Design a great mobile UX to keep new users ‘appy">Design vector created by Photoroyalty -

The mobile app market is extremely competitive. App owners need to be ever more vigilant about not turning away users. A whopping 23% of users abandon an app after using it for the first time, and less than 5% remain after the first monthMore and more apps are available for use – so people’s expectations are on the rise as well. Here are ways to offer a great mobile experience and avoid unenchanted users.

Make a nice first impression

The first use of an app is a crucial point in the user relationship with the app. This experience is where many users decide whether an app is engaging, useful and otherwise worthy of the person’s time. If the first interaction is confusing or a bore, that potential user might quickly become an abandonment statistic.

The first impression should be a fine balance between being intuitive, while also quickly introducing a new user to the app’s most compelling features.

Introduce the app

Using a step by step process to introduce a user to an app can be a good way to enable users to orient themselves and to highlight select app features.

These onboarding sequences should not be too long – which keep a person away from the app’s content or utility. It should not be too boring – which leads people to blindly swipe through, defeating the onboarding purpose. This is the opportunity for a new app to hook potential users by effectively communicating the value the app offers; it doesn’t need to be bogged down by extra explanations.
Long walkthrough example from Nick Babich

Sometimes, users understand the core function of the app they’ve downloaded and they just want to jump in and use it. That being the case, design should include a way to skip or exit the onboarding sequence to allow those users to get to the stuff they’re looking for (instead of turning them away).

Twitter Moments

Use animations judiciously

Motion design can create an impact and enhance a user’s experience. Not only are they used to provide visual feedback (for interactions), but they can also create memorable experiences by augmenting app functionality.

When being introduced to an app, onboarding can include animations to create short visual stories that explain how to use the app or to showcase different features. Using animations can turn boring explanations into delightful ones.

Although app owners might want to wow new users with an opening animation – keep it short. And consider having it appear only the first time. No matter how delightful an opening animation, seeing it repeatedly quickly reduces its charm and becomes a nuisance when it keeps people from being able to jump right into the app after opening it.

Google Docs App Onboaording

Animation can contribute a lot towards an app’s image when used in the right amounts in the right places. Using animation unnecessarily will render it useless and (gasp!) even annoying.

Design for audience, purpose & context

It’s not enough to have an app to offer good functionality and utility. In order to achieve the most desirable user experience, the context in which an app is likely to be used, as well as considering who will likely be using the app, requires dedicated attention.

If an app is intended for younger audiences, an app owner can assume a different level of intuition from potential users, while an app meant for children or a mature population should be designed accordingly such as larger tappable areas – when motor skills are not yet fully developed, or on a decline.
Oscar Senior

Focus on designing user flows so that people can get what they want from your app as quickly and easily as possible.

For example, if your app is meant to quickly search for available transportation such as taxis or public buses, a commuter will likely become disgruntled if a ride was missed because a popup appeared in place of an imminent bus’s arrival info.

To add insult to injury, some popups appear at critical times and don’t include an obvious way to dismiss them. Not only is the key content out of sight, but access to it is suspended until the user can figure out how to get around it (swipe to the right?…the left?…tap it?…tap the back button?).  If the intention of the app is to quickly provide search results, but is interrupted in the process of unimportant popups….epic fail.

Popup covers search results – with non-intuitive dismiss action

Of course there are times when popups are justified, such as error messages or for legal purposes (age verification or usage policies, for example). Popups can also help conversion rates when used to delight users, such as when offering a discount before checkout in a shopping app. In this instance, the popup does enhance the app’s function.

In general, whether they’re on the go, or checking their devices at a social event, mobile users want to get tasks done quickly. So help people find the content they are looking for. Adding distractions to your app can cause people to easily become disengaged and abandon your app for a competitor’s.

Consider all platforms

Sometimes apps are quickly developed for mobile release when companies or developers feel that they are under pressure to be able to offer these versions to the public.

However, apps that are optimized for desktop don’t usually transition easily to mobile. It’s not enough to downscale content; nearly all desktop elements need a more minimal approach. Often this means redesigning so that navigation is simplified, menus are rearranged, and functions are reconsidered. Mobile apps aren’t used in the same way that desktop/web apps are, and so should be designed differently. It’s important to preserve a brand’s identity when transitioning from web to mobile. But not at the expense of usability which can harm a brand’s image more than preserving the integrity of the web app look & feel.

Slack – on multiple platforms

An app owner should take special care when releasing a product to multiple mobile platforms at once. It’s better to release one OS at a time, allowing for fixes where necessary, rather than having multiple buggy versions on different app stores. When developing for each OS, try to align with the interface guidelines recommended for that platform. A brand can be maintained while trying not to deviate too much from the native OS guidelines.


Of course, continuously test on the intended devices to ensure that the UX and UI display as designed.

Developing a useful mobile app is no longer enough. The design has to charm people from the initial interaction. Demonstrate app features early and convey value clearly. Review user flows to determine what is important, and leave out the stuff that isn’t. When the people using an app are delighted with the experience – they will remain loyal users and hopefully share their joy with others.

At Wombat we have a new initiative called #startupgiving. We commit to find something to give away each week.

This week, I am giving 4 hours of free UX reviews to mobile apps. If you’re interested please click here.

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