design trend lets users swipe back and forth through Web pages, or swipe up and down for new panels. Swiping (also known as scrolling or parallax scrolling) is the new click.

Though devices are getting larger, they remain smaller than laptops or desktops; thus, app and UI designers still must limit the amount of information displayed. In addition to scrolling and swiping, many designers use the technique of building hidden menus, which are only displayed when the user needs them.

Design Elements: Colors, Blurred Lines and Storytelling

Another prevalent app design trend is the use of subtle and soft color palettes. Bold and bright colors can attract attention, but can also be a distraction. The use of subtle colors can help keep users’ concentration. The effective use of soft colors for different things can also create solid context and hierarchical order within an app. In addition to soft colors, using blurring techniques can help direct attention to more prominent texts and elements, but also help guide users to what the next action should be within any given context.

Another prevalent, and highly important, mobile app design trend is storytelling, a strategy that aims to pique engagement and interest by presenting applications as a story that the user navigates as a character. To achieve that, the UI must intelligently and fluidly guide users through the application, screen by screen or layer by layer. The designer might utilize tools such as text, images and animations to enhance the story experience.

A Collaborative Process

Given the advances in new mobile app design trends, CIOs should work directly with VPs of apps to take a holistic approach to the app development process.

All applications start out as a proof of concept (POC) — in the past, VPs of apps could present CIOs with a POC of an app on a few sheets of paper. Today, however, mobile app design is more complex and tends to include new, dynamic features that must function across a range of devices. Thus, VPs of apps need prototyping tools to be able to visually demonstrate how a user is meant to interact with the application. These should be able to simulate the way users move through the app on various devices and places on the network. Make sure your VP of apps has the tools he or she needs.

Applications are constantly evolving and new devices will continue to emerge, but the designs examined here will be relevant for some time. Smartphone screens are still getting bigger; although they are smaller, wearable devices are also gaining momentum. To ensure the enterprise’s continued success, CIOs and VPs of apps should team up to accommodate the rapidly changing market in an agile, collaborative fashion.

Written By

Karin Kelley

Independent Analyst & Writer

Karin is an independent industry analyst and writer, with over 10 years experience in information technology. She focuses on cloud infrastructure, hosted applications and services, end user computing and related systems management software and services. She spent nearly eight years…

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