April 7, 2015 // By Anthony Handley
As businesses continue to look for new and better ways to connect with and serve their customers in 2015, the enterprise should anticipate an increased focus on mobile and modern apps.
It’s been said that mobile user experiences are less about individual devices and more about behavior and interaction. Yet, the myriad of form factors and screen sizes of today’s modern devices make them a critically important consideration in modern software development.
Mobile apps present designers and engineers with a unique set of challenges and opportunities. Focus, connectivity and context all warrant special attention as we strive bring mobile experiences to life. In addition, the visual interface will continue to take center stage with mobile apps for some time to come. Since the interface IS the application to users, learning how to leverage design languages is more important than ever as we work to delight users and increase their productivity.
Developing the same app for multiple mobile platforms, (Android, iOS, and Windows Phone) can seem like a daunting task. Platforms differ (often wildly) in terms of hardware, software, and user expectations. If you’re trying to reach as many users on as many devices as possible it’s tempting to try to build "one app to rule them all”. However, even when leveraging development platforms like Xamarin, Phone Gap or Cordova, the UI still needs to be designed with the users of the target platforms in mind.
Apple, Google and Microsoft have invested heavily in their respective design languages. While there there are certainly some common design patterns across the platforms, it is often the small details that make each mobile OS unique. Users of a particular platform have expectations about how apps on their device should look, feel and work. Taking advantage of each OS’s specific UX nuances can reduce barriers to usability, increase user satisfaction, and ultimately define your app's success.
Since its debut, the Android mobile platform has traditionally been seen as a mere “generic” alternative to iOS, taking many of its design cues from the competing OS. But recently Google has started to pour an extraordinary amount of attention and effort into the user experience of their products and services. The resulting "Material Design” is Google’s attempt to bring a common design language to all of their products and services.
With Android 5.0 Lollipop, Google’s new user experience brings classic design principles together with digital sensibilities in a playful mixture of white space, clean type, and bold colors. Material design is "grounded in tactile reality, inspired by the study of paper and ink” and it uses layers, subtle shadows and contextual fluid animations to communicate navigation, interaction and information. With Material design, Android now looks, feels and works VERY different than iOS and it’s important that apps designed for this platform feel at home.
Android Material Design Guidelines: http://tinyurl.com/AndroidGuidelines
Like Google, Apple has continued to refine their own design language. iOS 8 sees the final remnants of rich textured icons, buttons and backgrounds swept away in favor of a clean flat minimal UI that lets the user focus on content. Apps with extreme skeumorphic design that were once very cool, suddenly look tired and dated. Apple's new design also adds updated guidelines for typography and vibrant colors, along with new swipes, gestures and actions for navigation and interaction. Apps that want to feel at home on iOS should absolutely reference Apple's latest Human Interface Guidelines.
iOS 8 also introduced support for Adaptive User Interfaces, which allow designers and developers to flexibly adapt app layouts to multiple screen sizes including the new iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and iPads. With iOS 8, Apple has brought the look and feel of their mobile platform into the future. Apps should look to leverage the updated guidelines or risk looking and feeling dated.
iOS Human Interface Guideline: http://tinyurl.com/iOSGuidelines
Starting with Windows Phone, Microsoft began focusing on a single design language across all their products and services. On desktop, tablets, phones and even XBOX, Microsoft’s Modern design language works to create familiarity and consistency as users move from one device to another. This “Modern UI” is one of the most unique and differentiated in the mobile space. Its flat clean and minimal look is heavily influenced by classic Swiss print design and way-finding graphics from airports and railway stations.
Universal apps that work on phones, tablets and desktop, are a key part of this UX strategy this year. When designing apps for Windows Phone or Windows 8/10, designers and developers should leverage the unique navigation and interaction patterns rather than try to adapt user experiences from other platforms.
Microsoft Design Guidelines: http://tinyurl.com/WindowsGuidelines
With all that Google, Apple and Microsoft are doing to to help software development teams bring great contextual user experiences to their modern apps, it’s clear that taking each platform’s individual and unique design language into account is just a first step to delight users and increase their productivity.
Anthony Handley is the National Practice Lead for Magenic Studios. Our user experience team translates business goals and user needs into best-in-class, context-driven solutions for finance, healthcare, insurance, retail, legal, entertainment and more. To learn more, you can email us or call us directly at 877-277-1044.