10 Key Components of Successful Mobile App Usability

Mobile UsabilityDesigning to mobile presents a whole new world of challenges. Smaller screens, multiple screen sizes, connectivity issues, touch screen capability, varying screen resolutions – these are all issues mobile developers have had to contend with when designing a usable, likable mobile application. Add the fact that users are finicky and sometimes like or dislike something for no reason and designing a successful mobile app seems a Mt. Everest sized challenge.

But as developers figure out what does and doesn’t keep end users happy, they often share the information to help others. So here’s a look at a few key components to mobile usability and a highlight of some apps that are doing it right.

Smashing Magazine says successful mobile usability is tied to several important factors:

Focus on tools and features that help users complete their tasks. Guidelines to functionality include:

  • Prioritize and present core features
  • Offer relevant mobile-only functionality (like bar code scanning and image recognition)
  • Ensure that fundamental features and content are optimized for mobile

Information Architecture
Make sure the functionality and content appear in a logical way. Guidelines include:

  • Present links to the main features and content on the landing page, prioritized according to the user’s needs
  • Enable mobile users to navigate the the most important content and functionality in as few taps or key presses as possible
  • Address the navigation needs of both touchscreen and non-touchscreen users

This is the stuff actually in your app – text, images, videos, etc. Guidelines:

  • Use multimedia when it supports the user’s tasks in a mobile context
  • Always give the user control over multimedia content by not auto-starting video or sound, etc
  • Ensure that primary content is presented in a format supported on the target device

The visual presentation and interactive experience. Guidelines:

  • Design for glanceability and quick scanning
  • Consider both portrait and landscape orientations
  • Remember the sayings “Mobilize, don’t miniaturize” and “Don’t shrink, rethink”

User Input
Make it easy for users to enter data. Guidelines:

  • Display default values wherever possible
  • Offer alternate input mechanisms based on the device’s capabilities
  • Consider offering auto-completion, spell check suggestions and prediction technology

Mobile Context
Consider the environments mobile devices function in – which can be on-the-go or stationary. Guidelines:

  • Accommodate for changes in context based on time of day and when the user is using the app
  • Use location to identify where the user is
  • Use device features and capabilities to anticipate and support the user’s context of use

How well to these components work together? Guidelines:

  • For touchscreen devices, ensure that touch targets are appropriately sized and spaced to avoid selection errors
  • Follow conventions and patterns to reduce the learning curve and make the mobile experience more intuitive
  • Do not rely on technology that is not universally supported by your audience’s devices

Consider privacy and security to bolster users’ confidence, trust and comfort. Guidelines:

  • Do not collect or use personal information without explicit user permission
  • Make it easy for users to control how their personal information is shared
  • Clearly state your  business practices

Getting important information to your users. Guidelines:

  • Minimize the number of alerts
  • Alerts and notifications should be brief, clear and informative
  • Provide feedback and confirmation without disrupting the user’s workflow

Assisting your users when they need it. Guidelines:

  • Make it easy for users to access help and support options
  • Offer multiple ways to get support
  • When introducing new or unique features, offer contextual help and tips

Read more about each factor at Smashing Magazine >>>

Pay attention to these elements while you’re working on or testing a mobile UI, it will help your app be a hit with users!


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