Home Uncategorized Mobile Design Principles – A Presentation By Ushahidi iPhone And iPad Apps Developer

Mobile Design Principles – A Presentation By Ushahidi iPhone And iPad Apps Developer

We think you will like this presentation by one of the bests in the game – the guy that made Ushahidi  iPhone and iPad mobile apps. The presentation by Dale Zak is available on this link.


Simple – keeping it simple is key to good mobile design

  • single task – each screen should focus on doing one task really well
  • less is more – reducing features often provides a better overall user experience
  • uncluttered – clean, large, well spaced, readable
  • easy to use – should be intuitive the first time

Familiar – application should instantly be familiar to your users

  • native platform – familiar with the target device (shouldn’t feel like a BlackBerry app squished onto an Android screen)
  • other apps – similar user experience to other apps on their device
  • design standards – reuse basic ui elements (if you are building your own custom date picker when a native one already exists, you need to ask yourself why)

Consistent – should be a consistent user experience throughout application

  • element layout – similar location of controls, buttons or menu items like Done or Cancel
  • color, fonts, whitespace – consistent color, fonts and whitespace also important

Fast – performance critical on devices with limited processing power

  • quick launch – opening the app should be quick
  • responsive – actions inside the app should feel snappy
  • cancellable – long running tasks should allow user to cancel them or elegantly timeout

Feedback – providing meaningful user feedback a must

  • loading indicator – tasks that take longer than a second should display a loading indicator
  • show progress – long running tasks should ideally show the percentage of progress
  • highlight selected – changing the background color of current item is subtle but useful feedback
  • scroll to current – auto scrolling to the currently selected item can also enhance user experience

Efficient – strive to making input as easy as possible

  • minimize input – the more ways you can reduce typing the better
  • auto complete – provide suggestions as user types
  • easily searchable – filtering long lists for easier selection
  • remember last – intelligently remember last input for each field (example name vs city)
  • pre-populate – populating fields with available information like date and location, while still giving user option to change if needed

Scale – resizing elements to utilize the screen space

  • utilize full screen – docking controls to screen edges can help ensure controls stretch gracefully
  • fit to orientation – re-arranging elements to utilize portrait or landscape
  • easy to click – large easy to click controls makes it easier to select and input data
  • reduce scrolling – scrollbars are often painful on mobile devices, so providing alternatives like pagination worth investigating
  • expand for more – limit how much is displayed while giving the option to expand to view more

Offline – should function when internet is not available or connection limited

  • work offline – if your app requires a constant internet connection, why didn’t you just make a mobile web page?
  • load in background – intelligently pulling of data in the background can provide seamless user experience allowing them to do other tasks in the meantime
  • download now – ability to download data now can utilize wifi hotspots making the app useful in dead zones
  • upload later – being able to add content in a disconnected state, and then upload when internet becomes available

Context – remembering where user left off

  • remember state – the app should re-open at the previous state
  • auto save on exit – automatically saving content
  • user preferences – allowing user to customize the app and it remembering their settings

Design – balancing appearance and functionality

  • look & feel vs functionality – can you make it look nice but also be useable?

Fun – finally, make it fun

  • useful – does it solve a problem?
  • addictive – do you use it yourself?


We must point out that these features apply for any platform, and not just the iPhone and iPad. Thank you Dale for these insights.

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