Matthew Garvin

UX Research, Design, Strategy

Simplicity is Key: best practices for designing a mobile app interface

Banner photo by Onur Binay on Unsplash


In today’s digital age, mobile apps have become integral to our daily lives. From social media to e-commerce and everything in between, mobile apps help us stay connected and engaged with the world around us. However, with so many apps available in the app stores, it’s essential to design a mobile app that stands out and provides a positive user experience. Whether you’re planning a new app from scratch or improving an existing one, the key to success lies in creating an app that is easy to use, intuitive, and provides a great user experience. This article will share tips and best practices for designing mobile apps that meet these criteria, helping you create a successful app that users will love to use.

Photo by The 77 Human Needs System on Unsplash

Understand Your User’s Needs

Understanding your user’s needs and behavior is crucial when designing a mobile app. It allows you to create an app that meets their expectations and provides a positive user experience. This knowledge makes creating an app that resonates with your target audience more manageable. You can gather valuable insights into your users’ needs, preferences, and pain points by conducting user research. This information can then inform the app design, ensuring it meets the user’s needs and addresses their pain points.

One essential aspect of user research is understanding how your target audience interacts with mobile apps. For example, younger generations tend to use apps more frequently and for more extended periods, while older users may require more straightforward interfaces and more extensive text sizes. By understanding your user’s behavior, you can tailor the app design to their preferences, making it more likely that they will use and enjoy the app. Ultimately, designing a mobile app with the user in mind helps create a positive experience and can lead to increased engagement, retention, and business success.

Conducting user research is a critical step in designing a successful mobile app. You can use surveys, interviews, and focus groups to gain insight into your target audience. One common approach is usability testing, where participants are asked to complete tasks within the app while researchers observe behavior and gather feedback.

Another approach is to gather data on your target audience’s behavior using analytics tools. These tools can help you understand how users interact with your app, including how often they use it, which features they use most frequently, and where they drop off in the user journey. This information can then be used to make data-driven decisions about the app design and prioritize improvements based on user behavior. Ultimately, gathering user feedback and data helps to ensure that the app design meets the needs of the target audience, creating a positive user experience and increasing the likelihood of app success.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Keep it Simple and Intuitive

Keeping the app interface simple and intuitive is crucial for creating a positive user experience. The app’s interface is the user’s primary means of interacting with the app, and it needs to be designed to be easy to navigate and understand. A complex or cluttered interface can confuse users and make it difficult for them to accomplish their goals, leading to frustration and decreased app usage.

One key aspect of keeping the app interface simple and intuitive is to use familiar design patterns and conventions. For example, placing the menu button in the upper left corner is a standard convention that users are familiar with and expect to find. By following these conventions, users can quickly understand how to navigate the app, reducing the learning curve and making the app more accessible.

Another important consideration is to use clear and concise language in the app interface. This means avoiding jargon, technical terms, or language that may be confusing or unclear to the target audience. Instead, the interface should use straightforward language that is easy to understand.

Ultimately, designing an app with a simple and intuitive interface helps to create a positive user experience, leading to increased app usage, retention, and business success. By focusing on user needs and behaviors and prioritizing simplicity and clarity in the app design, designers can create an app that users love.

Photo by DemandSage

For example, Instagram is often regarded as having a clean and straightforward interface that is easy to navigate. The app uses a bottom navigation bar to provide quick access to the most essential features, such as the home feed, search, and user profile. The use of recognizable icons and visual cues also makes it easy for users to understand the app’s functionality and perform actions with minimal effort.

By comparison, Snapchat’s interface is often considered less intuitive and more complicated than other social media apps. The app’s design relies heavily on gestures and swipes, which can be create barriers to entry for new users. The app’s interface also lacks a clear navigation structure, making it difficult to find specific features or settings. In sum, Snapchat’s interface may require more effort and time to learn to use effectively.


  1. Use familiar icons and gestures: When designing an app interface, it’s important to use icons and gestures that are already familiar to users. For example, the “hamburger” icon is widely recognized as a menu icon, while swiping left or right is a common gesture for navigating through content.
  2. Keep it simple: A cluttered interface can overwhelm users, leading to confusion and frustration. Keep the interface simple, focusing on essential features and functions.
  3. Use clear and concise language: The language used in the app interface should be straightforward, avoiding jargon or technical terms that may confuse users. Clear and concise language helps users understand what to do and how to navigate the app.
  4. Use whitespace: Whitespace, or the space between design elements, can help to create a clean and organized interface. It can also highlight important features and make the interface easier to navigate.
  5. Be consistent: Consistency is key to creating an easy-to-use app interface. This means using the same icons, colors, and design patterns throughout the app, ensuring that users understand how to interact with the interface.

By following these tips, designers can create a clear and easy-to-use app interface that users will love. The focus should be on creating an interface that is intuitive, user-friendly, and meets the target audience’s needs. With a little effort and attention to detail, designers can create an app that users will enjoy using, ultimately leading to business success.

Photo by Solodev

Design for Mobile-first

Designing for a mobile-first approach is a design strategy that involves creating the mobile version of a website or app first and then scaling up to larger screen sizes like tablets and desktops. This approach is becoming increasingly important as mobile usage continues to rise, with more and more people accessing the internet through their mobile devices.

Designing for a mobile-first approach differs from designing for a desktop in several ways. First, mobile screens are smaller, so designers must prioritize essential elements and functions of the app or website. This requires a more focused approach to design, with a focus on simplicity and ease of use.

Second, mobile devices have different capabilities than desktop computers, such as touch screens and smaller keyboards. This means that the design needs to consider mobile users’ unique user behaviors and needs.

Finally, designing for mobile-first requires a shift in mindset from traditional desktop-focused design. This means that designers need to think more about the context in which users will access the app or website and design accordingly.

Designing for a mobile-first approach is important because it ensures that the app or website is optimized for mobile users, who are increasingly becoming the primary audience. By prioritizing mobile design, designers can create a more streamlined, user-friendly experience that meets the needs of mobile users. This, in turn, can lead to increased engagement, usage, and, ultimately, business success.


  1. Use a grid system: A grid system can help designers create a layout that works well across different screen sizes. It provides a framework for organizing content and ensures the app is visually consistent.
  2. Prioritize content: When designing for smaller screens, it’s essential to prioritize the most critical content and functions. This means focusing on the essential features and minimizing non-essential elements.
  3. Use flexible images and icons: Images and icons should be designed to be flexible and scalable so they look good on screens of different sizes and resolutions.
  4. Test on different devices: Designers should test the app on various devices to ensure it works well across different screen sizes and resolutions. This can help identify issues early on and ensure the app is optimized for multiple devices.
  5. Consider typography: Typography is an essential aspect of responsive design. Designers should choose fonts that are easily read on smaller screens and ensure that the text is legible across different screen sizes and resolutions.
  6. Optimize loading times: A responsive app should load quickly on different devices. Designers should optimize images, minimize code, and prioritize content to ensure fast loading times.

Optimize Performance

Optimizing app performance is a critical aspect of designing a great mobile app. A smooth and seamless user experience is essential for keeping users engaged and ensuring that they return to the app repeatedly. Here are a few reasons why optimizing app performance is so important:

  1. User expectations: Today’s users have high expectations for app performance. They expect apps to load quickly, respond instantly to their interactions, and provide a seamless experience. If an app is slow or glitchy, users will likely abandon it in favor of a competing app that provides a better experience.
  2. Mobile constraints: Mobile devices have limited processing power, memory, and bandwidth. This means that apps must be designed to work efficiently within these constraints. An app needs to be better optimized, or it can drain the device’s battery, use up valuable storage space, and consume significant amounts of data.
  3. App store rankings: App store rankings are based partly on user ratings and reviews. If an app is not optimized, users will likely leave negative reviews, hurting the app’s rankings and visibility in the app store.
  4. Brand reputation: A poorly performing app can reflect poorly on a brand. If users have a bad experience with an app, they will likely associate that negative experience with the brand.

To optimize app performance, designers must focus on load times, responsiveness, and efficiency. This may involve minimizing code, reducing the size of images and other assets, and optimizing server performance. By focusing on app performance, designers can provide a great user experience that keeps users engaged and returning for more.


  1. Optimize images and assets: Large images and assets can slow down an app’s load times. Designers should optimize images and other assets to reduce the size and ensure fast load times.
  2. Use caching: Caching can help reduce load times by storing frequently accessed data on the device. This means the app can access the data quickly without retrieving it from a server each time.
  3. Minimize network requests: Network requests can also slow down app performance. Designers should minimize the number of network requests the app makes and optimize the necessary ones.
  4. Prioritize content: Designers should prioritize the app’s most critical content and functions, so they load quickly and efficiently. This means minimizing non-essential elements and focusing on essential features for the user.
  5. Test on different devices: Apps should be tested on various devices to ensure they work well on other platforms and screen sizes. This can help identify issues early on and ensure the app performs well across multiple devices.
  6. Use crash reporting tools: Crash reporting tools can help identify and diagnose app crashes. Designers should use these tools to monitor app performance and identify any issues that need to be addressed.

By following these tips, designers can optimize app loading speed and reduce crashes. The key is prioritizing efficiency and performance while ensuring the app provides a great user experience. With a little effort and attention to detail, designers can create an app that performs well, keeps users engaged, and meets their needs effectively.

Use Visual Hierarchy

Visual hierarchy is a fundamental design principle derived from Gestalt Psychology that refers to how elements are organized and arranged in a layout to guide the viewer’s attention. Visual hierarchy is particularly important in app design because it helps users navigate the interface and find the information or features they need quickly and easily.

Visual hierarchy is achieved through design elements such as size, color, contrast, spacing, and typography. For example, larger, bolder text typically attracts more attention than smaller, lighter text. Similarly, high-contrast elements like bright colors or bold lines stand out more than low-contrast elements. By using visual hierarchy effectively, designers can guide the user’s attention to the essential elements of the app interface, such as navigation controls, call-to-action buttons, or critical content. This helps users quickly identify and interact with the most relevant aspects while minimizing confusion or frustration.

A well-designed visual hierarchy can also improve the overall user experience by making the app interface intuitive and easy to use. When users can easily find what they need, they are more likely to be satisfied with the app and continue using it over time.

Overall, visual hierarchy is a key concept in app design that helps designers create compelling and engaging interfaces that meet users’ needs. By paying attention to the organization and arrangement of design elements, designers can guide the user’s attention to the most important parts of the app and provide a great user experience.


  1. Start with a clear information hierarchy: Before designing the app, it’s important to identify the key information and functions that users will need. This information should be organized into a clear hierarchy, with the most important elements taking priority.
  2. Use size and contrast to guide attention: Larger and bolder design elements tend to attract more attention than smaller and lighter ones. Use size and contrast to guide the user’s attention to the most important parts of the screen.
  3. Group related elements together: Related elements should be grouped visually to help users understand their relationship to each other. This can be achieved through proximity, color, or other design elements.
  4. Use typography effectively: Typography can also help establish a clear visual hierarchy. Use larger and bolder fonts for headings and important information and smaller fonts for less important text.
  5. Simplify the layout: A cluttered design can confuse users and make identifying essential elements challenging. Simplify the structure using white space and limiting the number of elements on the screen.
  6. Use color sparingly: Color can be a powerful tool for guiding attention, but it should be used sparingly to avoid overwhelming the user. Stick to a limited color palette and use color strategically to highlight essential elements.

Using these tips, designers can create a clear and organized app layout that guides the user’s attention to the most important elements. The key is to establish a clear information hierarchy and use design elements effectively to create a layout that is easy to use and visually engaging.

Photo by Daniel Ali on Unsplash

Prioritize Accessibility

Prioritizing accessibility in mobile app design is crucial to ensuring that all users can use the app, regardless of their abilities. Accessibility in app design refers to designing and developing apps that can be used by people with different types of disabilities, such as visual, auditory, and motor impairments.

There are several reasons why prioritizing accessibility in mobile app design is important. Firstly, it helps ensure that all users have equal access to the content and features of the app. This can be especially important for people with disabilities, who may rely on mobile apps for tasks such as communication, navigation, and social interaction.

In addition, prioritizing accessibility can help increase the app’s usability for all users, not just those with disabilities. For example, designing an app with clear and straightforward navigation can benefit users who need to become more familiar with the app or who have limited cognitive abilities.

Moreover, designing accessible apps can help app developers comply with legal requirements related to accessibility, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the United States.

Some ways to prioritize accessibility in mobile app design include using clear and straightforward language, providing alternatives for multimedia content such as images and videos, ensuring compatibility with screen readers, and using high-contrast colors to improve visibility for those with visual impairments.

Overall, prioritizing accessibility in mobile app design is important to ensure that all users have equal access to the content and features of the app and to increase the app’s usability for everyone. By designing apps that are accessible to all, app developers can create more inclusive and user-friendly mobile experiences. Designing an accessible app is integral to creating a user-friendly mobile experience for all users.


  1. Use clear and simple language: Avoid using technical jargon or complicated language that may be difficult for users to understand. Use plain language to ensure that the app’s content is easy to understand for everyone.
  2. Provide alternatives for multimedia content: It is important for users with visual or auditory impairments that the design provides options for multimedia content such as images and videos. This can include providing alternative text descriptions or closed captions.
  3. Ensure compatibility with screen readers: Users with visual impairments often use screen readers to access the content of an app. It is important to ensure the app is compatible with popular screen readers, such as TalkBack for Android and VoiceOver for iOS.
  4. Use high-contrast colors: High-contrast colors can help improve visibility for users with visual impairments. Use a color palette that provides high contrast between the foreground and background colors.
  5. Design for users with motor impairments: Users with motor impairments may have difficulty with fine motor movements, such as tapping small buttons. To make the app more accessible for these users, design the interface with larger touch targets and provide alternative ways to interact with the app, such as voice commands or gestures.
  6. Ensure keyboard accessibility: Some users may not be able to use a touch screen to interact with the app. Ensure that the app is fully keyboard accessible so that users can navigate and interact with the app using a keyboard or other input devices.

By following these tips and designing with accessibility in mind, app developers can create apps that are accessible and user-friendly for all users, including those with disabilities.

Test and Iterate

Testing and iteration are crucial steps in the mobile app design process to ensure that the app meets the needs of its users. Designers must be open to feedback and willing to make changes based on user testing and data analysis. Testing the app design involves gathering feedback from real users through user testing, surveys, and other methods. This feedback can help designers identify areas where users may need help or encounter roadblocks in the app and provide insights into how to improve the overall user experience.

Iterating on the app design involves making changes based on the feedback received during testing. This process may include adjusting the app’s layout, changing the wording of certain elements, or adding new features to address user needs. By testing and iterating on the app design, designers can create a better user experience and ensure that the app meets the needs of its target audience. This can also increase user engagement and retention, as users are more likely to continue using an app that meets their needs and is easy to use.


  1. Plan your testing process: Set clear goals for your testing process, define your target audience, and decide on the methods you will use to gather feedback, such as surveys, usability testing, or user interviews.
  2. Test early and often: Start testing as early as possible in the design process and continue testing throughout development. This will help you identify issues and make changes before they become more complex and expensive to fix downstream.
  3. Gather qualitative and quantitative feedback: Use a combination of methods, such as surveys, to gather quantitative data and usability testing to gather qualitative feedback. This will give you a more complete picture of how users are interacting with your app.
  4. Analyze your data: Analyze the feedback you receive and identify patterns or trends. Use this data to identify areas where users struggle or encounter issues and to inform design decisions.
  5. Prioritize feedback: Not all feedback is equal, so prioritize the most relevant and actionable input. Focus on feedback that aligns with your app’s goals and target audience.
  6. Iterate and refine: Use the feedback you receive to make changes to your app’s design and functionality, and continue to iterate and refine your design until you are confident it meets the needs of your users.

By following these tips, you can gather valuable feedback from your users and make informed decisions that lead to a better user experience for your app.


To summarize, designing a great mobile app requires understanding your user’s needs and behavior, keeping the app interface simple and intuitive, designing for a mobile-first approach, optimizing app performance, prioritizing accessibility, and testing and iterating on the app design based on user feedback. By following these tips and best practices, you can create a mobile app that is easy to use, provides a great user experience, and meets the needs of your target audience.

As you embark on your mobile app design projects, consider these key takeaways and apply them to your design process. With careful planning, user research, and iterative testing, you can create a mobile app that meets the needs and expectations of your users. Remember, designing a great mobile app requires constant evaluation and refinement. Stay open to feedback and make changes to improve your app’s usability and user experience.

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