Just Develop It: App Design Process in Detail

Popular and useful mobile apps we use every day mostly look very uncomplicated and intuitive. According to Statista research, it’s also the most demanded realm of software development with more than 280 billions of downloads in 2018.

Newzoo says that it’s equal over $92 bln. Mobile application startup requires knowledge, precision, time and money. However, none of these would work out without a strong systematized approach.

Get ready for a long digital workout with this comprehensive guide to the mobile app design process. The less headache you have, the more goals you achieve!

The Definition of App Design Process

This is quite obvious but still very important to know. There is a huge difference between the preparatory phase of design which is about strategy and the design process itself. The second phase includes stages which require the results of strategic planning as a basis. Do your best to set the correct objectives. For a good process, start asking questions to your upcoming product. That’s quite similar to what we do to find out an application’s value.

App Design

What is your target audience? To see it right, imagine a messenger. It’s one of the most common types of apps. Any age group uses it every day, but why is Snapchat associated more with young people while Facebook is popular with everyone? That is the result of proper targeting. It’s fair to say that Zuckerberg pioneered the market, but Snapchat developers came up with an idea which is more attractive to a specific audience. It’s clear that adolescents don’t need features for business communication.

What tasks can your application cope with? The answer to this question should be straightforward and confident. Features must match with target audience’s potential needs and be visualized in a raw-but-clear wireframe. Any app designer wouldn’t be able to start working without this case. The last and the most important point of the strategy phase is budget. If you have all of these, read on.

Papers, Please!

The average smartphone users’ main channel of perception is visual. You may be very creative and come up with something extraordinary, but you must stick to rules to break them. Android and iOS platforms have their own nature which you can’t neglect. Users are mainly accustomed to designs which are forced by platform-holders’ native applications. Study them to understand essentials. Any native app takes a huge effort, tons of money and research to deliver a best-quality UX (User experience). That’s why you can use them to save resources.

Papers, Please!

Start with a paper UI (User Interface) model. Try to draft your app’s appearance in a most minimalist way. It doesn’t matter how complicated its tasks are. Your target audience knowledge will often be enough to find out what to do, but they won’t bother if they find a less demanding piece of software. Imagine a hammer. A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed apps for saving mobile data. There were three great applications, but I consider Google’s Datally as the most successful one despite the fact that it has minor options. Its UI is similar to any native Android app and it copes with data saving almost at the same level as its massive rivals do. It will win by the downloads number because users literary don’t need to think how to use it.

It means that you are able to pre-optimize app UX by getting rid of anything that may be identified as clutter. Such an approach would ease up all further operations. At this phase, you are also bound to choose the leading color which is likely to be one and only. After that, draw all menu tabs and buttons to define the depth and results of any actions.


The prototype is an application which supplies you with many benefits. You are not going to spend much money on this, so work out the previous phase to make it incarnate faster. The ready prototype may have multiple bugs and imperfections, but it is much more comfortable to be shown to investors, testers and manufacturers.


A web designer kindly introduced me Adobe XD which is perfectly suitable for prototype creation. Grab all your groundwork and implement it rapidly to the screen version. This software costs much cheaper than programmers’ and it’s very easy to pilot it with quite basic skills.

Another benefit of using such a “Powerpoint for developers” is security. Even a prototype must be safe from attacks and theft. Save projects in Adobe CC and be sure to spend less time on security measures.


In fact, you are free to mix development phases in this program. Colors, fonts, images, animations and buttons are better seen in a digital version. Spend some time testing them. Ask people you know to take a look and be attentive to their behavior and comments. Some of them may hone your vision or even change the direction of UI development. Let’s move on to visual details.


Psychological studies prove that color is one of the most powerful aspects of any design. According to Kissmetrics research, 92% of respondents are conscious that the majority of their purchase decisions are based on color preference.


Be aware of colors’ meanings. The most common choice is blue because it is suitable for both sexes. Americans and Europeans associate it with reliability and safety. The less common yellow color is more effective with young people and kids. Snapchat is a fine example of its right use.

Keep your app’s icon, home screen and tabs in a single color to make it significant and holistic. This rule is basic, but not 100% strict, so compare it with app’s functions. To make it clear imagine a camera app with pink or red panels. Shooting photos would become a tough business with such an interface.


Minimalism is a basic principle here too. Animations must complement actions and stay out of attention if it’s not argued. Avoid any movement delays, time-taking and graphically advanced features to balance between usability and appearance.


Gestures are hidden navigation controls. That’s why they are not obvious to all users. Any basic format application shouldn’t be only gesture-driven. Choose those moves you see in every popular application. Users would enjoy the absence of necessity to learn. Imagine a learning curve which grows up with every unfamiliar or unintuitive feature. The higher this curve gets, the fewer users are left.

Fonts and Elements

Most cases require strict use of mobile system basic fonts and functional elements. The reason is in customs again. Some creative designs may not be received well if they don’t match the mother-system’s concepts. Games are welcome to be unique, but it would not be a good decision to make a comic-sans based messenger.

Fonts and Elements

Functional icons and elements are better perceived if they are familiar. Unify them with smooth animations or slight stylization, but don’t overact. Any UI must be fast and intuitive in the first place.

Cut The Clutter

Any window of your application should provide a comprehensive message at a glance. All titles must be free from hyphenation to save users’ time. The shorter sentences are, the better. Check text efficiency with any unfamiliar with your app user. Just look at his or her behavior. If they look relaxed and unpuzzled, you get the right idea. Make sure that important information fits even the smallest screen to avoid excess scrolling. Mobile applications can’t use key shortcuts, so all general menus and elements should be accessible in the least number of taps.

Please note that it’s impossible to constrain spaces without actual contents. Features build the basis, but you can’t see the complete design without strict wording.

Do The Cut

As all the preparations are done, it’s time to code a working application for testing. Coding is quite expensive, so it’s better to make and test application on a single platform to avoid serious financial damage.

Some experts argue that testing should be held in a closed secure manner, while others recommend beta-testing. The first variant is good enough in case of big testing group availability. Customers would enjoy an app which works smoothly and has no visible bugs from the start. This method is very expensive as it requires strong security measures. Any of your designs and code pieces must be safe from spies. And think about testers’ fees.

Do The Cut

Here comes the beneficial online beta-testing! It is quite demanding either but costs less. Use platforms like Erli Bird and Betalist or post ads in Reddit, Quora or Twitter. To attract the most suitable testers, you should define their persona in detail and most strict requirements. Tell them that you have bugs to be fixed to make them hunt for code mistakes. Even after this measure some of 100-300 testers you found will correspond you with a plain report.

And don’t forget about time restrictions. Give testers a plan with periods of time devoted to different tasks. It is quite difficult to keep people engaged, so terms must be limited. By the way, think of cheering measures. Codes to unlimited permissions are good enough.

Reports are the most important stage as you should separate the wheat from the chaff. Each feedback is valuable because it is able to make your product better before the actual sales begin. Count with opinions and fix parts if it appears logical. The closed beta-testing phase may be repetitive, so don’t worry. Any occasion to make it better is worth time and money.

Do The Cut

Mind The First Impression

Remember that real users will judge your application at a first impression. Localytics say that 24% of users never return to a new app after the very first glance. To keep this number as low as possible, avoid any mandatory set-up screens. Much user data may be taken from a system, so ask permission for that and please users with pre-filled gaps.

Don’t overwhelm people with instructions. If they are necessary, it’s better to provide them only in those places where users might need them. Always place a “refuse” button to help advanced users skip any intros and onboarding instructions.

The same story goes with the registration. Many applications require personal accounts to open core features, but the most friendly ones stay away from the sign in a display as long as possible. It’s a psychological point which is quite like any other product selling affairs. You can’t sell anything by yelling “Buy it!”. Only a good argumentation would sell your application.

Weighty arguments are qualitative UI, easy-done actions, minor compulsory action requests, descriptiveness without instructions and the absence of bugs, for sure. Any modern UX is waited to be fast, so pages should respond in less than 2 seconds. Loading screens should struggle to keep users’ attention with fine visuals, important information or even jokes.

The Bottom Line

All in all, the app design process is quite clear at its phases, but still complicated when it comes to implementation. Be attentive to anything that happens to your product, and focus on the visual outcome of each feature. Smartphone owners love with their eyes and free fingers, so do your best to minimize user efforts to help them reach top efficiency and praise developer with 5 stars.

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