Whether you’re playing games, checking your bank records, or indulging in a little Facetime with friends, mobile apps are an irrefutable part of our everyday lives. With billions of apps currently available for download, and millions more in development at any given time, it’s no surprise that 88 percent of our smartphone usage is dedicated to interacting with apps.
In such a crowded field, what makes one app secure and useful while another is simply a drain on your time and device resources? It’s all in the quality of your user experience (UX) and user interface (UI).
UX or UI: What’s the Difference?
User experience is the quality quotient the average visitor enjoys when interacting with your app. User interface relates to how the front end of the app is designed, and it affects usability.
One area where you can see the importance of the two related factors is in the health insurance services industry. The development of software health solutions allows patients more robust participation in their care and supports timely interaction between providers, insurers, and patients.
If UX is the social component of app interaction, influencing ease of use and functionality, UI is the technical/artistic component that relates to how it looks, feels, and performs. Together, these separate but equally important elements affect the success and usefulness of an application.
Why User Experience Matters
Unlike software such as gaming apps and photo editors, insurance software is something that nearly every person alive will use at some point. That means different skill and comfort levels with technology need to be considered.
User experience is an essential part of branding. It takes into consideration who your target audience is and what they need from your app, which is an extension of your range of services. Apps add value.
In addition to improving the overall customer experience, a well-designed app:
- Influences and increases customer loyalty
- Sets you apart from your competition
- Improves service delivery
- Facilitates customer engagement
Another important consideration for designers and their clients is Google’s transition to mobile first indexing. Mobile first relates to how responsive your design is on different devices. In short, your content should look and behave the same whether it’s being accessed on a PC, a smartphone, or a tablet.
Google is veering toward evaluating for mobile responsiveness first because that’s where the future of online access lies. In the context of app design, it’s best to think of UX as customer experience and design the interface with the ultimate user in mind. That includes their computing environment and purpose.
Key Design Principles That Affect User/App Interaction
Keeping with the example of insurance software, an app needs to serve the needs of potentially millions of diverse customers. It must perform equally well on a range of devices and operating systems, be easy to navigate and use regardless of complexity, and it needs to be secure.
To these ends, an app should be both intuitive and useful. Building your app with the following principles in mind will help ensure that it will meet the needs of end users and organizations alike.
Information Architecture (IA)
Solid app design begins with a clear hierarchy of information. Most apps have two levels, the primary hierarchy is what the user sees when they first open your app. The secondary hierarchy is what happens when they hover over an element or tap on a button and move deeper into your application.
Combined with a visual hierarchy, users should be able to easily identify on-page elements and navigate them with ease from screen to screen and level to level.
This relates to how persons of different capabilities will access your content. It is the inclusiveness of your app that allows those with limitations of hearing, sight, or mobility to view or otherwise interact with your content as easily as someone without those same limitations. You also want to ensure compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
Intuition implies inborn knowledge. While none of use automatically knows how an app will work, intuitive design is based upon the principle that you can figure out how to navigate the interface with very little trial and error.
Ideally, your users should be able to navigate your app design on the first try. This is not as easy to achieve as you would think, but it can be managed by creating a crisp, uncluttered interface with features and functions that are clearly labeled.
Every function should be predictable and lead to a consistent outcome. The design, placement, and performance of global elements like CTA buttons and menus should be the same from screen to screen and on any device.
Ease of Reading
Ease of reading differs from intuitive design because it relates to the layout and how content is structured. Style elements like colors and fonts should be unified and consistent. Text should be easy to read by breaking it up into smaller blocks and using bulleted lists, tables, and headers. Images and video should be relevant and compliment other content.
Aim for one photo or graphic per page rather than a confusing collection of images. Consider a minimum of 11 point type for text content so that it can be read without zooming in on the print.
Since the majority of users will be accessing your content from a smartphone, touch control is essential. Various screens should be accessible with just a tap, and all functions should operate in the same manner. Filling in forms should be just as effortless by enabling auto-fill forms that are completed with a tap on any field using information from user profiles.
Create “tap targets” that are large, finger-friendly, and contain obvious borders and visual cues that let the user know they’ve activated the correct element or feature. Because research shows that many users navigate or operate apps with one thumb, design to place frequently used controls and positive features within an area of the screen that reflects typical user hand positioning and reach.
Negative actions, such as “delete”, “cancel”, or “no” should be placed in an area that’s slightly harder to reach with one-hand (or thumb) operation.
This design principle can be taken two ways. First of all, you don’t want to overload the user with information bombs and cluttered screens. Keep it simple, clean, and elegant.
Next, you don’t want to overload your server with bloated code, too many design elements, and resource-sucking files, such as photo galleries and video. Consider agile design that’s lean and adheres to the values of Manifesto Agile Software Development. Use a collage for images and clickable thumbnails for video content.
Test, Test, and Test Some More
This may be the most important part of app creation. What looks good on paper or in a staging area might have unintended consequences when used by real people. Testing should be conducted at every stage of production to ensure security, functionality, and ease of use.
During post-production and prior to the launch phase, conduct A/B testing of various elements live, with representative users. That way, you can catch any problems before going live with your app.
According to statistics, more than 3.8 billion smartphones will be in use by the end of 2021. That means health insurance services and other industries will experience increased reliance on mobile app use and usability.
By following current best practices for mobile app development and design, you should be able to meet the demand of your clients without adversely affecting UX and app interaction.