Design thinking is nothing new, but the way it’s handled for mobile apps is somewhat different from how it’s done in web and desktop apps. Web and desktop applications don’t use a system of simple designing at all, but focus on “data flow and controls that are doing the work,” according to Erich Gamma, one of the creators of Bootstrap, which is used by Google and now also by others, to power the Material design movement.

Web designers build websites, while mobile designers create mobile apps, and those two worlds don’t always overlap. That’s where web designers have historically been at a disadvantage, to the point where they have actively resisted the term because they feel it devalues their work. 

There’s a lot to digest when it comes to presenting a mobile app, especially about to release for the masses. Everyone has a different view on what a successful mobile app looks like, what the icons do, what color palette to use, etc. For this reason, even experienced iOS developers often lack the insights to create a great mobile app design. Unfortunately, they don’t realize they don’t know what to do until the inevitable production update.

To create a winning design, one must empathize with the user. The ideal approach should be first to create the user persona. The design team at Copper Mobile uses an empathy map for a user to better understand the purpose of designing each interface. There are the points covered in the empathy map-

  1. Think and feel from the user’s perspective.
  2. Hear what the user would hear in their world from their friends, family, boss, influencers
  3. See the vivid visuals your user encounters from the environment around to the market offering 
  4. Say and do the things you would associate with your consumer.
  5. Pain- Feel the fears, frustrations, and obstacles your consumer might encounter.
  6. Gain- Analyse the needs and wants of your user along with the measures of success

The empathy map gives us an idea of the user journey, and this design thinking approach in mobile apps is critical to getting the design on target. Now let’s look at the science behind the design thinking approach and try to understand the laws which are in action affecting our minds at a subconscious level.

The science behind an incredible UX

The Law of similarity states that we tend to see similar elements in a design as a complete picture even if the elements are separated. The best way to implement this principle is to assign relationships through color, size, shape, and orientation in your UX designs.     

When multiple objects are present, we tend to remember the one that differs. This is known as the Von Restorff Effect. You may have seen this being implemented multiple times like contrasting colors in click to action buttons.

The Aesthetic Usability Effect was discovered while testing human-computer interactions in 1995 by Masaaki Kurosu and Kaori Kashimura from the Hitachi Design Center. They conducted a study on 252 participants in which they asked them to rate each design on ease of use, as well as aesthetic appeal. What they concluded was that pretty designs can make users forgiving of usability issues. It’s no wonder that mobile apps which are aesthetically pleasing perform better than the ones with high usability and poor design. The Law of Common Region specifies the fact that our mind organizes visuals into something that makes sense. It would be clear from the icon below.

We see a triangle even though there is none! While designing a mobile app related elements should be given a single frame. Most card-based layouts exploit this law to its full potential. Apart from these, there are many other laws of UX you may want to read about in detail.

Designing your App

At some point, we all want a fully designed product, but there’s little on offer in the Google Play store that doesn’t already reflect the polished simplicity we’re trying to capture. It’s a beautiful, easy thing to achieve with low investment and high return. However, users need to appreciate how beautiful design looks as well. Getting users to appreciate what you’re trying to create can be a daunting task. 

Design thinking in mobile apps was first implemented by coding frameworks such as Retrofit, Spring, and Yarn. A strong understanding of those three will provide a more significant advantage for design-team members and help them develop robust, mobile-first app designs quickly.

A good understanding of the mobile landscape is necessary for teams to make use of a variety of new iOS and Android features, such as push notifications, geographic location sharing, geofencing, and virtual assistants. So, how do you get started with the design of your app? Well, first, you need a basic understanding of the world of mobile app design.

Understanding and reducing friction

Modern app design requires a good understanding of simplicity. Design thinking in mobile apps is about moving the user’s attention towards an action. Some UI elements need more focus than others, like navigation, data grids, or game mechanics. Some parts are just right for their role, like responsive or card-based interfaces, while others need a little extra attention to feel right. What matters is the interaction between those different elements.

We’ll explore some best practices for creating mobile app prototypes that are fun, engaging, and learnable.  Begin by using Trello for keeping everything in the same place (and always track progress!). 

Build some cards, and list the steps in more detail than usual (so we can build more cards faster) Add extra features to interact with more parts of the app—test how user behavior changes with the experiment phase. Finally, turn the prototype into an application.

Since an app should be engaging, you’ll probably want a lot of different elements there. The visual queue begins once a user starts moving their eyes towards an element, like the Home or Featured tabs. Design thinking in mobile apps is a prevalent method of creating complex app UI, which has at times attracted a lot of criticism for the overuse of visual cues.

Recognizing this criticism and attempting to improve it, Andrew Curry from Fennovoima and Meandres opened the Idea LAB in Hamburg to work with developers to solve the issues with standard UI methods. The Idea Lab is an eight-month residency program for startups looking to improve their design skills by working with experts in visual design, UI/UX, and user research. The program’s initial purpose was to create a fresh viewpoint on design thinking using a professional tool such as UXPin and Adobe XD.

Content over navigation

In the past few years, especially with Web technologies (mostly HTML5 and CSS3), we have seen the idea of designing for “responsive web design” take root which is on the notion that building your mobile app in such a way that it’s usable everywhere (from devices with small screens to those with large screens) will keep users engaged more consistently.

The principle behind responsive web design has been to keep the critical content and navigation design while applying a mobile-first approach to the other parts of the interface (For iOS users, it would mean that navigation pages are on-screen only when possible, so they take the least likely amount of time to navigate)

Design thinking in mobile apps is a very recent development. There is a long history of designing mobile apps around “tapped-in” experiences—that is, asking users to take action when certain conditions are met. 

This was used to build groundbreaking mobile experiences that built upon each other and create radically new and innovative ways of doing things. By default, a mobile app is designed to not only look good but also to do the things it needs to do to deliver that clear, crisp, reliable user experience.

Feedback in Design Thinking

Start with the most critical and intrinsic users and those who are most involved in creating the app. The most interesting interactions are the ones that provide the most user feedback (for example, changing the label for your navigation).

Ask users to describe the goal of your app, then use that insight to ask them a few questions. Design thinking in mobile apps is not just about visual design. Many experts believe that the result of focus group testing should have a specific purpose. Apps must pass, meet, and impress the user.

The specifics of Focus Group Testing can vary from focus group to focus group. Besides, depending on the design of the app, user reactions to specific tasks may be different. However, I’ve found the best way is to focus on the specific features and functions that are needed to get an objective overview of a mobile app. In my experience, this gives a good feel for the most critical aspects of the mobile app that could benefit from improving. Design thinking in mobile apps can become very powerful when combined with Data Science.

It is because Data Scientists can map this app’s components to the same logic in an application, which will give the developer a full picture of how the app is being built. This will allow us to remove design deficiencies and uncover new ideas to expand the application.

What’s Next?

AI is challenging designers to evolve, come up with new solutions, and develop solutions around a broader base of ideas. To ensure designers can think creatively, mobile developers need to embrace AI solutions for design. They should allow designers to build AI for design—data that can be used to create new designs, provide insight, enable new models, and generate content.

The future of design thinking would be shaped by new technologies to come. Who knows what it may behold, maybe one-day design thinking methodologies would be adopted to appease Robots instead of Humans!