Let’s continue talking about the user experience in the context of apps. Tips such as making the UX adapt to the user, network-awareness, onboarding, and other concepts related to the user experience were covered in the first segment of this article series.
Here are a few other UX tips to consider.
Keep your touch gestures obvious
Your app shouldn’t be a gesture-guessing game.
While a few complex interaction options—for example, the augmented pull-to-refresh gesture—can add some real depth to your app for power users, they don’t do much for me during a first-run experience.
Feelings of confusion turn users off. If your app doesn’t quickly convey how it can be effectively interfaced with, there’s a good chance I’ll give up on exploring it.
This UX tip is a hard one to show an example for, since you can’t see my hands making user-friendly touch gestures in some app.
So instead I’ll point you towards the Google Material design gesture patterns. You’ll see in Google’s pattern library that there are dozens upon dozens of different gestures listed and indexed—such as the “2-finger double touch”—each with slightly different movements and configuration, There’s no way the majority of app users are keeping up-to-date with all these touch gestures.
“Your app shouldn’t be a gesture-guessing game.”
Branding is a part of the UX
Creating a brand for your app is about more than picking a cool logo. My phone is awash in a sea of rounded icons with a blue background and a bold, white letter.
“Creating a brand for your app is about more than picking a cool logo.”
Some of my favorite installed apps are hard to pick out of a lineup. When I need to use an app, I should be able to find it quickly. Branding is key to findability, and thus also to the UX.
Slack gained such rapid adoption in a crowded chat space because of the bold colors and fun patterns in its design.
Beyond colors, Slack’s messaging has a tone of serious irreverence that helps it feel like the spunky newcomer it really is.
That’s probably why the company was recently valued at $2.8 billion. There’s a little more to the success than design alone, but that secret sauce sure don’t hurt.
Customer support is also a part of the UX
It’s a magical experience when an app is working to its full potential.
But when something goes wrong, we just about pull our hair out.
I’ve developed an amazingly short temper for misbehaving apps. It’s almost like road rage, but for awful apps instead of awful motorists. App rage?
My irrational frustrations escalate when talking about a paid product or service. A paid app doesn’t just have users, it has customers.
If I’m giving you real money, you better be giving me real customer service when things are broken.
Sonos makes a line of wi-fi-connected speakers.
As with any network hardware, there might be some issues requiring technical support from time to time.
When something acts up, Sonos makes it easy to submit diagnostics—it’s just a few taps away. This sends Sonos your complete network setup so they can see what’s going on. Each submitted report has a unique ID, which Sonos tracks in a ticket. Accountability!
“Customer support is also a part of UX.”
In the land of nerdy DevOps, submitting diagnostics is commonplace—I’m just happy to see a major app make it this easy when others are going the opposite direction and making it harder to get customer support in order to cut costs.
Bonus: Sonos even responds to support questions on Twitter.
Don’t forget landscape mode
Some of my favorite apps, many of them worth billions of dollars, are missing a landscape mode. Even if your layout looks super awesome in portrait mode, know this: it’s not up to you how your app’s layout will be viewed. If the user rotates their device, your layout should follow suit.
More than just being able to rotate the orientation, a solid experience means adapting to any condition your users are in. A smartphone interface scaled up to tablet size doesn’t look good.
“If the user rotates their device, your layout should follow suit.”
From a wrist-top display to a wall-mounted TV, an app should understand and maximize the glass on top of it.
Flickr is one of the oldest photo-hosting sites on the web. Lately, they’ve been on an impressive comeback trail.
Flickr gets this simple nod for being one of the few photo social apps that actually lets me rotate when viewing a photo. (Yep. I’m looking at you, Instagram.)
Multi-device support improves the UX on all gadgets
I’ll admit this is a tricky one. Supporting many devices and platforms can be costly.
But, then again, favoring one app platform over another could also be costly.
Focusing on a single platform leaves out a large portion of potential users—and it might even insult and anger some people (Internet folks are weird).
On a tight budget, you’ve got to draw the line somewhere. But drawing a line that cuts off half of your potential downloads seems like a rough call. That buzzy app I can’t use? Brand perception suffers as a result.
Basecamp is a to-do and collaboration app that’s as simple as can be. It works as well on a mobile device as it does via email and a browser.
When it came time for native apps, they had a trick up their sleeve.
Instead of going fully native, the app used a hybrid webview. Basically, this webview renders the container and navigation with native code, but pulls the content from the web.
They wrote about it at length, because they’re awesome like that.
The hybrid route provided Basecamp users a consistent experience on all platforms with a native flavor, and with a fraction of the development time.
Paprika is my favorite recipe app simply because I can use it just about anywhere. I can load it on any device and my data shows up, so the experience is always familiar regardless of the device I’m currently using.
It might not win any design awards, but I’m including Paprika here to show that an indie team can launch an app on a ton of platforms without going insane.
They put in the time to develop for the Nook Color. What’s your excuse?
Looking for more UX tips? Read the first part of this series.
Clark is a UX designer in Austin, TX. Equal parts freelance, startup, and agency, he’s been rebuilt into a content producer with a designer-friendly interface.